The diet and exercise program used “unpaid labor” for years, a lawsuit alleges
A new class-action lawsuit alleges that fitness and diet powerhouse Beachbody exploited its workers, leaving more than a quarter of them unpaid.
The company, recently rebranded as BODi, “has been able to build its business through unpaid workers for years,” said Kristen Simplicio, a partner with consumer protection class-action law firm Tycko & Zavareei, told The Los Angeles Times.
“These people have been by and large making very little money for doing a lot of work,” she said.
The suit is spearheaded by Jessica Lyons, a Lake Arrowhead, Calif., schoolteacher who joined Beachbody in 2016.
“I thought becoming a coach for Beachbody was my opportunity to add a second stream of income with an added bonus of helping others reach their fitness goals,” Lyons said. “I didn’t realize how much Beachbody would demand of me and how little income I would see in return.”
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Lyons said she spent $20,000 of her own money on travel and Beachbody’s products — and earned about $50 a month in commission.
The lawsuit claims that Beachbody is a “$3 billion publicly traded health and fitness empire" and seeks to “recover unpaid wages, overtime compensation, penalties, interest, injunctive relief, damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”
A spokesperson for Beachbody said in a statement to PEOPLE: “The independent contractor status of direct sellers is well recognized on a federal and state level. California’s updated contractor law (AB5) includes an express exemption for network marketing distributors as part of a well-established legal framework that allows distributors to remain independent and allows them to work as much or as little as they want, controlling their own schedules. We will vigorously defend ourselves against these allegations."
Like leggings company LuLaRoe, Beachbody coaches earn commissions from product sales. As they advance in the company, the coaches are expected to recruit more coaches — and earn commissions from their "downline," meaning those they recruited.
“With the MLM [multi-level marketing] industry in particular, we’ve known for a very long time that it’s very problematic,” Simplicio told The Los Angeles Times. “There are endless reports about how people who go in just do not make any money or they wind up losing money, and those people are disproportionately women...because they’re hoping to make some extra money and help raise their families.”
The suit is unique in that it takes advantage of a relatively new California law, passed in 2019 to redefine what constitutes an independent contractor. Beachbody maintains that their coaches are independent contractors, but the lawsuit alleges that Beachbody “exploited its California salesforce by misclassifying them as independent contractors rather than as employees.”
“The idea is in California, time worked should be paid. That’s at least what our state’s labor laws and policies are,” Glenn Danas, a partner at Clarkson Law, which is jointly bringing the case to court with Tycko & Zavareei, told The Los Angeles Times.
“At the end of the day, Beachbody is profiting at the expense of workers who are not being paid for the time they’re putting into running Beachbody’s business.”
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