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 confirmed it was formally served with a statement of claim Tuesday afternoon.
“Cineflix has demonstrated a solid history of ethical standards and respect for the creative community for over 20 years.” stated spokeswoman Vanessa Marra. “Cineflix will be vigorously contesting this claim.”
Classification as independent contractors
A Toronto-based employment lawyer with no connection to the case said Tuesday that the issue is whether the workers have been improperly classified as independent contractors.
“There is no universal test to determine whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor, but courts look to a number of factors to answer the central question of whether the person is in business on his own account or is actually an employee,” said Kimberly Boara Alexander, founding partner of KBA Partners LLP.
The suit claims that Ontario’s provincial labour law applies — and entitles the plaintiffs 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.”
Another hurdle for the plaintiffs to overcome is that the Cineflix group is a multinational, with offices in Toronto and Montreal, as well as New York City, London and Dublin.
The suit names more than 100 legal entities as defendants, including Cineflix Inc. and Cineflix Media Inc. and dozens of program-specific entities such as Cineflix (Property Brothers 6) Inc.
The Property Brothers show, starring real estate expert Drew Scott and his twin brother Jonathan Scott, a contractor, is produced in association with HGTV — a specialty television channel devoted to homes, decoration and renovations.
Other shows produced by Cineflix include American Pickers, Secrets of the Morgue and Bizarre Murders.