Jerry Brooks, a former Emerald City Comicon volunteer, is initiating a class action suit against the con, alleging the convention broke Washington state employment laws. Volunteers, referred to as “minions” by the convention’s organizers, performed tasks normally performed by paid employees.
Emerald City Comicon minions were not paid.
Legally, Emerald City Comicon was not in a position where it could take advantage of a volunteer labor force. They weren’t a non-profit organization. If they applied for and were granted non-profit status from the IRS, it could have used volunteers as worker bees.
They didn’t do that.
Emerald City Comicon is now owned by ReedPop, the Walmart of comic conventions. Reportedly, ReedPop paid Emerald City Comicon minions at this year’s event.
I’m no lawyer, but I would think that fact would be problematic for the defendants. If the 2016 minions were paid for the work they performed, why were minions in prior years not paid?
Something else that may be trouble for the defendants is the plaintiff. There’s a Linkedin profile for a Jerry Brooks who listed volunteer work for Emerald City Comicon, specifically, that he supervised over 100 volunteers. If this is the same Jerry Brooks who filed the lawsuit, he may have detailed, comprehensive records of the work done by the minions he supervised.
In retrospect, I wonder if the creators of Emerald City Comicon wish they had called their employees something other than “minions.” I doubt that term would go over real well in a courtroom deciding if you should have paid your employees or not. It’s probably related to the animated movie Despicable Me, but it sounds extremely pejorative.