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Louis C.K. Loses Lawsuit Against Union Health, Pension Plans

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 06, 2015 3:22 PM

A federal judge has ruled that actor/comedian Louis C.K. failed to pay health and pension contributions related to his work on his TV show "Louie."

Those payments were supposed to go from Louis C.K. (the producer) to three motion-picture industry health and retirement benefit plans on behalf of Louis C.K. (the editor).

Because Louis C.K. wears so many hats to make "Louie," the circumstances are a bit convoluted. So let's see if we can suss out what's going on here, legally speaking.

Being Your Own Boss

Louis C.K. is not just his own boss; he's his own corporate organizational chart. His production company, Pig Newton, produces "Louie." In so doing, he essentially employs himself as a writer, director, editor, and actor. Due to his multiple roles, he belongs to multiple unions, each of which is subject to a collective bargaining agreement controlling hourly rate contributions to benefit plans.

It appears as though the present litigation refers to contributions made (or not made) for Louis C.K. in his role as editor. While he contends this role only takes up 15 percent of his time and accounts for just 8 percent of his compensation, the court held that Louis C.K. still owed payments for a couple seasons of editing.

Employee Control

Part of the court's decision hinged on the unions' application of "controlling employee" to refer to Louis C.K. A "controlling employee" is one who can set the number of hours that he or she works; unions have worried that these kinds of employer/employees would manipulate their hours and therefore their benefit payments.

In this case, the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan, the Motion Picture Industry Individual Account Plan, and the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan wanted Louis C.K. to make contributions to those plans as if he'd worked 40-hour weeks, 50 weeks a year.. Louis C.K. sued, trying to tie contributions to actual time worked.

U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Failla sided with the plans, though the exact amount owed has yet to be determined. As Louie himself might say, being your own boss is amazing, but it won't make you happy.

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