September 30, 2011 12:49pm PT by Eriq Gardner
PR Firm Fending Off Lawsuit For Pressuring Publicists To Work Hollywood Events With No Rest, Food, Or Pay
Hanging out with Hollywood stars at late-night parties might sound fun, but for some folks in the industry, it's work. One of the top PR firms in entertainment, Rogers & Cowan, is currently contending with a proposed class action lawsuit that alleges that publicists were required to work these events without getting overtime pay, meal periods, and rest breaks. The firm, owned by Interpublic Group, has been successful in beating back some of the claims, but the case goes on.
The lawsuit comes from one of Rogers & Cowan's former publicists, Daniel Malakhov, who filed a class action claim in June on behalf of all employees of the firm. Last month, the suit was moved to federal court.
According to the complaint, Rogers & Cowan deemed attendance at promotional events with clients to be "voluntary," but informed its employees that failure to "volunteer...would negatively affect their ability to advance in their careers."
Some employees were paid, according to the claims, but not others, who worked without being compensated nor afforded proper meal and rest periods. Malakhov alleges that the post-regular-shift work constituted a violation of various California labor laws.
The class action demands back compensation, damages, attorneys' fees, and interest, plus an injunction prohibiting the firm from engaging in the complained acts.
On Thursday, a federal judge turned down the requested injunction because the lawsuit was brought by a former employee who would not benefit from such relief. Malakhov's attorneys said in court papers that the rejection of injunctive relief would interfere with the ability to do something for the some 1600 employees of the firm who may be fearful of retaliation by joining the cause.
Interpublic Group gave us a statement that reads:
"We are pleased that the judge granted our motion to dismiss all the claims that could be addressed at this stage in the proceedings. We believe the rest of the case is without merit as well and will continue to defend our position vigorously.”