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Lawsuit: Former Employee Says Actress Tracee Ellis Ross and Joy Mill Entertainment Failed to Pay Her $300K in Wages

A former personal assistant is suing actress and entrepreneur Tracee Ellis Ross and her company, Joy Mill Entertainment.

PARIS, FRANCE – MARCH 04: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY – For Non-Editorial use please seek approval from Fashion House) Tracee Ellis Ross attends the Loewe Womenswear Fall/Winter 2022/2023 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on March 04, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jacopo Raule/Getty Images)

Court documents reveal that Ross’ former assistant Samantha Wilkins alleges the actress “failed to pay” $300,000 in wages and penalties.

Ross is best known for her leading roles in television shows such as “black-ish” and “Girlfriends.” As an entrepreneur, Ross has launched several brands, including Pattern Beauty, a hair-care line established in 2018. According to Celebrity Networth, Ross is worth $16 million. She is the daughter of recording artist and actress Diana Ross. This reportedly has come from her various acting and producing roles as well as from her hair-care products company.

In 2021, Wilkins filed a lawsuit against Ross and Joy Mill Entertainment.

Inside the suit

As first reported, Wilkins sued Ross and Joy Mill Entertainment last year. According to court documents, Wilkins claims she worked for Ross from November 2019 to July 2021. When she began working, her hourly rate was $25 per hour and included meal breaks. 

Within one month of working for Ross, Wilkins’ employee status was changed to “exempt employee,” and she was paid $70,000 per year but no longer eligible to overtime pay for more than 40 hours of work.

Wilkins received a raise the following year, bringing her salary to $100,000 per year.

Wilkins argues that Ross’ decision to pay her as a salaried employee instead of hourly was not the correct way to provide payment.

“[Ross and Joy Mill] misclassified her as an exempt employee,” Wilkins’ lawyer told Balleralert. Although Ross corrected the discrepancy, and began paying her as a no-exempt employee in November 2020, Wilkins is arguing that she was not paid accurately from December 2019 through November 2020, since her employment was misclassified.

Salary Dispute

Wilkins is accusing Ross and Joy Mill Entertainment of providing a salary “without regard to the number of hours she worked, the number of hours she was on call, the overtime and double time hours that she worked, or the meal and rest periods that she missed,” as reported on Radaronline.

Wilkins claims it was not uncommon for her to work more than 12 hours per day, seven days per week, and that she often was denied meal and rest breaks. This was more than the required 40 hours per week, yet she was not paid overtime.

Ross’ Side

Ross has denied all allegations, arguing that Wilkins has been paid for her work. She has asked for the case to be moved to private arbitration to avoid public scrutiny. Ross also requests that the lawsuit be dismissed and that Wilkins pay her attorney fees.

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