Adam Birch, better known in wrestling circles as Joey Mercury, has filed a lawsuit against Ring Of Honor and its parent company Sinclair Broadcasting Inc as first reported by Wrestlezone.
Birch filed the lawsuit in the State of Maryland, home of Sinclair Broadcasting, claiming he was an employee with Ring Of Honor, rather than an independent contractor. The suit claims he was forced to resign from the company due to increased workload without an increase of pay, as well as the company’s “lack of concern for the talent”.
During the time that Birch was performing services for ROH and Sinclair, Birch devoted himself to improving the working conditions and salaries of the Talent (wrestling performers). Birch expressed concerns to ROH and Sinclair regarding the lack of safety protocols and available medical supervision during the matches. Birch attempted to secure Talent for ROH and Sinclair and attempted to obtain reasonable compensation for the Talent. Birch endeavored to initial effective communication between ROH and Sinclair and the Talent. Birch’s efforts were disregarded by ROH and Sinclair and this disregard produced an unsafe working environment and poor overall working conditions and morale.
During the time Birch was performing services for ROH and Sinclair, he was paid substantially less than other individuals performing these same services for similar companies.
Due to the complete lack of concern for the Talent and the increasing responsibilities without a commensurate increase in compensation, Birch was forced to leave ROH and Sinclair on October 25, 2019.
The lawsuit states Ring Of Honor misclassified Birch as an independent contractor, rather than an employee due to the control they had over him during his tenure with the company.
The Agreement clearly misclassifies Birch as an independent contractor when he was, in fact, an employee. Sinclair and ROH retained the right to control every aspect of Birch’s performance of services and overrode his independent judgment regarding the best manner in which to perform his services. Sinclair and ROH also retained the right to prohibit Birch from performing services for other entities without consent. Sinclair and ROH retained the right to terminate Birch’s performance of services for Sinclair and ROH, but denied Birch the right to terminate his provision of services during the first six months of the Agreement. Sinclair and ROH retained the right to terminate the relationship for cause and imposed a restrictive covenant.
The intent and import of the Agreement was to make Birch an employee while misclassifying him as an independent contractor.
Birch also outlined his concerns for the safety of talent, which he believes Sinclair and ROH did not address. He says there is a correlation between his forced resignation to the company not addressing safety concerns.
A nexus exists between Birch’s actions in attempting to ensure the safety of the Talent and obtaining reasonable compensation for the Talent and Birch’s forced resignation from Sinclair and ROH.
Birch repeatedly expressed opinions to Sinclair, ROH, and others regarding the actions of Sinclair and ROH. These opinions that were expressed regarded the safety of the professional wrestlers and the inadequacy of the pay for the Talent.
Sinclair and ROH were the promoters of the wrestling matches in which Birch expressed concern regarding the safety of the wrestlers.
COMAR 19.14.08.06(B) requires that the promoter shall be responsible for conducting wrestling contests in a safe, peaceable, and orderly fashion.
Sinclair and ROH failed to conduct the wrestling matches in a safe manner. Wrestlers suffered injuries from wrestling that were not recognized and not addressed. Sinclair and ROH permitted unsafe wrestling practices to occur and failed to respond to Birch’s complaints regarding the unsafe practices.
As a direct and proximate result of Birch’s complaints and actions regarding the lack of safety protocols at Sinclair and ROH wrestling events and Sinclair and ROH’s complete lack of concern for the safety of the wrestlers, Birch was forced to resign.
Birch is entitled to compensatory damages directly resulting from the termination of the relationship with Sinclair and ROH.
Last month, Kelly Klein filed a discrimination lawsuit against ROH and Sinclair Broadcasting Inc. She also challenged the promotion classifying her as an independent contractor.