Louis C.K., well-known for his often self-deprecating and dark humor may have some new material for his upcoming stand-up routines. After a damages decision on Tuesday, the funny man will be saddled with $163,000 worth of attorney fees and costs – on top of tens of thousands of dollars in lapsed union dues.

C.K., whose legal name is Szekely, is the sole owner of production company Pig Newton, which is largely responsible for the comedian’s self titled sitcom, Louie. The show is much acclaimed and is in large part the major work of C.K., who is not only the lead actor, but also a writer, director, producer and editor.

But this “multi-hat approach” to the production of Louie led to some not-so-funny business: in October of 2013, C.K. filed suit in a New York District Court to obtain declaratory judgment stating that Pig Newton was not entitled to pay $28,000 in union dues.

Pig Newton employs C.K., as well as the other cast and crew of Louie, under collective bargaining agreements with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts. Those agreements require that Pig Newton make contributions on behalf of its employees to pay for the unions’ pension, retirement, and health benefits.

A few decades ago, however, these unions sought prevent “controlling employees” – such as C.K. – from manipulating the hours they worked to get the highest amount of benefits while paying as little of the required contributions as possible. As a result, plans were altered to require those controlling employees to pay as if they were working a 40-hour-per-week, 50-week-per-year contribution schedule, regardless of their hours.

C.K. objected to the mandated schedule, since he would be paying for work that accounted for only 15 percent of his time spent working on Louie, and only 8 percent of his total compensation.

However, despite agreeing that the unions’ new rules were “broader than necessary to curb perceived manipulation by some controlling employees,” U.S. District Judge Katherine Failla gave summary judgment to the defendant unions. However unreasonable the clauses might appear, it was “indisputable that the Controlling Employee Provisions appeared in the Trust Agreements as of the date that [Pig Newton] became a party” to the contracts. As a result, the company was bound to the provisions.

But that was not the end of the story for C.K. Early this week, the Judge Failla ruled again in favor of defendants, this time holding that Pig Newton owed them for their attorneys fees and costs sustained in defending the contract.

Alison Morris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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