Two private security guards are suing Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp for unpaid wages and wrongful termination, saying the embattled actor forced them to work in a hostile environment and deprived them of overtime pay.
Johnny Depp Created “Hostile” Working Environment, Lawsuit Says
Eugene Arreola, a retired police detective from Los Angeles, and Miguel Sanchez, a career bodyguard, claim in their legal complaint that, during their tenure as security guards for Depp, the actor required them to supervise “unstable individuals,” chauffeur minors in cars with drugs and open containers and failed to respect their rights under federal and California labor laws, Page Six reports. Their lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court on May 1, 2018, demands compensation for unpaid overtime, rest and meal breaks and damages for psychological trauma.
It’s clear, however, that Depp himself saw value in the two men. Even after breaking ties with their employer, security firm Premier Group International, in 2016, the Edward Scissorhands actor kept Arreola and Sanchez on call, until, in the end, the two security professionals had been protecting Depp and his family for a number of years.
Work Environment Deteriorated, Security Guards Write
During that period, the two plaintiffs say they watched the actor become more and more “detached from the reality around him.” The guards also noticed something strange when they looked at their new paychecks – overtime and rest pay were missing.
Their working environment deteriorated, too. Depp drew “unstable individuals” into his social circle, the guards claim, abused illegal drugs frequently and went on frequent tirades during which he fired large portions of his staff and management team. And that combustible mix drew the two men into the performance of duties that exceeded what “a bodyguard would be expected to do.”
Lawsuit: Job Duties Expanded To Babysitter, Chauffeurs
Sanchez says that, more than a security guard, he was required to become a caretaker for both Depp and the actor’s children. The two men describe nights at nightclubs when they were forced to tell Depp that “illegal substances” were smeared on his face and body.
As years passed, the workplace became increasingly hostile and unsafe, the lawsuit claims. The men tell one harrowing story in which Sanchez was forced to “rush” and disarm Leonard Damian, the security guards’ supervisor, who had accidentally shot himself while “playing with his weapon in a small control room on Johnny Depp’s property.”
The hostile situation also required the men to become accomplices to crime, the legal complaint continues. Both Sanchez and Arreola say they were asked to serve as chauffeur’s for Depp’s family, in some cases driving Depp’s children and other minors in vehicles that also contained illegal drugs and open alcohol containers.
Depp Violated California Labor Law, Security Guards Say
But it was pay, or a lack thereof, that Arreola and Sanchez cite as their reason for finally ending their working relationship with Depp in the last two months. After becoming direct employees of Scaramanga Bros. Inc, the production company Depp created with his brother Daniel, the two men were told, Courthouse News writes, that “they would not be paid for more than 12 hours a day, including overtime and rest pay, despite being told they would be retained as full employees under the new management.”
Independent Contractors Or Employees?
Depp’s attorneys, along with IRS documents filed by Scaramanga Bros. Inc, have the two men classified as independent contractors, not bona fide employees.
That’s a big distinction when it comes to wages. As the plaintiffs note in their complaint, federal law (namely, the Fair Labor Standards Act) requires that employees receive overtime pay, at 1.5 times their regular rate, for all hours worked over 40 in a single week. California State labor law is even stricter; employees in California are entitled to overtime wages for any hours worked over 8 in a single day.
Guards Claim Workplace Retaliation
Arreola and Sanchez claim to have been deprived of these rights throughout their tenure as Depp’s employees. In fact, when the two men complained about the alleged legal violations, they say Depp’s management retaliated against them.
Arreola says his hours were reduced, while Sanchez, who need to take time off to help his mother get to a doctor’s appointment, was denied that opportunity. On a separate occasion, Sanchez says he asked for the afternoon off, then found his name absent from the work schedule for several days, an apparent punishment for his having spoken up.
At the same time, both men agree that they enjoyed their employment under Depp and bore him no personal ill will. The “toxic” working environment, however, was too much for them to continue working with the family, the security guards write.