ED Magedson – Founder
Lou Pearlman Trans Continental Talent - Wilhelmina Scouting Network - Options Talent -Emodel1701 Park Center Drive Orlando, Florida U.S.A.
Ex-workers say they're due back pay
By Tim Barker Sentinel Staff Writer October 9, 2003 The closing of a dozen Wilhelmina Scouting Network offices around the country has left employees complaining about their treatment by the controversial Orlando firm. Employees say they were given no advance notice of last week's closings and that the Lou Pearlman company is refusing to pay them for their last few weeks' work. "It's like they don't appreciate anything we did for them," said Megan Klein, a photo-shoot coordinator in the New York City office, who says she is owed nearly $6,000. "I just don't understand. We made them a lot of money." Pearlman on Wednesday, however, said Wilhelmina Scouting has no responsibility to pay the workers, who were actually employees of United States Talent Co., a franchisee that owned the dozen model-scouting offices in question. "These people never worked for us. They always worked for the franchisee," Pearlman said. "We are not obligated to pay any of their bills." Trans Continental Talent, which operates as the Wilhelmina Scouting Network, does not own any of the now 57 franchise locations spread across the United States and the world. Those offices employ armies of scouts to sign up models for the company's Web site. The fees paid by the models are split between the franchise owners and Wilhelmina. United States Talent, in a written statement to the Sentinel, challenged Pearlman's position, noting that Wilhelmina Scouting took control of the 12 offices in June and has collected all revenues generated since then. "Absolutely no basis exists for TCT [Trans Continental Talent] to do such a horrible thing to many good people," the company said. The dispute over who owes the former workers centers on a June agreement in which Wilhelmina Scouting took over the dozen offices to run for 90 days. At the end of the 90 days, Wilhelmina had run up $300,000 in debt across the 12 offices, according to the statement by United States Talent. Prior to that takeover, all bills and employees were paid, United States Talent said. Pearlman, however, characterized the 90-day takeover as Wilhelmina stepping in to assist the troubled franchises. He said they already were in debt and had fallen behind in their payments to the corporate office. "They were in debt before we took them over," Pearlman said. "It wasn't like we went in there and ruined their business." At the end of the 90-day period, both Wilhelmina and United States Talent decided they wanted nothing more to do with the troubled franchises. Employees were told on Sept. 30 that the offices would be closed immediately. At first, employees say, they were repeatedly assured that they would be paid. But deadlines came and went. Now, their phone calls and e-mails generate nothing but silence from the Orlando headquarters, said Yomi Richardson, a New York scout. "We're not able to reach anyone. There's been no response." Wilhelmina Scouting has been under investigation by the Florida Attorney General's Office for more than a year, with investigators receiving 1,500 complaints from consumers who say the company uses deceptive advertising and misrepresentation. With that in mind, Carla Brandwein, also a photo coordinator in the New York office, said she was not surprised at the abrupt closures. "When you work for a company that's constantly getting really bad press and has lots of unsatisfied customers, it [closing] can't ever be that far away." Former employees said the closures include offices in Jacksonville, Miami, New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Norfolk, Va., San Antonio and Nashville, Tenn. Wilhelmina did not confirm the list, but those offices no longer appear on the company's Web site directory. The news of the 12 office closings was welcomed by New York's Consumer Protection Board, which has scheduled a hearing today to look at Wilhelmina Scouting's practices. The board has labeled the company a "consumer scam." "It's great to see we've turned the corner and it's shrinking," said John Sorensen, an investigator and spokesman for the board. Also, he said investigators would now be able to gain more insight into the company's operations through interviews with disgruntled workers. "It's great news for us. And it's great news for the public," Sorensen said. Tim Barker can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5022.
This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 10/09/2003 03:21 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/lou-pearlman-trans-continental-talent-wilhelmina-scouting-network-options-talent-emodel/orlando-florida-32835/trans-continental-talent-wilhelmina-scouting-network-options-talent-emodel-lou-pearlm-68662. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.
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