Maybe. One former laborer for Crowdflower, one of the major players in the crowdsourcing market intends to find out. He is asserting in a recent wage and hour lawsuit filed against Crowdflower that those individuals from the crowd who completed work for the company were in fact employees and should be entitled to at least minimum wage for their efforts.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and claims to be based in part on a YouTube video that has since been removed. Allegedly, in the video Crowdflower CEO Lukas Biewald talks about laborers from the crowd making $2-3 per hour while completing projects on the Crowdflower platform.
That is well below the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Crowdflower argues that its laborers are independent contractors and not employees. Based on that classification, federal and state minimum wage laws do not apply.
Of the many factors used to determine whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor, the issue of control may be at the heart of the FLSA crowdsourcing debate. For work chosen by an individual through a virtual platform, there may be no way for a crowdsourcing company to exert any control over the manner in which a job is completed, including the amount of time devoted to completing it.
Christopher Otey, the former Crowdflower employee, is bringing the suit as a class action on behalf of himself and any other similarly-situated Crowdflower laborers.
Source: Crowdsourcing.org, “The Lawsuit That Could Help Undo (or Cement) Crowdsourcing in the U.S.”