Mystery shoppers, also known as secret shoppers, are regular consumers paid to shop in stores and collect data for third-party vendors. Unlike some gig work positions, these shoppers are oftentimes paid on a per-job basis. In fact, some mystery shopping jobs may not pay any money at all! Instead of pay, the employer will occasionally only offer reimbursement of an item, such as food or entertainment, in exchange for the worker’s time.
Mystery shoppers should actually be getting paid for every minute that they work. Many corporations that employ mystery shoppers treat their workers as independent contractors or freelancers in order to avoid paying them legal wages and having to provide them with employment benefits.
California Independent Contractor Law
Under current California law, mystery shoppers that are hired by companies that specialize in measuring customer experience must be classified as employees, and not as independent contractors. This is set forth in a 2018 California Supreme Court case known as Dynamex. Dynamex states that in order for a worker to be classified as an independent contractor, a business must show that the worker:
- Is free from the control and direction of the employer,
- Performs work that is outside the hirer’s core business, and
- Engages in an independently established trade, occupation, or business.
Mystery shoppers, in evaluating the customer experience, are performing work that is within their hirer’s core business, which is customer experience management. Therefore, they must be classified as employees and not as independent contractors. This Dynamex test has recently been codified in California by the passage of AB5, enabling the legislature to expand employee protections to all aspects of the state labor code.
Benefits As An Employee
What does this mean for you as a mystery shopper? By being classified as an employee rather than an independent contractor, you will receive benefits such as a guaranteed minimum wage, overtime wages, health care benefits, unemployment, workers’ compensation, and any other benefits that employees are guaranteed under California law. This means getting paid for every minute that you work and more.
Also, if you are working for a company that requires you to complete their own certification training, you must get paid for that training time.
Call PARRIS Employment Attorneys
If you’re a mystery shopper that would like to start a free case consultation, call PARRIS at (661) 485-2072. Our employment attorneys have represented thousands of workers across California since 1985, and have recovered over $500 million in workplace lawsuits. You pay no fees until we win your case.