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US - Crowdsourcing Site Files Answer to Complaint

December 28 2012

CrowdFlower, a San Francisco-based crowdsourcing website, responded in a court document to a lawsuit by an Oregon man claiming the site violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by paying workers less than the minimum wage. CrowdFlower argues the FLSA doesn’t apply to crowdsourced tasks and that the plaintiff was not its employee, according to a court document filed Dec. 20 in response to the amended complaint in the lawsuit.

Christopher Otey, of Astoria, Ore., filed the suit against CrowdFlower on Oct. 26. The complaint says Otey performed work for CrowdFlower, and the complaint seeks to make the lawsuit a class action by also including others who performed crowdsourced tasks in response to any online request by CrowdFlower during the three years prior to the filing of the complaint.

The lawsuit appears to strike at the heart of the crowdsourcing business model, which some could believe represents a new segment of staffing. Crowdsourcing involves taking large, data-heavy tasks and breaking them down into micro tasks, which are then sent out to numerous online workers to complete. The workers receive a small amount of money for each task completed.

In its answer to the complaint in the Otey lawsuit, CrowdFlower denies the FLSA “can be properly applied to the plaintiff or any individuals that choose to perform microtasks made available on the Internet ...” The firm also denies that the plaintiff or others performing microtasks were employees of CrowdFlower. It also denies the lawsuit is suitable for a class action.

The lawsuit is proceeding in federal court in California.

To see the original story on the lawsuit, click here.

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