HR Daily Advisor

In an article published March 8, 2024, in HR Daily Advisor’s HR Management & Compliance special section, Constangy employment defense attorney Joyce Dos Santos looked at possible labor violations present in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory from a legal lens, in a farcical yet pointed discussion based on Warner Brothers’ new film, Wonka.

Dos Santos first pointed out that classifying Oompa Loompas as independent contractors instead of employees is a potential violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act's six-factor test. “Even [the Oompa Loompas’] undeniable skill doesn’t tip the scales in favor of independent contractor status, as it would be inapposite to suggest the work they perform isn’t integral and indispensable to Wonka’s business,” Dos Santos addressed. 

As well, Dos Santos examined the Oompa Loompas' compensation in cocoa beans instead of cash, which could raise concerns about minimum wage, overtime and fair compensation practices. “If the Oompa Loompas are deemed employees, compensating them in chocolate instead of cold, hard cash raises concerns about minimum wage, overtime and fair compensation practices. Unless specifically exempted, employees covered by the FLSA must receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek at a rate not less than time and one-half their regular rates of pay,” explained Dos Santos.

Additionally, Dos Santos highlighted the potential for employment discrimination based on race, size, and national origin, which could violate equal employment opportunity laws. “As a good reminder to all employers, discrimination in the workplace can occur before a hire is even made. The laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibit an employer from using neutral employment policies and practices with a disproportionately negative effect on applicants or employees of a protected class if the policies or practices at issue aren’t job-related and necessary to the operation of the business,” Dos Santos warned.

By analyzing Wonka's potential mistakes, employers can learn how to avoid legal violations and potential litigation and ensure that their workplaces are safe and compliant for all employees.

For the full article, please click here.


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