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Vegas magician stagehands suing over wage dispute

Friday - 4/4/2014, 6:05pm  ET

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2012 file photo, Illusionist David Copperfield arrives at the Keep Memory Alive 16th Annual "Power of Love Gala" honoring Muhammad Ali with his 70th birthday celebration, in Las Vegas. Attorneys for Copperfield and several current and former Las Vegas stagehands say they’re talking about settling a pair of lawsuits filed in a dispute about trade secrets and overtime pay. A Feb. 15, 2014 federal lawsuit accuses Copperfield of sometimes making stagehands work 14 hours a day and seven days a week. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari, file)

KEN RITTER
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Attorneys for magician David Copperfield and several current and former Las Vegas stagehands said Friday they're in talks to make lawsuits they've traded in a backstage dispute disappear.

A Feb. 15 federal wage-abuse lawsuit filed by seven stagehands alleges that over the past three years the veteran Las Vegas illusionist sometimes made them work 14 hours a day and seven days a week without paying overtime.

A Jan. 3 state court lawsuit lodged by Copperfield business entities Backstage Employment and Referral Inc., David Copperfield's Disappearing Inc. and Imagine Nation Company Inc. accuses six stagehands of breach of contract, conspiracy and disclosure of trade secrets.

Jakub Medrala represents stagehands in both cases, including three who are named in each: Jaruslaw Jastrzebski, Zachary England and Robert Smith.

Medrala and Copperfield attorney Greg Kamer said they were in talks about settling the cases. Each declined additional comment.

Medrala alleges that Copperfield and Backstage Employment and Referral Inc. pressed the January contract complaint in Clark County District Court to try to deter his clients from pressing their wage complaint and filing their February civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

Kamer issued a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a Friday report (http://bit.ly/OiqDxY) saying that Copperfield does the right thing for his employees.

The stagehands' federal complaint said they were "constantly reminded" that they were bound by secrecy agreements prohibiting them from discussing the conditions of their employment with others, and that any dissent would be punished.

"As a result of this coercive system, throughout the years the defendants were able to exploit their employees while earning tens of millions of dollars from their labor," the civil lawsuit said.

Another Copperfield lawyer, Philip Varricchio, called the federal lawsuit "smoke and mirrors."

He said it aimed to divert attention from employees "systematically" revealing Copperfield trade secrets and intellectual property.

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Find Ken Ritter on Twitter: http://twitter.com/krttr


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