Disney, Disney-owned Lucasfilm and Pixar, and Dreamworks Animation have come up with a novel tactic to try and dismantle the wage theft lawsuit brought against them by animation industry employees. The simple version of Disney and Dreamworks’ argument: certain animation artists had been aware for years that their was an alleged conspiracy against them, thus they shouldn’t have to pay damages to all of the approximately 10,000 animation industry employees who are suing.
Here’s the long version: On May 25, the federal district court presiding over the class-action antitrust case filed by plaintiff animation and digital artists Robert Nitsch, Jr. Georgia Cano, and David Wentworth against several leading animation studios certified the class definition of the artists that will be covered under any ruling in the case. Under Judge Lucy Koh’s ruling, that class who will be eligible to participate in the lawsuit is the following:
“All animation and visual effects employees employed by defendants in the United States who held any of the jobs listed in Ashenfelter Reply Report Amended Appendix C during the following time periods: Pixar (2004–2010), Lucasfilm Ltd., LLC (2004–2010), DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (2004–2010), The Walt Disney Company (2004–2010), Sony Pictures Animation, Inc. and Sony Pictures Imageworks, Inc. (2004–2010), Blue Sky Studios, Inc. (2005–2010) and Two Pic MC LLC f/k/a ImageMovers Digital LLC (2007–2010). Excluded from the Class are senior executives, members of the board of directors, and persons employed to perform office operations or administrative tasks.” [Note: The Ashenfelter Reply Report referred to in the definition is currently under seal and unavailable to the public.]
The plaintiffs sought to expand the class to include those artists who worked at Pixar and Lucasfilm from 2001-2003, and to those artists who worked at DreamWorks in 2003. However, for procedural reasons, the court ruled that it would be inappropriate to expand the class at this time, but left it open for future expansion.