Holy labor laws, Batman! The Batmobile is at the center of a $4M lawsuit

August 31, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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A former town employee has filed a federal lawsuit against Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich, Deputy Town Supervisor Michelle Marini, and other officials, claiming he was forced to perform unpaid labor on a replica Batmobile and other vintage cars. The plaintiff, Robert “Bobby” Johnson, is seeking more than $4 million in damages.

Johnson, a former Deputy Public Works Commissioner who served the Town of Greece for 36 years, alleges that he was ordered by Reilich to work on an array of vehicles. Notably, these included a Batmobile replica from the iconic 1960s Batman TV show, which sold for more than $195,000 at a 2018 auction and features Adam West’s autograph on the door. The car also has photos showing Julie Newmar, who portrayed Catwoman in the series, once seated in it.

The lawsuit further alleges that Johnson was required to work on other vintage cars like a 1980 Shay Model A replica, a 1991 Crown Victoria Station Wagon, a 1998 Lincoln, a 1971 Corvette, a Bentley, a 1955 Chevy, and several others. Johnson claims he was not paid minimum wage or overtime for these duties, which were often carried out on weekends in addition to his regular town work schedule.

According to a report by WXXI, Johnson felt that if he did not comply with these additional duties, his employment with the town would be terminated. He reported his concerns about “unlawful labor practices” to supervisor Kirk Morris in 2020 and was subsequently reassigned. Later, Johnson claims he was forced into retirement following threats that he would need to lie during an investigation by the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office.

Reilich, a former New York State Assemblyman and a longtime car enthusiast, owns Hot Rod Ranch and has a history of involvement in automotive businesses. According to reports, he also introduced a bill to exempt hot rods from specific regulations, although the bill was never brought to the floor for a vote. When reached for a comment about the allegations, Reilich declined, citing pending litigation.

The case has caught the attention of the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, which is now investigating the claims made in Johnson’s lawsuit.

Johnson also accuses the Town of Greece of withholding his retiree health care. The lawsuit opens a new chapter in the already complex relationship between labor and public service, spotlighting the blurry line between passion projects and professional obligations in small-town governance.

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