The Happiest Place on Earth? Financial Analysts at Walt Disney Internet Group Find No Happiness in No Overtime
- did not allow employees mandatory meal or rest breaks;
- did not pay employees on time; and
- did not provide semi-monthly itemized wage statements (a California law requirement).
In their complaint, Parks argues on behalf of Disney "financial analysts" that their jobs non-exempt because their duties were "routine and repetitive" and required no "consistent exercise of discretion and judgment." For example, job duties included checking cost metrics data for errors and paying invoices and entering data. The suit proposes three separate classes: (i) one FLSA class to include all employees of the company who hold or held the title "financial analyst" or similar title since Feb. 28, 2005; (ii) one California Wage and Hour class to include all California employees who held/hold such position with Disney since Feb. 28, 2004 (due to the longer statute of limitations under California law); and (iii) one class under California law to include employees throughout the United States who held/hold such position with Disney since Feb. 28, 2004. Relief sought includes unpaid past wages, liquidated damages, and interest under the FLSA, as well as damages for every day breaks were not provided and injunctive relief to force Disney to provide required wage statements and to pay workers on time.
Disney affiliated companies have been widely regarded as good employer, establishing several employee-friendly benefits leading to a generally employee-friendly working environment. Nevertheless, Disney affiliates have been sued in the past for overtime issues. In 2001, an arbitrator ordered Walt Disney World in Florida to pay for time spent changing between costumes and personal clothing, and a similar settlement was reached as to Disneyland in California.
For more on the Disney lawsuit, Parks v. Walt Disney Internet Group, et al., case number 2:08-cv-01380 (U.S.D.C., C.D. Calif.), click here to read the complaint.
Misclassification remains a focus of the Department of Labor, more so in low-wage industries (hotel-motel workers, construction, janitorial services, among others) than the subject of this suit. Just this past week, the former administrator of the DOL's wage-and-hour division spoke to the New York Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel confirming that misclassification, particularly employers who misclassify their workers as independent contractors, is one of its top five enforcement priorities for 2008. Employers, with the assistance of their counsel, should review their job descriptions and assess their classification of employees in light of the continued governmental interest in these cases.