Two former contractors for Netflix’s “Project Beetlejuice” are suing the streaming service for overtime, health insurance, and other benefits, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The plaintiffs, Lawrence Moss and Cigdem Akbay, spent up to 40 hours a week watching shows and movies, and were paid around $10 per video to select images and clips to highlight to Netflix users.
The two, both based in Los Angeles, have filed separate class action lawsuits, claiming that their contract gigs deserved treatment as full-time employment with benefits. According to Akbay’s claim, deadlines set by Netflix mooted the supposed flexibility and independence of the gig—a requirement for definition as an independent contractor under California employment law. Akbay also claims she was terminated after she told the company that the gig had become her main source of income.
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The dispute parallels a number of similar battles between contractors and ‘gig economy’ companies including Uber, Lyft, cleaning service Handy, and the Amazon (AMZN) Mechanical Turk. Arguably, the lower cost of contract-based labor relationships are core to the value of those operations, and legal stands against them are an existential threat.
Though Uber’s proposed $100 million April settlement with California drivers promised to limit at least some future liability for the company, that settlement still awaits approval by a federal judge, and some drivers have lambasted it. Even if approved, the settlement would provide little clarity to the disputed landscape of the broader gig economy.
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Contract employment is not as obviously central to Netflix’s market position as to Uber’s, and it is unclear how many employees it uses to process its library. But the case does highlight that contract labor has come to play a larger role in tech, and with that new emphasis come the risks of a shifting labor landscape.