A carnival operator which has billed itself as “the world’s
largest traveling outdoor amusement park,” providing carnival services to 10 of
the 50 largest fairs in North America, including the Illinois, Indiana and
Kentucky state fairs, is facing a class action wage complaint from employees
who allege violations of laws in five states.
Patrick Smith, Brenna Smith, Jeremiah Jones, Sierra Holcomb,
Michael Galvin, Joseph Dawson, Andries Van Der Walt, Annette Stiles, Robert
Hulett, Yvon Hanekom and Lauren Hanekom filed their complaint Dec. 22 in Cook
County Circuit Court, accusing Farmland, Ind.-based North American Midway
Entertainment-Astro Amusement of violating wage and hour laws in Illinois,
Kansas and Wisconsin, as well as common laws in Texas and Louisiana.
According to the complaint, NAME has, for more than a
decade, frequently required employees to work 55 or more hours each week
without paying overtime or “their agreed contract wages.” Often, workers got $6
or $7 per hour, including those in which they exceeded 40 hours per week.
The employees who filed the complaint worked as ride operators,
ticket sellers, game operators, concession stand attendants and foremen, some
for as many as 11 years. They noted NAME, for a decade, “routinely obtained
labor through the H-2B temporary foreign worker visa program.” Under that
process, employers file temporary employment certification applications with
the Department of Labor. Such paperwork specifies wages and other employment
terms offered to workers, including a requirement to meet federal prevailing
wage standards for H-2B workers and to offer equivalent terms to American
Smith, Van Der Walt and Hanekom are H-2B workers who came
from South Africa. All the employees named as plaintiffs said they worked in
several parts of the country, including stints at state fairs in Illinois,
Kansas and Texas, when they worked more than 70 hours a week. In some cases,
the workers said they got the federal prevailing wage, but no overtime pay,
despite always working more than 40 hours a week.
Other employees cited weekly pay figures, such as $375 a
week in 2013, $450 per week in 2014 and $425 per week in 2015, despite working
at least 50 hours each week. Each employee stipulated NAME never paid them for
all the hours they worked, as they never paid one and a half times the regular
rate for any hours past 40 in a single week.
The complaint said the alleged wage violations also constitute
breach of contract, including H-2B terms.
The class would include anyone who worked for NAME through
Jan. 1, 2016 in the following states: at Illinois carnivals from as far back as
Jan. 1, 2007; in Texas from Jan. 1, 2013; in Louisiana and Kansas from Jan. 1,
2014; and in Wisconsin from Jan. 1, 2015.
In addition to class certification and a jury trial, the
plaintiffs want back pay with a 2 percent interest penalty, according to the
relevant state laws.
Representing the plaintiffs, and serving as putative class
attorneys, are lawyers from the Chicago firm of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick