Over a year ago, I posted about the employment relationship artists were facing when taking “freelance” work at The Mill in Santa Monica. I described about learning about Employer of Record scheme perpetrated by Yurcor, and offered my opinions based on my research on the legality of the working relationship and payment practices of Yurcor. I asked that artists who had experience get in contact with me so I could approach our lawyer with the aim of clarifying my concerns and possibly finding a legal remedy for the mistreatment of employees I thought to have taken place.
We recently received word that some of those artists were able to file a lawsuit against The Mill and Yurcor:
Recently, three Los Angeles artists filed a lawsuit in state court against The Mill and Yurcor. The Mill, a visual effects production company, employed the three artists on a temporary basis. Yurcor, which processed the paychecks of artists at The Mill, told the artists that it was their “employer of record” while they worked at The Mill. In the case, which was filed in California state court as a class action on behalf of themselves and an estimated 500 other California artists, the artists allege that The Mill and Yurcor failed to pay them the compensation that they were promised.
The lawsuit alleges that The Mill and Yurcor schemed to treat California artists as independent contractors when in fact they were employees. Under California law, the artists were employees and not independent contractors because The Mill exercised total control over the manner in which they worked, and also set their wages, hours, and other working conditions.
In addition to taking standard employer payroll deductions from the artists’ paychecks for their work at The Mill, Yurcor also took illegal deductions from their wages for Yurcor’s “administrative overhead costs.” As alleged, The Mill and Yurcor sought to confuse and deceive the California artists about their employee status in order to enrich themselves, deliberately misclassifying the artists as independent contractors when they were in fact employees. This meant that the artists lost wages they were promised.
The artists allege, among other things, violations of various provisions in the California Labor Code. They seek relief including lost wages, interest and penalties, as well as an order prohibiting The Mill and Yurcor from engaging in this conduct in the future.
Congratulations to the artists who took a stand and did their part to make the visual effects industry a better place to work. I look forward to sharing more developments in this case as they are presented to us.