Kanye West sued by former assistant designer over unpaid wages

Taliah Leslie alleges that Yeezy misclassified its employees and didn't pay them for expenses related to the job

Kanye West may be one of the richest men in entertainment, but according to one of his former assistants, his company wasn’t the best at paying his employees.

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Per reports, a former Yeezy employee is accusing the rapper-turned-fashion mogul of alleged labor code violations, claiming that both West and his brand failed to pay her for off-the-clock work that she performed on the job.

Court documents reveal that Taliah Leslie, who worked for Yeezy as an assistant designer, alleges that the company failed to comply with California labor code requirements due to its policy of misclassifying employees as independent contractors.

She maintains that this was done to rob them of legal wages and other benefits. Leslie also asserts that this isn’t an isolated occurrence and that Yeezy actually makes it a practice to blatantly violate labor code sections to save money.

Fast Company Innovation Festival - Day 3
Steven Smith and Kanye West at the “Kanye West and Steven Smith in Conversation with Mark Wilson” on November 07, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Fast Company)

In addition to its failure to compensate Leslie for off-the-clock work conducted on the job site, she also says she was never reimbursed for compulsory travel to and from out-of-town locations, including Cody, Wyoming, and Paris, France.

She adds that the missing overtime pay was particularly insulting given that legal mandates to provide employees with off-duty meal periods as required by California law were also ignored.

In a nutshell, she’s alleging that she and others were made to work long hours that they were not paid for, while also being deprived of any opportunity to take breaks and eat.

Leslie says cell phone and internet usage and all other expenses associated with compulsory travel which are required to perform her job duties were also not reimbursed.  

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As a result of all these alleged violations and her claims that the company neglected to keep accurate records of the time worked, Leslie is now seeking civil penalties pursuant to the alleged labor code violations, attorney fees, and any further relief the Court may deem proper and just.

The former employee says she initially filed a claim with California’s Labor & Workforce Development agency back in February but received no notice of the agency’s intention to investigate within 65 calendar days.

Due to that negligence, she believes that her best course of action now is to commence a civil action given that LWDA has chosen not to investigate.

As we previously reported, a Kanye West documentary featuring two decades worth of footage has been picked up by Netflix.

Video directing duo Coodie and Chike have partnered with TIME Studios (TIME‘s TV and film division) for the upcoming documentary. It’s worth noting that TIME Studios has released some acclaimed documentaries in recent years, including John Lewis: Good Trouble.

Kanye West Yeezy Season 4 - Presentation
Models pose on the runway at the Kanye West Yeezy Season 4 fashion show on September 7, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 4)

The film, based on the life and career of the American politician, went on to win Best Documentary Film at the 2021 NAACP Image Awards.

Expected to be released later this year, the multi-part documentary reportedly includes never-before-seen footage of the rapper and is said to cover “his career in music and fashion, his failed 2020 presidential bid, and the death of his mother, Donda West.”

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Though Billboard initially reported the doc was sold for $30M, sources told Variety that figure was “inaccurate.”

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