In June, I wrote about a lawsuit filed by a former film editor for “Girls Gone Wild,” who alleged that he was entitled to overtime pay because Manta Films Inc. and GGW Direct LLC improperly classified him as an independent contractor. In response to the allegations, Joe Francis, the founder of “Girls Gone Wild,” stated that the lawsuit was “nonsense” because the plaintiff signed an arbitration agreement and release stating that the companies had paid him for all wages owed. The lawsuit is entitled Anagnos v. Magna Production Inc, et al. and was brought on behalf of a proposed class of 400 current and former workers.
As expected, Francis’ reliance on the arbitration agreement was misplaced. Not only was he unable to dismiss the lawsuit based on the signed agreement, but on October 3, 2011, a California judge refused to enforce the arbitration agreement in its entirety. Specifically, the court denied the request to have an arbitrator, rather than a judge or a jury, decide the class action. This decision should not come as a surprise to anyone, except maybe Francis, since the California courts have consistently refused to uphold mandatory arbitration clauses for class actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The Court’s recent ruling in Anagnos v. Magna Production Inc. et al. highlights the fact that employers cannot hide behind such agreements in defending wage and hour lawsuits. As seen in connection with independent contractor agreements, the courts will disregard any agreement that it deems to be contrary to the state and/or federal wage laws.