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Qwick Inc.,is an Arizona-based hospitality staffing company that has been operating in California since 2019. It has active markets in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Through its mobile app, Qwick provides restaurants, caterers, and event production companies with on-demand workers to fill empty shifts. Qwick workers fill many different front-of-house and back-of-house roles, including shifts for servers, bussers, bartenders, baristas, dishwashers, cooks, barbacks, event staff, and concession workers. When Qwick workers fill a shift, they work alongside and perform the same functions as hotel and restaurant employees.

San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu announced that he has reached an agreement with Qwick that requires the company to convert all of its misclassified California workers to employees, ensuring they are eligible for the full range of employee benefits and protections. In 2023, Chiu sued Qwick, a gig economy company that provides on-demand staffing to the hospitality industry, for depriving workers of critical employment protections by misclassifying them as independent contractors instead of employees.

Qwick classified these workers as independent contractors, as though each waiter and dishwasher operated an independent business as a sole proprietor. As a result of this misclassification, Qwick’s workers were denied a wide range of state and local employee rights, including overtime pay, paid sick leave, heath care expenditures, and paid family leave.

In August 2023, the City Attorney’s Office’s Worker Protection Team filed a lawsuit to stop to these practices and recover civil penalties and restitution for workers who have been harmed. The lawsuit alleged that the misclassification of Qwick’s workforce violated a host of state and local labor laws and denied workers the protections, wages, and benefits guaranteed under law. In doing so, the City alleged Qwick gained an unfair business advantage over other law-abiding businesses, constituting a violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law.

Under the proposed judgment, Qwick must treat all of its existing and future California hospitality workers as employees, rather than independent contractors. Qwick will pay $1.5 million in restitution to thousands of hospitality workers who worked shifts for the company between 2019 and 2024. Additionally, Qwick is required to provide each converted employee a sick leave bank to be calculated based on the hours worked for Qwick between 2019 and the present day. Qwick must pay the City $250,000 in civil penalties to be used for the enforcement of consumer and worker protection laws. The judgment provides that the City Attorney’s Office will actively monitor Qwick’s compliance with the agreement through August 1, 2026, and the Court will retain permanent jurisdiction over Qwick’s obligation to treat its hospitality workers as employees. Qwick stipulated to this judgment after the City filed a motion requesting that the court issue a preliminary injunction against the company.

Anand Singh, president of the labor union Unite Here Local 2, said the settlement was “a huge victory for Qwick workers who are entitled to the same protections, wages, and benefits as their peers employed at hotels and restaurants.”

The company applauded the settlement. “We’re excited to announce that our California markets will be the first to experience our enhanced, compliance …. focused” model,” Dana Barbeau, Qwick’s chief people officer, said in a statement. “The future of work is evolving, and our goal is to lead that evolution by providing innovative opportunities that empower our freelancers.”

Former California legislator Lorna Gonzalez also weighed in on the lawsuit. Gonzalez had authored California’s AB 5 law aimed at getting tough on independent contractor misclassification. Gonzalez said the “settlement with Qwick embodies everything we want to see in enforcement efforts: a permanent injunction to reclassify workers as employees, restitution of wages to the workers and penalties to reimburse the costs of enforcement.”

The case is City and County of San Francisco and the People of the State of California v. Qwick Inc, San Francisco Superior Court, Case No. CGC-23-608756.