The Murder Mystery Company, LLC finds itself facing a proposed class and collective action in which two former workers claim they were required to undergo training without pay and misclassified as independent contractors.
Filed on behalf of “dozens of other actors, directors, and assistant directors” who worked for the Murder Mystery Company, the 19-page lawsuit out of Colorado alleges the defendant had a policy and practice of requiring workers to attend nine hours of training and perform in one theatrical show without pay. Moreover, actors, assistant directors, and directors in the defendant’s dinner theater shows were misclassified as independent contractors and paid less than the minimum wage rates mandated by Colorado law, according to the suit.
“This misclassification affected hundreds of employees,” the complaint alleges.
Two such workers were the plaintiffs, who were employed by the Murder Mystery Company until May 2020 when one of the individuals was fired in apparent retaliation for complaining about the defendant’s labor practices, the suit says. Per the case, the other plaintiff quit in protest of the other’s termination.
According to the case, the first plaintiff was employed by the defendant since August 2016, working first as an actor, then as an assistant director/actor, then as a director/actor. The second plaintiff says she was hired in October 2016 as an actor and later worked as an assistant director/actor.
The plaintiffs say each performance in which they were involved, which typically occurred on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, required two to six hours of rehearsal during the week and roughly four hours to set up, perform, and clean up on the day of the show.
According to the suit, employees were misclassified as independent contractors despite the fact the defendant maintained significant control over most aspects of their jobs, including by requiring them to attend company trainings; dictating where and when they performed; subjecting them to policies, practices, and procedures as stated in employment handbooks; retaining the right to discipline or discharge them for failing to comply with such policies; requiring them to sign non-competition agreements as a condition of employment; and determining their pay rates.
Moreover, workers were employed in The Murder Mystery Company’s “primary (if not only) business,” performing work that was integral to the defendant’s existence, the case adds.
As such, the plaintiffs and proposed class members “were never actually independent contractors,” the lawsuit alleges, and were entitled to minimum wage protections mandated by Colorado law.
Instead, actors, assistant directors and directors were paid “low, flat rates” for each show, the suit says, ranging from $65 per performance for actors to $115 per show for directors. The workers were not paid any additional wages for time spent rehearsing and otherwise preparing during the week, according to the complaint.
The minimum wage in Colorado during the time the plaintiffs worked for The Murder Mystery Company was $9.30 per hour in 2017, $10.20 per hour in 2018, $11.10 per hour in 2019, and $12.00 per hour in 2020, the lawsuit relays.
The first plaintiff goes on to allege the defendant underpaid him and other participants in a 2019 Armed Forces Entertainment tour during which workers were provided $75 per day or $100 per day if they performed. Although the company negotiated a “higher-than-normal contract price” with the U.S. Army after representing that it would pass on the extra compensation to the performers, the workers never received the additional wages, the lawsuit claims.
“Neither [the plaintiff] nor the other Class Members were actually paid any of the higher compensation that was intended for them,” the complaint scathes.
Throughout January and February 2020, the first plaintiff “repeatedly complained” to the defendant concerning its seemingly unlawful wage and hour practices and was terminated in alleged retaliation in May 2020. The second plaintiff and several other workers “immediately resigned in protest” of the company’s retaliation against the first plaintiff, the case says.
According to the case, The Murder Mystery Company’s violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and Colorado law were “willful” given the defendant was well aware of the laws’ requirements and nevertheless failed to pay workers proper minimum wages.
The plaintiffs seek to represent anyone who worked for The Murder Mystery Company as an actor, director, and/or assistant director anytime since August 18, 2017, with a proposed class of those who did so in Colorado.
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