For the second time in less than a month, an Austin-based company that produces reality TV shows has been hit with a lawsuit alleging unpaid wages.
Megalomedia Inc. is accused of failing to pay overtime to a coordinating producer for the A&E network’s highly rated "Shipping Wars" program, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Austin.
Mansfield Films LLC is also named as a defendant in the suit.
A Megalomedia spokeswoman told the American-Statesman on Monday that the company hadn’t been served with the suit and declined comment.
According to court documents, Jocelyn Schutte, an Austin resident, was hired in spring 2013 to work on "Shipping Wars," a show where truckers use uShip.com, an Austin-based website, to bid on hauling one-of-a-kind items across the country.
UShip is not named as a defendant in the suit. Neither is A&E.
Schutte said she was referred to as an independent contractor, "but treated like an employee." According to the lawsuit, her job duties included booking travel arrangements, securing required permits and creating master itineraries and daily call sheets for all or part of the show’s third, fourth and fifth seasons.
Often, Schutte said, she worked more than 40 hours in a single week, and alleges that she didn’t receive overtime pay as required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. She is seeking payment for overtime she worked, pre- and post-judgment interest, court costs and expert witness fees, among other things, according to court filings.
"Defendants exercised extensive control over Schutte’s hours," the suit states. "In addition to establishing her job duties, which due to the nature of the filming schedule could require very long hours, defendants also required that Schutte work at their office during set weekday hours. Defendants further required that Schutte obtain permission in advance to take a day off, and at times required or sought to require that Schutte take days off."
Schutte claims she was instructed how to fill out the invoices that she was required to submit in order to be paid, according to the suit.
"Defendants also exercised extensive control over the amount of time that Schutte was permitted to invoice for, although she was required to complete her job duties regardless of how much time she had to work in order to do so," the suit states. "Defendants knew, or showed reckless disregard for whether, their failure to pay Schutte overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week was in violation of FLSA."
Earlier this month, four stars of the short-lived "Texas Car Wars" reality series sued Megalomedia, claiming they hadn’t been paid in full for work performed more than two years ago.
Megalomedia told the American-Statesman at the time that it denied the allegations and planned to "vigorously defend itself."
Austin attorney R. Scott Cook filed both lawsuits. Neither case has been set for trial yet.