[Updated] Connecticut investigating WWE for misclassifying employees as independent contractors

The Connecticut Post is reporting that the state is investigating WWE for the increasingly public claims that the wrestlers are employees who are misclassified as independent contractors.  WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman issued this statement:

WWE has always complied with the law.  Up until this election, WWE has not been fined nor investigated in the past for independent contractor classification. However, curiously the state of Connecticut is currently conducting an audit of WWE's classification of independent contractors. WWE constantly reviews its internal practices and procedures to comply with ever-changing employee laws.

This has been a topic of discussion for years.  In Nicole Bass's sexual harassment lawsuit against the company, the judge actually ruled that she was an employee, but she lost the suit and the ruling had no impact on the company.  More recently, when Scott "Raven" Levy, Mike Sanders, and the late Chris "Kanyon" Klucsaritis sued over this specific issue, the lawsuit was dismissed due to the statute of limitations expiring.  Some have claimed that if the suit was filed 2 years earlier, it would have been a slam dunk.  This could end up being a huge story.

Update: From the Hartford Courant's blog:

Zimmerman's statement to Lockhart implied there is a political overtone to the state investigation so I asked McMahon campaign spokesman Ed Patru whether he thought politics was playing a role.

The WWE "is certainly entitled to their opionion,'' Patru said. He added that he didn't know anything about the investigation and that it is "an issue that has to do with the company, not the campaign."

Meanwhile, from Brian Lockhart's blog at the CT Post:

I’ve been wondering if WWE had become a target and started making some phone calls over the past few days.

[WWE Spokesman Robert] Zimmerman added: “The average WWE performer earns more than $550,000 annually, while only wrestling less than three days per week. WWE covers 100 percent of all costs associated with any in-ring related injuries and rehabilitation.”

According to Zimmerman WWE at any given time also employs around 350 “non-talent” independent contractors throughout the United States, including models, photographers and film unit publicists.

Some Blumenthal critics will believe he is behind this, although technically it is the state Department of Labor which is responsible for investigating labor issues.

While Zimmerman declined to specify which state agency has zeroed in on WWE, five are members of Connecticut’s Joint Enforcement Commission on Employee Misclassification – Blumenthal’s office, the Department of Labor, the Department of Revenue Services, the Workers’ Compensation Commission and the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney.

Blumenthal’s office said it is not involved in an audit of WWE and just sent the following statement: “Complaints about employees misclassifying workers to avoid taxes or health care or other obligations are typically filed with the Department of Labor, which then does investigations.”

A spokesman for the state Department of Labor said they were not yet able to confirm the audit but would keep checking this afternoon. He also said that the department may ultimately not be able to comment.

Meanwhile, Yale University law professor Robert A. Solomon has continued to take WWE and the McMahon campaign to task over the classification issue as well as lying about invoking the "death clause" in WWE contracts.

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