Are contestants of reality shows, employees?

American Idol faces a discrimination lawsuit filed by 10 black former contestants who were disqualified from the show.  The plaintiffs claim they were disqualified for reasons other than singing, including criminal history, and were given the “right to sue” by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), allowing the lawsuit they filed in July to move forward.

The lawsuit alleges that over the course of a 10-year period, Idol producers engaged in a pattern of racial discrimination by using the arrest history of black male contestants as a reason for disqualification.  The suit also claims that 31 percent of all black Idol semi-finalists were disqualified for reasons unrelated to their singing ability.  And further alleges that white and non-black contestants were not subjected to the same standard for disqualification.
Proving the claims
In order to prove that American Idol discriminated against the plaintiffs after asking about arrest histories, the young men must first prove that they were employees of the show.  This is a significant hurdle to overcome for the plaintiffs because asking an employee or a job applicant about previous arrests is a violation of California law.  Additionally, the plaintiffs must also prove that the discrimination took place within 300 days of filing their lawsuit.
Independent contractors and employees are not the same
Treating an employee as an independent contractor, can get you in hot water and subject you to possible lawsuits and heavy fines.  In order to prevent future liability, as a business owner it is important to understand the difference between an independent contractor and an employee:

An independent contractor:

•    Operates under a business name
•    Has their own employees
•    Maintains a separate business checking account
•    Advertises business services
•    Invoices for work completed
•    Has more than one client
•    Has own tools and sets own hours
•    Keeps business records

An Employee:
•    Performs duties dictated or controlled by others
•    Is given training for work to be done
•    Works for only one employer

Talk to a NY employment law attorney about your employment issues today
Running a business is a challenge in today’s world and employers can often make unintended mistakes for which they pay dearly.  Treating an employee as an independent contractor is just one of the many things that can put you and your business at risk.  To discuss your employee issues, contract needs or other employment matters, contact an experienced NY labor & employment  law attorney today.

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