Amazon, the target of multiple lawsuits alleging labor law violations and the subject of criticism over cutthroat work culture, appears to be pilot testing its tough-love approach to worker management in its burgeoning media production business.
Marvelous Solano-Rodriguez – who may or may not live up to his name – on Thursday filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against Amazon Studios and production partners Picrow, Jigsaw Productions, and Big Indie Productions.
The lawsuit claims that the defendants failed to pay parking production assistants (PPAs) statutory overtime and schemed to alter PPA's paychecks to deprive them of pay due under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York State law.
PPAs keep production sites clear of pedestrians and motorists by placing cones or moving company vehicles to block public access. They're also responsible for protecting company vehicles and equipment on set.
To perform their duties, PPAs were required to use their own cars, or obtain cars, but were not reimbursed for expenses incurred in the process, the complaint says.
The complaint alleges that the flat shift-rate for PPAs ranged from $130 to $165 per twelve hour shift, but that "paychecks did not reflect [workers'] actual rates of pay."
Solano-Rodriguez, the complaint says, typically was paid $150 per twelve hour shift and worked between 60 and 100 hours per week.
But the defendants, according to the complaint, manipulated pay reporting to arrive at a predetermined price that didn't reflect actual hours worked.
"In order to hide the fact that Plaintiffs had been paid less than what is statutorily required, Defendants falsely and incorrectly stated the number of hours worked in payroll records and on Plaintiffs' paychecks," the lawsuit states. "...In effect, Defendants have been continuously 'shaving off' hours that Plaintiffs worked each week, forcing the Plaintiffs to work 'off the clock.'"
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.
In 2014, in a FLSA case decided by the Supreme Court, Amazon won the right not to pay workers, after their shifts had ended, for time spent waiting in line to be screened for stolen merchandise by company security personnel. But given the existence of more stringent state labor laws, the company subsequently agreed pay $3.7 million to settle a legal complaint about this practice brought by California warehouse workers.
Solano-Rodriguez is seeking to represent the more than 500 PPAs that the complaint says worked on defendant's productions in the State of New of York over the past six years.
The judge hearing the case will decide whether it can proceed as a class action. ®