Former George W. Bush administration attorney Scott Bloch this week filed a class action in Washington against the private security firm Blackwater, alleging the company has withheld benefits from workers.
Bloch, who is running his own law office in Washington now as he awaits the outcome of his appeal in a criminal contempt case, filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of four former security specialists the company classified as independent contractors.
The suit (PDF) said the men were injured working for Blackwater, now called XE Services, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bloch said in the complaint, which alleges breach of contract and fraud, that XE Services improperly classified the employees as independent contractors.
Bloch said the case seeks to “prevent lawlessness and utter lack of accountability on the part of defendants in contracting practices.” He was not immediately reached for comment today. A spokesman for XE Services declined to comment on the case.
One named plaintiff, C.J. Mercadante of Miami, who worked for Blackwater between 2006 and 2008, according to the suit, is designated an “employee” for IRS tax purposes. The other three named plaintiffs, the suit said, have not yet received a determination.
On his law firm web page, Bloch wrote about the suit, saying thousands of Blackwater workers “will likely be entitled to benefits they were denied” stemming from the company’s misclassification. The suit demands $60 million in damages.
“It is a grave injustice to them who were mistreated and left without any health insurance or other benefits for their families, and left to fend for themselves in paying into Social Security and Medicare,” Bloch said in the prepared statement. “They laid down their lives to protect dignitaries and carry out duties in support of wars for America, and they deserve better than this."
Bloch was sentenced in March in Washington federal district court to one month in prison for the misdemeanor charge of contempt of Congress. He admitted withholding information during a congressional inquiry about his effort to erase files from government computers.
Bloch, represented by Winston & Strawn, is challenging the case on appeal, saying he should have been allowed to back out of his plea deal. At issue is his contention that he was unaware the charge of contempt of Congress carries a one-month mandatory minimum prison sentence.