2013, Kossiwa was hired to clean an Outback Steakhouse restaurant in Coralville. She worked 7 nights per week, cleaning the entire restaurant alone. She was supervised directly by the restaurant’s managers, but she received her paychecks from a cleaning contractor called Sandpiper Maintenance and Repair with addresses in Georgia and several other states.

Although she was clearly an employee under the law, the contractor was paying her as an “independent contractor” to avoid paying the minimum wage, workers’ compensation, social security, and other taxes. After a few months, the contractor stopped sending her checks.

When she quit, she was owed $2,346 in unpaid wages. She tried to file charges in small claims court, but none of the cleaning contractor’s addresses were legitimate.

With the help of community allies, elected officials, and the U.S. Department of Labor, she finally received her unpaid wages more than a year later. The company paid no fines or penalties above the unpaid wages.