NY Labor Law Wage Claims Dismissed Against Charlie Rose, Inc. Under Law’s “Professional” Exception

In Riggi v. Charlie Rose Inc., No. 159167/2019, 2021 WL 2141358 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County May 21, 2021), the court dismissed plaintiff’s claims asserted under New York Labor Law § 198 claims.

Specifically, NYLL § 198-c requires “any employer who is a party to an agreement to pay … benefits or wage supplements to employees” to pay those benefits or wage supplements within 30 days after such payments are required to be made.

However, NYLL § 198-c(3) states that Labor Law § 198-c “shall not apply to any person in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity whose earnings are in excess of nine hundred dollars a week.”

Plaintiff’s claims faltered under this provision. The court explained:

Here, the arguments advanced by plaintiff, in opposition to dismissal, that she should not be classified as a “professional” is belied by her complaint wherein she describes, in detail, her professional expertise in the field of make-up artistry. Particularly, she indicates that she had “a distinguished 30-year career as a makeup artist in the television industry”, “studied [t]heatrical makeup at the Boston Conservatory of Music, and prior to commencing employment with Bloomberg and Rose, worked for some of the most well-known shows on television, including Saturday Night Live, 60 Minutes, Nightline, Geraldo, Good Morning America, Conan O’Brien, the Gordon Elliott Show, and Hard Copy.” She noted that “[h]er work has appeared on almost every major network, including CBS, NBC, ABC, BBC, Reuters, WTN, MSG, and the Food Network.” (NYSCEF Doc. No. 1, complaint at 23). Plaintiff also asserts in her complaint that “[t]hroughout her career, [she] has provided makeup for countless well-known individuals, including political figures, such as: Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter; English Prime Minister Tony Blair; Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev; Israeli Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon; United States Secretaries of State John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Madeline Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Henry Kissinger; and United States Senator Bernie Sanders [and] … for such personalities as Rosa Parks, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Angelina Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mikhail Baryshnikov among many others.” (NYSCEF Doc. No. 1, complaint at 24). Plaintiff’s other professional accolades include being nominated for an Emmy Award for her work on the Sally Jesse Raphael Show, being a member of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (“NATAS”), judging the NATAS Daytime Emmy Awards, being elected Governor of the Creative Crafts of NATAS NYC on two occasions, teaching seminars for NATAS NYC, membership in New York Women in Film and Television (“NYWIFT”), which requires accreditation and peer sponsorship for membership, and membership in the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (“IATSE”), which requires passing an examination demonstrating requisite professional skills for membership. (NYSCEF Doc. No. 1, complaint at 25-26).

Furthermore, the statute is clear and, insofar as professionals earning in excess of nine hundred dollars per week are not entitled to paid time off or similar wage benefits and supplements under NYLL § 193, these claims must be dismissed. By her own admission, plaintiff is a learned professional who, for over twenty years, submitted invoices to Rose seeking compensation for services rendered which exceeded nine hundred dollars per week.

The court also dismissed plaintiff’s claim under NYLL § 193 – which prohibits deductions from the wages of an employee except where the statute specifically provides and the parties explicitly agree – noting, inter alia, that “[p]laintiff has not proffered or asserted that there was an agreement between herself and Rose that she would be subject to wage deduction” and that “[t]o the contrary, there appears to be an implied agreement that plaintiff would provide makeup services, submit invoices, and receive payment, which she did for over twenty years.”

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