Tuesday, March 10, 2009

WWE Wrestlers Lose Employee-Status Claims

Law.com reports on the dismissal of a lawsuit by several well-known professional wrestlers against the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment).  The wrestlers had alleged that they were deprived of employee benefits by being improperly classified as independent contractors, as opposed to employees.

In dismissing the claims, the court upheld written agreements signed by the wrestlers in which they acknowledged they were independent contractors:

Former WWE performers Scott "Raven" Levy, Christopher "Kanyon" Kluscartis and "Above Average" Michael Sanders claimed they should have been treated as employees because the Stamford, Conn.-based WWE controls their salaries, performance locations, costumes, training regimen and the storylines they follow. Further, the lawsuit alleged, the WWE improperly withheld Social Security and Medicare taxes from the federal government because of the wrestlers' independent contractor status.

The wrestlers' attorney, David Golub of Silver, Golub & Teitell in Stamford, also claimed that the wrestlers' were denied employee benefits such as health care, paid sick time and vacation.

Golub was seeking class-action status, but late last week Senior U.S. District Judge Peter Dorsey granted WWE's motion to dismiss in federal court in New Haven. He said the wrestlers signed a contract that acknowledged their status as independent contractors.

The issue of workers' classification has been a hot topic since the late 1990s when Microsoft was found to have misclassified some workers as independent contractors and temporary employees. Employers sometimes take such steps to cut benefit and liability insurance costs.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

Visit our Toronto Law Firm website: www.wiselaw.net

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