The company that makes Property Brothers and dozens of other TV programs is being sued for millions in regular wages as well as overtime, vacation and public holiday pay claimed on behalf of hundreds of contract production personnel.
The proposed class action suit claims Cineflix and its affiliates violated the Ontario Employment Standards Act and seeks compensation for all past, present and future personnel in certain job classifications as far back as 2000.
The suit filed in an Ontario court also claims the defendants are liable for any tax liabilities, Canada Pension Plan or employment insurance contributions owed by the affected personnel.
The allegations have not been proven in court. Cineflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The suit is seeking about $35 million in general damages and $10 million in punitive damages, plus costs and interest.
The proposed class action was launched by law firm Cavalluzzo with support from the Canadian Media Guild and its parent, CWA Canada.
‘Wild west of the entertainment world’
A statement issued Tuesday by the plaintiffs says that most production companies that make “reality” and “factual” television programs have their workers set up corporations or sign contracts saying they are “independent contractors.”
But the suit claims that the provincial labour law still applies — and entitles them to a minimum wage and other protections of the Employment Standards Act — because of the specific working conditions required of the personnel.
For example, the suit says members of the class must adhere to a schedule determined by Cineflix, they’re told when and where to work, and to request unpaid days off in advance of taking such days as “vacation” or “sick days.”
However, it claims the defendants had no overtime policy in place to monitor, record, or compensate overtime hours.
The suit asks the court to recognize that the Employment Standards Act of 2000 applies to the contract workers and that the defendants have violated its requirements.
“Reality and factual TV are the wild west of the entertainment world,” Lise Lareau, a co-ordinator of the CMG’s Fairness in Factual TV campaign, said in a statement.
“People working in this area of production are cut out of labour laws. They don’t have the rights of other employees, and historically they’ve been left out of union contracts enjoyed by the rest of the entertainment industry.”
The named plaintiff in the suit, Anna Bourque, worked as a story editor with Cineflix from September 2017 to February 2018 at the company’s Toronto production office location.
“Picture editors and story editors work together taking hundreds of hours of footage and sharpening it into 43 minutes or so of entertaining television, but as schedules get squeezed our hours expand and there is never compensation for that, so our pay becomes inversely proportional to the hours worked,” Bourque said in a press statement.