In a case that he would probably like to disappear, stage magician David Copperfield is being sued because his workers were denied overtime pay. The entertainer, who is worth around $800 million, allegedly denied overtime pay to his stagehands working at his Las Vegas show.
The seven plaintiffs in the case allege they were forced to work 10-14 hours a day, sometimes 6-7 days a week, and were denied overtime pay. When they complained to their supervisors, they were reminded that, as a condition of their employment, they had signed waivers prohibiting them from discussing the conditions of their employment with anyone. The consequence of violating these waivers is a severe fine, and the defendants allege this was an intimidation tactic used to keep them quiet about being denied overtime pay. The waiver concerns not telling anyone, including friends or family, the secrets to Mr. Copperfield’s magic tricks. The employees were also told they should consider working for Mr. Copperfield a “unique chance” and be willing to sacrifice for this privilege.
In order for them to be denied overtime pay, the suit alleges workers were given job titles that did not match the actual work they did. For example, stage hands, spotlight operators, electricians and other similar positions were given the title of “Illusion Specialist/Creative Associate” despite the fact that the positions really involved routine tasks that would have qualified them for overtime. Other employees were given the title “executive assistant” when they were actually just responsible for running everyday errands for the magician.
The employees are alleging they should have been classified as hourly employees, but that the deceptive job titles allowed Mr. Copperfield to classify them as exempt–specifically for them to be denied overtime pay. This is an example of misclassification, and it is illegal. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that you must perform relatively high-level work in order to be considered exempt. For the purposes of FLSA, it only matters what your job duties are, not your title.
Before the employees could file their lawsuit, Mr. Copperfield made good on his word and sued them for violating the secrecy waiver, but this did not stop the employees from pursuing their case of being denied overtime pay. The two sides are in settlement talks for both cases.
If you believe you are owed and were denied overtime pay or have questions about a situation at work, contact our employment attorneys for a free consultation.