A proposed class and collective action alleges the New York Shakespeare Festival has failed to pay workers in accordance with state and federal labor laws and discriminated against African American employees with regard to returning to work after pandemic-related furloughs.
The plaintiff, an African American man who worked for the NYSF as an operations assistant, alleges in the 23-page complaint that a 30-minute meal period was automatically deducted from his hours regardless of whether he actually took a break. The New York Shakespeare Festival also failed to pay the plaintiff and other manual workers every week instead of every two weeks, and provide them with accurate, itemized wage statements, the case claims.
The plaintiff moreover alleges he was subjected to discrimination based on his race and ultimately terminated in favor of a similarly situated Hispanic employee after being placed on furlough during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Upon information and belief, Defendant used the furlough and the COVID-19 pandemic to terminate its African American workforce, including [the plaintiff] and replace them with Hispanic workers,” the complaint alleges.
Per the case, the New York Shakespeare Festival operates several theatre locations across New York City, including the Free Shakespeare in the Park program at Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre. The suit says the defendant employs operations assistants to perform building maintenance and help set up and break down the theatres for productions, which requires mostly manual work using power tools and hand tools, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges that because operations assistants typically spent more than 25 percent of their hours on manual tasks, they were classified as manual workers and should therefore have been paid on a weekly basis. Nevertheless, the New York Shakespeare Festival paid the employees by check every two weeks in violation of the New York Labor Law, the filing attests.
The case further claims that the defendant automatically deducted 30 minutes from workers’ hours each day to account for meal breaks they never took, resulting in unpaid wages, and failed to provide accurate, itemized wage statements in accordance with state law.
The plaintiff, who worked for the New York Shakespeare Festival from September 2014 until August 2021, alleges the defendant began subjecting him to discrimination in September 2019, when his overtime hours were given to a Hispanic employee. The alleged discrimination supposedly continued when the defendant, after workers were put on furlough during the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritized re-hiring “its Hispanic workforce over its African American workforce” despite promising that full-time employees such as the plaintiff would be given priority, the lawsuit alleges.
The plaintiff argues that the New York Shakespeare Festival’s reason for his termination in August 2021—specifically that his position was eliminated—was untrue given he was replaced by a Hispanic employee. The plaintiff alleges he was terminated due to his race and suspects he was paid less than similarly situated employees for the same reason.
“Defendants have treated Plaintiff unequally, and less well than other employees because of their race, in violation of [the Civil Rights Act of 1866], [the New York State Human Rights Law], and the [New York City Human Rights Law],” the lawsuit alleges.
The complaint can be read below.
Get class action lawsuit news sent to your inbox – sign up for ClassAction.org’s newsletter here.
Camp Lejeune residents may soon have the opportunity to claim compensation for harm suffered from contaminated water.