Smoothstack Lawsuit Exposes Exploitative Practices, Traps Workers

Smoothstack Lawsuit: Controversy and Its Implications

The Smoothstack lawsuit has gained significant attention due to its potential impact on labor practices within the tech staffing industry. This lawsuit, initiated in April 2023, highlights various allegations against Smoothstack Inc., a company known for its IT staffing and training programs. The case primarily focuses on the use of Training Repayment Agreement Provisions (TRAPs) and other employment practices deemed exploitative and unlawful. This article delves into the details of the lawsuit, the claims made, and the broader implications for workers and the industry.

What is the Smoothstack Lawsuit?

Background of the Case

The Smoothstack lawsuit was filed by Justin O’Brien, a former employee, who brought a class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The lawsuit aims to invalidate TRAPs imposed by Smoothstack and seeks damages for unpaid wages and other violations of labor laws. The central issue revolves around the company’s mandatory training programs and the financial penalties imposed on employees who leave before completing a set number of billable hours.

Allegations Against Smoothstack

Training Repayment Agreement Provisions (TRAPs)

At the heart of the smoothstack lawsuit are the TRAPs, which require employees to repay up to $24,000 if they leave Smoothstack before completing 4,000 billable hours. These provisions are criticized as being overly restrictive and unfair, effectively trapping employees in their jobs. The lawsuit argues that these agreements are presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, leaving workers with little choice but to comply.

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Unpaid and Underpaid Training

The smoothstack lawsuit details how the company allegedly fails to pay employees during the initial three weeks of their six-month training program. For the remainder of the training period, employees are reportedly compensated for only 40 hours per week at minimum wage, despite working up to 80 hours weekly. This practice is claimed to violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which mandates that workers be paid for all hours worked, including overtime.

Bait-and-Switch Employment Practices

Another significant allegation in the smoothstack lawsuit is that Smoothstack misleads recruits with promises of high-paying jobs and career advancement. Instead, employees often find themselves in low-wage, unstable positions. The lawsuit claims that once the training period ends, employees are placed on assignments for Smoothstack’s clients, such as Fortune 500 companies, but receive minimum wage when not actively working on a project.

Smoothstack Lawsuit: Details and Developments

Legal Proceedings and Key Dates

The smoothstack lawsuit, filed on April 13, 2023, has seen several significant developments since its initiation. In May 2023, the lead plaintiff agreed to drop some claims, leading Smoothstack to waive the 4,000-hour requirement for Justin O’Brien. However, the company filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit, with a hearing set for August 2023. The outcome of this hearing will determine whether the case proceeds or if additional legal challenges arise.

Impact on Employees

The smoothstack lawsuit has brought to light the difficult conditions faced by Smoothstack employees. Many workers feel trapped by the financial penalties associated with TRAPs, making it hard to leave for better opportunities. The legal action seeks to represent all similarly affected employees, aiming to recover unpaid wages and invalidate the restrictive agreements that have kept many in precarious employment situations.

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Broader Implications of the Smoothstack Lawsuit

Regulatory and Legal Context

The smoothstack lawsuit is part of a larger conversation about labor practices in the United States. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been examining TRAPs and other restrictive employment covenants, considering regulations to ban such practices. State lawmakers in places like California and Pennsylvania are also taking steps to prohibit TRAPs, reflecting growing concern about worker rights and mobility.

Industry Standards and Comparisons

Comparing Smoothstack’s practices to industry standards reveals significant deviations. While training programs are common in the tech staffing industry, the financial penalties and underpayment alleged in the smoothstack lawsuit are not typical. This case highlights the need for more transparent and fair employment practices, particularly in industries where entry-level workers are vulnerable to exploitation.


The smoothstack lawsuit underscores critical issues in employment practices within the tech staffing industry. As the legal battle unfolds, it could set important precedents regarding the legality and enforceability of TRAPs, influencing labor rights and protections across various sectors. For Smoothstack employees, the lawsuit represents a fight for fair treatment and compensation, shedding light on practices that may have broader implications for the industry.

By understanding the details and implications of the smoothstack lawsuit, stakeholders can better advocate for fair labor practices and support efforts to protect workers’ rights. As the case progresses, it will be essential to monitor its developments and their impact on the tech staffing industry and beyond.

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