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Law360 (August 22, 2018, 10:21 PM EDT) — In the latest settlement between a major studio and production assistants hired to guard parking spaces, CBS Television Studios and its affiliates have agreed to pay $9.98 million to resolve allegations they failed to pay overtime, a New York federal court filing Wednesday showed.
The proposed agreement follows a similar $4.3 million deal struck by NBCUniversal Media LLC and preliminarily approved in February. Attorneys with Valli Kane & Vagnini LLP, who represent the class of parking production assistants, or PPAs, in the cases against CBS, NBC and more, said in the filing that there have been a dozen wage and hour cases filed on behalf of such workers.
“While the other settled PPA cases generally contain similar factual and legal allegations, they were brought against different movie and/or television production studios,” the filing stated. “Although not binding, presently there is substantial precedent of both preliminary and final approval of settlements … similar to the one presented here.”
Robert J. Valli Jr., one of the plaintiff’s counsel on the CBS case, told Law360 on Wednesday that his firm had already “filed and settled 11 lawsuits regarding overtime claims for parking production assistants on movie and television productions,” adding that the CBS deal brings the total to 12.
According to the proposed settlement, the attorneys at Valli Kane met with more than 100 potential class members and examined over 20,000 weeks of payroll entries. The filing said that at least 100 individuals have already opted into the suit “despite the fact that notice has yet to be sent out.”
The counsel said they would take up to one-third of the gross settlement amount for attorneys fees and costs. Named plaintiffs will sign a general release of all claims other than those of retaliation for additional payments of $5,000 each, the filing said.
Named defendants in the litigation include CBS Broadcasting Inc., CBS Television Studios, Eye Productions Inc. and Possible Productions Inc. They have disputed and expressly denied all allegations of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, the New York State Labor Law and the Wage Theft Prevention Act “at all points during this litigation,” the settlement states.
The class includes all PPAs employed by CBS or its subsidiaries from October 2012 to through April 2017.
The litigation dates back to October 2015, when CBS parking production assistants Kareem Hines, Priamo Fermin and Neftali Pellot sued the company and its subsidiaries for allegedly not paying sufficient overtime hours for the work they did securing sets, lots, streets and various individuals on production sites throughout New York for TV shows.
The plaintiffs allege that they worked at production sites for an average of 50 to 100 hours per week, if not more, but this was not reflected in their employment documentation, according to the complaint.
For example, Hines worked as a parking production assistant on “Elementary” and was paid $150 per 12-hour shift and worked on average between 60 and 100 hours per week. But his paycheck did not reflect overtime for these hours, according to the complaint.
The suit came less than a month after employees tasked with defending parking spaces for the production vehicles of the NBCUniversal show “The Blacklist” accused the companies who make the program, including Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., of cheating them out of overtime pay and altering their paychecks.
A flurry of subsequent OT cases against major production companies followed — including suits against Columbia Pictures, Lions Gate, Marvel and more — with many ending in settlements like NBCUniversal’s $4.3 million February deal.
Valli Kane’s James Vagnini, who has helped PPAs win over $30 million in these cases according to the firm’s website, previously told Law360 in September 2015 that the practice of hiring workers to hold parking spaces and sets is unique to New York.
A representative for CBS did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The PPAs are represented by James Vagnini, Robert J. Valli, and Sara Wyn Kane of Valli Kane & Vagnini LLP.
The defendants are represented by Jason D. Burns, Christopher A. Parlo and Chelsea L. Conanan of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.
— By RJ Vogt
–Additional reporting by Braden Campbell. Editing by Jill Coffey.