Reality TV writers lose out on $40 million in unpaid overtime

According to federal and New York state law, when someone who works over 40 hours per week, he or she is owed overtime pay, if eligible. If the individual’s position is not exempt from overtime wages, he or she must be paid 1.5 times the amount of his or her regular pay for each hour over 40 hours. While overtime hours are non-negotiable, some employers will attempt to avoid them by getting employees to lie on their timecards. Ultimately, however, anyone who has claim to unpaid overtime has a right to those wages, either directly from the employer or through a wage and hours law lawsuit.

Claims for unpaid overtime wages come from every field, even ones that many New Yorkers may not think of, like the television industry. A new survey by the Writers Guild of America East has found, however, that reality television writers and producers are losing out on $40 million in unpaid wages.

When the Guild announced the results of its survey last month it also called for a governmental investigation. Understandably so, the union was upset with the entertainment industry for profiting off of the work of these writers and producers, yet it still refuses to pay the required overtime wages.

It seems that the production companies for which these writers work are forcing them to forge their timecards in an attempt to avoid paying them overtime. When asked, 49 percent said that their timecards were never right. And, with 84 percent of writers and producers saying they work over 40 hours per week nearly every week, there are a large number of people who should be getting paid their overtime.

Source: Variety, “Writers Guild of America Blasts Reality Shows Over Unpaid Overtime,” Dave McNary, Nov. 18, 2013

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