A former US-based employee of Pollen – the ticketing and events company that fell into administration last month – has filed a class action lawsuit in New York over wages that went unpaid in the month before the firm’s collapse.
The lawsuit explains how US-based employees at Pollen, which was headquartered in the UK, were paid twice monthly. The plaintiff, Tayler Ulmer, says that she first experienced problems with her wages at the end of June, with her 30 Jun salary not being paid until 15 Jul.
The subsequent payments due on 15 and 30 Jul were never paid, although she claims that she was told on several occasions that that money would be with her imminently, and that normal payment schedules would then resume. However, in August the main Pollen company fell into administration and its US employees were dismissed.
Ulmer’s lawsuit also alleges that “Pollen failed to pay insurance premiums for its [American] employees and, as a result, Ulmer’s health insurance coverage through Pollen lapsed on 1 Jul 2022, without her knowledge”.
The Pollen business originally grew out of two companies – The Physical Network and We Represent – both of which used ‘peer-to-peer marketing’ to sell tickets to events and especially festivals. That basically meant encouraging fans to promote shows and sell tickets through their social networks, earning rewards in return for their efforts.
As the business grew and rebranded, Pollen expanded its operations, putting together and selling special travel packages and premium experiences around shows and festivals, and also working with various partners on staging and promoting specially curated events.
At the start of the year it seemed like Pollen had successfully navigated the many challenges that ticketing and events companies faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then in April it was announced that the business had raised $150 million in new investment.
However, the company was already receiving criticism online from ticket-buyers regarding the communications around certain events that had been cancelled, and its system for issuing refunds.
And in the months after that big new round of investment was announced, speculation began to build about the future of the business after more than 150 of its staff were made redundant and reports started to circulate about unpaid bills and pay cheques.
Co-founder and CEO Callum Negus-Fancey reportedly told employees that the redundancies had been necessary because of commitments that had been made to the new investors regarding cutting the firm’s overheads. Then, as the delays in making payments became very apparent, employees were told that a big deal was on the horizon that would fix everything.
According to a recent report in The Pragmatic Engineer newsletter, other concerns were raised during this time by employees. For example, it transpired that payments had been taken early from some customers who were paying for tickets in instalments, and also that some of the pension contributions deducted from salaries had not deposited into each employee’s pension account.
Some of those issues were addressed, but senior management were increasingly absent from staff meetings as those concerns increased. And when US employees took to the firm’s Slack account in July to complain about the late salaries, that Slack account was seemingly switched off, even though it was the main communications system for a company where many people worked remotely.
If Ulmer’s lawsuit is granted class action status, it will also benefit any other people who were still working for Pollen in the US as of June this year. It remains to be seen if any other legal action follows in relation to the collapse of the Pollen business.