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Writers Guild alleges many members were denied overtime pay

New York employees may work for several reasons -- they enjoy the job, they would be bored if not employed, etc. -- but almost all would agree that a primary reason they work is for the money. People need money to pay their bills and enjoy life, and most expect that their jobs will provide this income for them. Unfortunately, however, some employees are taken advantage of by their employers and forced to work long hours while being denied overtime. Because there are wage & hour laws that prevent this sort of behavior, employees in this situation can file a lawsuit against their employers.

Last November, the Writers Guild of America East alleged that many writers and producers for reality shows were not being paid the overtime they were due. They estimated a loss of $40 million in unpaid overtime. A few shows, including "Pawn Stars" and "The First 48," among others, were noted as violators. In response to these allegations, the executive director of the union will soon testify about unpaid overtime and other illegal working conditions before the New York City Council.

An employee's right to a fair wage and overtime pay is ensured and governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act. This law covers private sector employees, as well as government employees at all levels -- local, state and federal. New York supplements this federal law with its own wage orders and Labor Law. These laws classify employees as exempt and nonexempt. The law provides that nonexempt employees should be paid, at a minimum, the minimum wage for a 40-hour work week and then a higher wage for any hours above that 40-hour mark. State laws can raise the minimum wage or the overtime wage but cannot reduce it to less than that mandated by federal law.

Employees who are not paid overtime as required by law can take advantage of legal mechanisms to hold their employers accountable. This not only ensures that workplace standards are met and that employees receive fair treatment, but it can also allow an employee to recover unpaid overtime and other pay. Discussing the case with an attorney experienced in this area of law can give employees the assistance and information they need in order to protect their rights and get paid adequately for their work.

Source: Variety, "Writers Guild Topper Testifying on Stolen Overtime to New York City Council," Dave McNary, June 9, 2014

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