The Face Modeling Competition Winner Devyn Abdullah Files Complaint Seeking Payment of Withheld Portion of Ulta Beauty Contract Award Against Direct Model Management, Inc. and Owner Mykola Webster

On April 21, 2015, The Dugger Law Firm, PLLC filed a federal complaint on behalf of Devyn Abdullah, the first winner of The Face television modeling competition, against her former modeling agency, Direct Model Management, Inc., as well as Direct owner and president Mykola Webster, and Direct head of finance Atiff Joseph, for violations of federal and state wage and hour laws, as well as breach of contract.  

The complaint alleges that Defendants misclassified Ms. Abdullah as an independent contractor in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law.

Among other violations, Ms. Abdullah alleges that Defendants withheld, and otherwise failed to pay her, at least $13,000 of her wages from The Face competition award of a $50,000 contract with Ulta Beauty

The complaint also alleges that Defendants failed to pay Ms. Abdullah for work with several additional modeling industry clients.

Ms. Abdullah seeks payment of minimum wages, payment of unpaid earned wages, liquidated damages with respect to minimum wages that were eventually paid but were not paid promptly, reimbursements for illegal deductions, additional associated liquidated damages, as well as damages for breach of contract and New York Labor Law recordkeeping violations.

The case is Abdullah v. Direct Model Management, Inc., et al., No. 15 Civ. 03100, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

For more information contact Cyrus E. Dugger at or (646) 560-3208.

Wage Theft on the Rise

Wage theft claims appear to be on the rise:

"David Weil, the director of the federal Labor Department’s wage and hour division, says wage theft is surging because of underlying changes in the nation’s business structure. The increased use of franchise operators, subcontractors and temp agencies leads to more employers being squeezed on costs and more cutting corners, he said. A result, he added, is that the companies on top can deny any knowledge of wage violations.
'We have a change in the structure of work that is then compounded by a falling level of what is viewed as acceptable in the workplace in terms of how you treat people and how you regard the law,' Mr. Weil said.
His agency has uncovered nearly $1 billion in illegally unpaid wages since 2010. He noted that the victimized workers were disproportionately immigrants." (link)

Here in New York:

"New York’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, has recovered $17 million in wage claims over the past three years. 'I’m amazed at how petty and abusive some of these practices are,' he said. 'Cutting corners is increasingly seen as a sign of libertarianism rather than the theft that it really is.'” (link)

Some employer advocates claim the rise in wage claims is just "opportunistic lawsuits:"

"Lee Schreter, co-chairwoman of the wage and hour practice group at Littler Mendelson, a law firm that represents employers, said wage theft was not increasing, adding that many companies had become more vigilant about compliance. But that has not stopped lawyers from bringing wage theft complaints because of the potential payoff, Ms. Schreter said. 'These are opportunistic lawsuits,' she said." (link)

But you have to ask yourself -- why would a plaintiff's attorney bring a wage and hour lawsuit on contingency that lacked merit?  If the case has no merit plaintiff's counsel will lose and won't obtain any fees -- an attorney seeking profit is unlikely to do that.

Moreover, wage and hour lawsuits are usually pretty clear-cut -- the employer either paid minimum wage/overtime or the employer did not -- it's often that simple.

What do you think?