The City of New York has filed a lawsuit against L’Officiel USA Inc. for failing to pay freelancers on time — and some at all.
In a new legal filing, the City claimed that the U.S. outpost of the French magazine brand had an “egregious pattern or practice of unlawfully failing to compensate — or in some cases to timely compensate — at least 24 freelance workers for work performed by them.”
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In failing to do so, the City said that it had violated the The New York City Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which requires a hiring party to pay the freelance worker for the services provided on or before the date the compensation is due under the contract, or if the contract does not specify, no later than 30 days after the completion of the freelance worker’s services under the contract.
“As a consequence, Defendant has unjustly benefitted, and continues to unjustly benefit, from the skilled work performed by countless freelance workers, causing great harm to the affected freelance workers, and to the City as a whole,” it stated in legal documents.
It added that the affected freelance workers, and the City as a whole, have suffered injury as a direct result of L’Officiel’s actions and that the City is entitled to injunctive relief, civil penalties and any other appropriate relief, while the injured freelance workers are entitled to recover double damages for violation of the payment provisions of FIFA.
According to the City’s filing, 24 freelancers, all New York City residents at the time, filed complaints of FIFA violations against L’Officiel with the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for failure to comply with the Act’s payment requirements. Some also alleged other violations, including refusal to provide a written contract and retaliation.
DCWP then sent L’Officiel two written notices and the deadline to respond, along with notice that the failure to respond to the complaint would create a rebuttable presumption in any civil action that L’Officiel had committed the violation alleged in the complaint. In all but two cases, L’Officiel failed to respond to DCWP’s notification. In those two cases, L’Officiel responded to the notification by making the outstanding payment owed.
This is not the first time the company, headquartered in France, has been in hot water over remunerating freelancers. As previously reported by WWD earlier this year, the company is also understood to owe freelancers in other markets, including Paris and London. At the time, total owed amounts across all markets were thought to be close to 2 million euros and freelancers were looking to the French courts to help them in their effort to get paid.
L’Officiel is owned by the French family-owned media group Jalou Media Group and is backed in the U.S., where it has been active since 2018, by investment group Global Emerging Markets. Since 2020, Stefano Tonchi, the former editor in chief of oversize glossy fashion magazine W, has been consulting global chief creative officer at L’Officiel, providing consulting services to the various global editions.
A representative of L’Officiel USA did not immediately respond to request for comment.
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