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Class Action – Certification – Independent Contractors

WI Court of Appeals – District I

Case Name: Michael Stehberger v. Journal Sentinel, Inc.

Case No.: 2021AP001403

Officials: Donald, P.J., Dugan and White, JJ.

Focus: Class Action – Certification – Independent Contractors

Gannett Publishing Services, LLC and Journal Sentinel, Inc. (collectively the Journal) appeal from the order granting class certification for the first claim in the first amended complaint brought by Michael Stehberger, who was also certified in that order as the class representative for an opt-out class of newspaper carriers who alleged they were misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees. In Stehberger’s first claim, he alleged that the Journal was making unauthorized wage deductions from the carriers’ payments for service error complaints, in violation of WIS. STAT. § 103.455 (2019-20). The appeals court concludes that the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion when it granted certification on the first claim without adequately explaining its reasoning based on the evidence in the record, as required by WIS. STAT. § 803.08(11). The record reflects that the certification order failed to include sufficient factual findings and conclusions of law to support the court’s decision.

Reversed and remanded.

Decided 02/07/23

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