Netflix’s library may be shrinking as of late, but there’s still a staggering amount of TV shows and movies available. While browsing through the library, have you ever wondered where the thumbnails for each of the available shows or movies come from? Netflix may be known for leveraging tech to solve most of its problems, but that isn’t the case in this instance.
Instead of opting for a technological solution, Netflix instead uses hundreds of people paid to watch movies and choose thumbnails, according to The Hollywood Reporter. While being paid to sit around and watch TV all day might sound like a dream job, some of the members of this secret team, known as Project Beetlejuice, wouldn’t agree.
“Juicers,” as the team members are called, are paid $10 per movie or show, and choose both still images and videos to help users figure out what to watch. More details on how this project works are few and far between. Even though Netflix has openly acknowledged similar teams before — like “taggers,” who as the name implies, choose the appropriate tags for a movie or TV show — the company remains tight-lipped about Project Beetlejuice.
Members of this team aren’t full-time employees, but are instead paid as independent contractors who can work from home. This still might sound fine, but two of these contractors – Lawrence Moss and Cigdem Akbay – are filing separate class-action lawsuits demanding employee benefits like overtime, paid vacation and holidays, a 401(k) plan, and health insurance.
Both Moss and Akbay are alleging that they often worked with Netflix management and would sometimes work more than 40 hours in a week. While these contractors can technically set their own hours, Akbay’s lawsuit alleges that the deadlines set by Netflix meant she needed to keep to a “rigid work schedule.” Akbay claims that watching Netflix eventually became her primary income source, and after relating this to the company in 2014, she was fired.
For Netflix’s part, the company claims that both Moss and Akbay signed agreements that require these issues to be handled in private arbitration. Whether or not these lawsuits move forward, the gig economy model being used by many other companies, including Uber and Lyft, means we’ll certainly see more of this type of lawsuit in the future.