New York-based prodco True Entertainment has agreed to a settlement that will require it to pay more than US$400,000 in restitution to hundreds of employees in lieu of overtime, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office has confirmed.
In addition, the The Real Housewives of Atlanta maker – helmed by Steven Weinstock and Glenda Hersh (pictured) – has agreed to measures that will ensure legal compliance in the future, and analyse job duties of producers to see if the work entitles them to overtime.
The settlement, which will see True Entertainment pay $411,000 to production assistants, associate producers and workers, follows an investigation by the AG’s office that found employees at True had “often worked 50 hours per week, and sometimes as many as 72 hours,” without receiving compensation as required by law. Instead, workers were paid weekly or daily salaries, with “no premiums for hours worked over 40 in a workweek, and without keeping accurate records of hours worked.”
“My office is committed to enforcing overtime laws, which guarantee hard working New Yorkers extra compensation for putting in long hours, and discourage employers from assigning extremely long workweeks,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “Production workers in the entertainment industry routinely work more than 40 hours per week, and I will do everything in my power to defend their right to overtime pay.”
True Entertainment released its own statement to realscreen in response to the order, calling the settlement “amicable” and noting, “we greatly value our employees… and look forward to continuing to focus on creating and producing high-quality programming for our network partners.”
The full statement reads:
“True Entertainment has been a top creator of TV programming for nearly 17 years, and for every one of those years has compensated its employees fairly and competitively, with many employees having worked at True for more than a decade. In fact, True Entertainment employees receive fair and competitive compensation, and benefits including, for example, health insurance and paid time off. In this case, the company classified a small number of people as creative employees, exempt from overtime compensation, under applicable federal and state laws. The New York State Attorney General did not agree; thus, we reached an amicable settlement of the issue with the Attorney General.”
The overtime law focuses on the specific job duties actually performed by employees and not on potentially misleading job titles given by the employer. Though exemptions from state and federal overtime coverage exist (including for high-level, highly compensated or professional employees), none of these exemptions applied in the current case, according to the AG’s office.
The various duties of production assistants and assistant producers employed at True Entertainment included crowd control, making travel arrangements and obtaining releases from individuals appearing on camera, as well as logging footage. These duties, the Attorney General’s office ruled, afforded employees overtime pay.
The settlement funds will be distributed to production assistants, associate producers and workers who performed equivalent tasks at the production studio.
The investigation was conducted by assistant Attorney General C. Michael Higgins, under the supervision of Mayur Saxena, Labor Bureau civil enforcement section chief; Terri Gerstein, Labor Bureau chief; and Alvin Bragg, executive deputy Attorney General for social justice.
True Entertainment’s production roster includes The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love Lust or Run, Mother Funders, Vanity Fair Confidential, Hack My Life and Town of the Living Dead.