Seven men allege they worked more than 40 hours a week as stagehands for David Copperfield’s magic show at the MGM Grand without receiving overtime compensation.
The men filed a federal lawsuit on Feb. 15 that accuses Copperfield, as well as four companies he controls, of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and Nevada law.
“Very often the defendants forced their employees to work 6-7 days a week for 10-14 hours a day without overtime pay,” the complaint alleges. “In addition, each time an employee would bring a question of overtime pay or the conditions of his or her employment to the defendants, he was instantly intimidated to withdraw his demands.”
Attorney Greg Kamer, who represents Copperfield, released the following statement Thursday: “David has and will always do the right thing with regards to his employees, and settlement discussions are in process.”
According to the lawsuit, employees were constantly reminded that secrecy agreements prohibited them from discussing the conditions of their employment with the outside world, and the defendants “made it clear to their employees that any dissent would be punished.”
“As a result of this coercive system, throughout the years, the defendants were able to exploit their employees while earning tens of millions of dollars from their labor,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit also accuses the defendants of retaliating against some of the workers after the lead plaintiff, Las Vegas resident Jaroslaw Jastrzebski, demanded overtime pay.
“Don’t be fooled by these claims,” according to a statement previously released by Philip Varricchio, another attorney representing Copperfield. “They have it all backwards. David and his company are the ones that have been wronged here. Evidence shows that David’s trade secrets and intellectual property have been systematically revealed, and this lawsuit is smoke and mirrors to cover up a much bigger issue.
On Jan. 3, according to the federal lawsuit, the defendants filed a “frivolous lawsuit” in Clark County District Court “with a retaliatory intent to punish the most vocal plaintiffs” — Jastrzebski, Zachary England and Robert Smith. The District Court lawsuit involves an alleged breach of secrecy agreements.
The federal lawsuit includes the following information about its seven plaintiffs:
■ Jastrzebski was employed by the defendants from about January 2011 to November 2013. He worked as a stagehand and a show assistant.
■ England is a Las Vegas resident who was employed by the defendants from about April 2010 to October 2013. He worked as a stagehand and show assistant.
■ Smith, who now resides in a foreign country, was employed by the defendants from about July 2011 to September 2013. He was a stagehand and an assistant.
■ Daniel Berro is a Las Vegas resident who has been employed by the defendants since about February 2008. He has worked as a stagehand, spotlight operator and light-board operator.
■ Christopher Oberle is a Las Vegas resident who has been employed by the defendants since about June 2012. He has worked as a stagehand and camera operator.
■ Seth Duhy is a Los Angeles resident who was employed by the defendants from about May 2008 to May 2012. He worked as a stagehand and show assistant.
■ Shane Engle is a Las Vegas resident who was employed by the defendants from about August 2012 to January 2014. He worked as a stagehand and spotlight operator.
The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Jakub Medrala and Nicolas Donath.
Named as defendants in the federal case, in addition to Copperfield, are David Copperfield’s Disappearing Inc., Backstage Employment, Referral Inc. and Imagine Nation Company. Also named as a defendant is Christopher Kenner, the CEO of Backstage Employment
Contact Carri Geer Thevenot at email@example.com or 702-384-8710. Find her on Twitter: @CarriGeer.