Motion to dismiss lawsuit against Mo. House candidate's firm denied
Friday, August 31, 2012
If elected to the 148th District seat of the Missouri House in November, Republican candidate Holly Rehder would like to see legislation passed that she believes would benefit small businesses, such as making Missouri a right-to-work state and passing a "loser pays" law that could protect businesses against frivolous lawsuits.
Rehder and her business, Integrity Communications, are involved in a suit that she and her attorney describe as just that -- frivolous.
In June, Rehder's attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case, but U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Limbaugh denied the motion earlier this month. Now the plaintiffs' attorneys have filed a motion that if granted would allow for more former or current workers to join in alleging similar claims.
The suit alleges Rehder, who owns the company with her husband, Ray, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, Employee Retirement Income Security Act and Missouri law for failure to pay proper wages and benefits to cable installers. The suit was filed in November by a former worker and later joined by two others. The original plaintiff claims he was not adequately paid for hours worked, never reimbursed for expenses and then fired for related complaints.
Rehder has said she set "loser pays," which would make the loser of a lawsuit pay the other side's legal fees, as a topic in her campaign before the suit was filed and said Thursday the suit has "nothing to do" with her candidacy.
She said the lawsuit has no merit and that it is the result of a disgruntled former worker.
Russell Riggan, one of four attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said the company considered workers as independent contractors when it shouldn't have and didn't treat them that way.
"These folks are told when to report to work, when to leave work and what to do while they are working, so that doesn't really signal that they are independent contractors," Riggan said.
The plaintiffs, according to court documents, said they were required to work evenings and weekends, to wear shirts bearing Integrity's logo and present themselves as employees of the company. Riggan said that would indicate the plaintiffs were regular employees but that none was provided with benefits of employment.
Rehder's attorney previously issued a statement that said the claims in the suit are brought by three members of the same family, which Riggan confirmed, but Riggan added that the statement trivializes the matter.
"It's accurate, but ignores the fact that the suit is filed on behalf of other people," Riggan said.
Rehder said her good reputation in the industry, that she is known in her community as an honest person with Christian values and the support she said she is still gaining as she knocks on doors throughout the 148th District are vital to winning in November. She has several fundraising events planned as she prepares to face Democrat Bart Ziegenhorn in the general election. Rehder defeated Josh Bill, former Sikeston mayor and a staffer for the late Bill Emerson, in the August primary. Rehder herself worked as a staffer for U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, who recently gave her an endorsement.
"Holly Rehder represents what we're all about in Southeast Missouri, working hard and being responsible for your own success," Emerson said in a release announcing her endorsement.
Ziegenhorn said he is taking time to "regroup" from his primary campaign and plan some meet-and-greet events to reach out to voters. He said he was not aware of the suit against Rehder.
"I'm concentrating on education, which I think is really important in this district right now, and jobs, and making this about creating opportunities for people to want to stay and live well in this community," he said.