Justin O’Brien Vs Smoothstack Lawsuit – Big News

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Smoothstack Lawsuit : One controversy that recently shook the tech industry is a lawsuit against Smoothstack, a company that trains and staffs tech workers.

The main issue is about repayment agreements in employment contracts, which have been getting a lot of attention and criticism from both federal and state lawmakers.

The lawsuit against Smoothstack was filed in 2023 and is still in the early stages. But who is Smoothstack, and what is the lawsuit about?

In this article, we’ll explain who Smoothstack is, why they are in the spotlight, and the latest updates about the lawsuit.

What is a Smoothstack lawsuit?

The Smoothstack lawsuit involves allegations of exploitative employment practices, including unpaid training, overtime violations, and the use of Training Repayment Agreement Provisions (TRAPs) that impose significant financial penalties on employees who try to leave before completing a set period. 

Filed as a class-action by former employee Justin O’Brien, the lawsuit accuses Smoothstack of coercive practices, such as forcing employees to work long hours at minimum wage or no pay, and restricting their job mobility. 

The legal action seeks to address violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and challenges the legality of the TRAPs employed by Smoothstack.

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Who Is Justin O’Brien?

Justin O’Brien is the guy who used to work for Smoothstack and started the big lawsuit against them in April 2023.

Here’s what you need to know about him:

  • He joined Smoothstack’s training program and later got a job as a consultant at Accenture through them.
  • He says Smoothstack didn’t pay him enough, didn’t pay him for extra hours, and made it hard for him to get good jobs because of a rule called TRAP.
  • This TRAP rule meant he had to stay with Smoothstack for two years or pay a lot of money if he left early.
  • O’Brien thinks Smoothstack went after people like him who didn’t know their rights or really wanted to work in tech.
  • He started the lawsuit in April 2023 to help himself and other people who worked for Smoothstack.
  • The lawsuit is trying to cancel the TRAP rule and get back the money O’Brien and others should have been paid.

So, Justin O’Brien is the main person behind the lawsuit, saying Smoothstack treated him and others unfairly with their strict rules and not paying enough.

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What is the Allegations About Smoothstack’s Program?

The File Taken From Classification.org

The complaint details Smoothstack’s training program.

The main point is that the training program is long (six months) and demanding, with claims that trainees work up to 80 hours a week or more, including instruction and assignments.

Additionally, Smoothstack allegedly does not pay workers during the first three weeks of the program and only pays minimum wage for up to 40 hours per week after that, despite the longer hours trainees work.

After completing the training program, recruits become consultants but are still subject to the TRAPs. Smoothstack decides if a consultant will be sent to work for a particular company. 

Consultants earn about $26-$31 per hour when on assignment and minimum wage while waiting between projects.

Because the TRAPs are presented on a “take-it-or-leave-it” basis, Smoothstack employees feel forced to stay with the company due to the $20,000+ penalty for leaving before completing 4,000 hours of billable client work.

What is the current status of the smoothstack lawsuit?

The current status of the Smoothstack lawsuit involves a former employee, Justin O’Brien, who has filed a class-action lawsuit against Smoothstack Inc. 

The lawsuit claims that Smoothstack uses unfair employment practices, such as unpaid training, not paying overtime, and limiting job placements. 

Smoothstack is also accused of using predatory Training Repayment Agreement Provisions (TRAPs), which are contracts that require employees to pay large amounts of money if they leave the company before a certain time. 

The case is still ongoing, with legal actions focusing on violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and questioning the legality of the TRAPs used by Smoothstack.

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What is the timeline for the Smoothstack lawsuit?

The Smoothstack lawsuit, filed by former employee Justin O’Brien, has the following timeline:

  • October 2020: O’Brien signed Smoothstack’s employment agreement.
  • November 2022: O’Brien got a lawyer and informed Smoothstack about its alleged Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations.
  • January 2023: Smoothstack’s Chief Operating Officer, Boris Kuiper, contacted O’Brien to discuss his wage claims against the company. O’Brien’s lawyer saw this as an attempt to intimidate or pressure him.
  • February 2023: O’Brien’s lawyer contacted Smoothstack to discuss Kuiper’s phone call and expressed concerns about possible retaliation.
  • March 2023: Smoothstack told O’Brien that he was being demoted to bench status.
  • April 4, 2023: O’Brien informed Smoothstack through his lawyer that he planned to file a class-action lawsuit.
  • April 7, 2023: Smoothstack fired O’Brien, which his lawyer claims was an act of retaliation.
  • April 13, 2023: O’Brien filed the proposed class and collective action lawsuit against Smoothstack Inc. for alleged FLSA abuses.
  • March 8, 2024: The last known filing in the case was recorded.

The lawsuit is still ongoing, focusing on alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and challenging the legality of the TRAPs used by Smoothstack.

What is the Smoothstack Company Background?

Screenshot taken from www.smoothstack.com/clients (https://perma.cc/W6H8-QFM3)

Screenshot taken from www.smoothstack.com/clients (https://perma.cc/W6H8-QFM3)

Smoothstack is a tech-training and employee-staffing agency based in Virginia. They recruit people interested in starting a career in information technology (IT) roles.

Smoothstack attracts recruits by offering a training program and job placement opportunities with their clients, which include big companies like Accenture, Bloomberg, Capital One, Johnson & Johnson, Morgan Stanley, and Verizon.

Smoothstack is a notable player in the tech sector and places their consultants in various large tech companies. Recently, they received a subcontract worth over $80,000,000 from Accenture to support the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.

However, the company has faced criticism for its controversial Training Repayment Agreement Provision, known as TRAP. 

According to the class-action lawsuit, Smoothstack’s TRAPs impose a penalty of over $20,000 if their tech workers do not complete a mandatory minimum number of billable hours before leaving the program.

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TRAPs and the Smoothstack Lawsuit

A TRAP (Training Repayment Agreement Provision) is a contract clause that requires employees to pay their employer for training costs if they leave their job before a certain date. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), these clauses are a type of liquidated damages provision.

In January 2023, the FTC proposed banning non-compete clauses and highlighted TRAPs as restrictive employment covenants. TRAPs can be so broad that they function like non-compete agreements. 

The FTC estimates that banning these clauses could increase American workers’ earnings by $250 billion to $296 billion per year. About 10% of American workers are affected by TRAPs.

Some states, like Pennsylvania and California, are also working on laws to ban TRAPs.

In the tech industry, Smoothstack uses TRAPs to require trainees to stay with the company for about two years. If they leave early, they must pay a penalty of around $23,875. 

The lawsuit against Smoothstack claims these agreements are exploitative and prevent employees from finding better jobs. Critics say TRAPs create an unfair balance of power and act like indentured servitude.

The lawsuit argues that TRAPs violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) because they effectively reduce employees’ wages to below minimum wage. 

If Smoothstack loses, it could face major penalties, and the TRAP could be ruled unenforceable, leading to stricter regulations for such agreements in the tech industry.

Wrap-up on the Smoothstack Lawsuit

The lawsuit against Smoothstack reveals some worrying things about how the company treats its workers. They have a rule that makes employees pay a lot of money if they leave too soon. This seems unfair, especially when combined with other problems like not paying for training and making people work too much without proper pay.

As the legal fight goes on, it brings up important questions about fairness and the rules that companies should follow. The outcome of this case could change how things work for employees in the tech world.

In the end, the Smoothstack lawsuit shows that there are issues in how tech companies treat their workers. It reminds us that we need to make sure everyone is treated fairly and follows the rules.

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FAQs on the Smoothstack Lawsuit

What are the main allegations in the lawsuit against Smoothstack?

The lawsuit alleges that Smoothstack violated labor laws by not paying minimum wages, failing to pay overtime, and using predatory practices that target individuals new to the tech industry.

What is Smoothstack’s “TRAP” agreement?

The Training Repayment Agreement Provision (TRAP) requires employees to repay up to $23,875 in training costs if they leave Smoothstack before completing 2 years of employment. This clause is a central issue in the lawsuit.

What major labor laws may Smoothstack have violated?

The lawsuit claims Smoothstack violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by not properly paying wages and overtime.

What are the potential penalties if Smoothstack loses the lawsuit?

If Smoothstack loses, it may have to pay significant compensation to employees and could face stricter regulations on training repayment agreements across the industry.

What arguments does Smoothstack make to defend itself?

Smoothstack likely argues that their lengthy and costly training programs justify multi-year commitments from employees to protect their investment in training.

Who brought the lawsuit against Smoothstack?

Former employee Justin O’Brien filed the class action lawsuit in 2022 on behalf of himself and other affected employees.

Is the use of training repayment agreements common in the tech industry?

Yes, but Smoothstack’s TRAP is seen as unusually punitive compared to other companies, which generally have less severe financial penalties.

Could the lawsuit set new legal precedents around tech training practices?

Possibly. If the plaintiff wins, it could lead to new regulations governing the use of training repayment agreements in the tech industry.

Does Smoothstack target vulnerable groups with questionable practices?

The lawsuit alleges that Smoothstack targets individuals new to the tech industry who may not be aware of their rights or are desperate to start their tech careers.

When will the lawsuit against Smoothstack be resolved?

The lawsuit is still pending and may take considerable time to resolve due to its complexity. The exact court date and outcome remain uncertain.

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