Mystery Shoppers: Are You Getting Paid the Minimum Wage?

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What is a Mystery Shopper?

Mystery shoppers, also known as secret shoppers, are regular consumers paid to shop in stores and collect data for third-party vendors. Restaurants, retail stores, and other businesses may hire mystery shoppers to audit the customer experience in their store. Workers looking for some extra cash may become mystery shoppers in their free time, finding jobs via public listings online.

How Do Mystery Shoppers Get Paid?

Unlike some gig work positions, mystery shoppers are oftentimes paid on a per-job basis. Jobs can pay anywhere between $5 and $100 depending on the client. Notably, some mystery shopping jobs pay no wages at all. The employer may only offer reimbursement of the items the shopper purchases and “pay” for the job through gift cards or food/entertainment vouchers.

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 or the minimum wage. However, the law states that these corporations are wrong.

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 DynamexDynamex 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: 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.

Mystery Shopper: Get Paid Minimum Wage

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.

Tell us how we can help.

If you need immediate assistance, please call our office at (661) 464-0745 and ask to speak with someone in our Intake Department available 24/7.

Alex Wheeler - PARRIS Law Firm Attorney Speaking with a Client - Legal Consultation

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