Sharp Entertainment reached a $226,000 settlement agreement with New York regarding overtime pay for production staff members who worked on unscripted series.
Sharp will distribute the back pay to associate producers and production assistants who were wrongly denied overtime while working more than 40 hours per week at the company, which is home to series like “Man V. Food” on Travel Channel and “Bad Ink” on A&E Network.
The company was accused in error of classifying certain production staffers exempt from New York’s overtime pay rules. This was despite their job duties and pay scales falling within the qualifying category for overtime pay. Sharp Entertainment claims that its compensation formulas were created to ensure that employees receive regular weekly paychecks, despite “uncertain production schedules” for many shows.
Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, announced the settlement Wednesday. Schneiderman’s office made a similar deal for $411,000 with True Entertainment in December 2016.
“Employees should be paid fair wages for their work. Period. Schneiderman stated that overtime laws were created to ensure employees receive fair compensation for long hours. “To date, we have already recovered over $630,000 for New York TV production workers – and my office is committed celebrity xploration to protecting workers’ fundamental rights.”
Sharp will be required to pay back the money to an unspecified number of employees as part of the settlement. The Attorney General’s Office will monitor Sharp’s payroll practices. Sharp must inform employees in writing if they are exempted or not from overtime rules. Production workers who earn less than $1,923 per week will be notified about their eligibility for overtime payments.
This is Sharp Entertainment’s complete statement regarding the settlement
Sharp Entertainment has employed thousands to create dozens of hits television shows over the past 15 years. Each of these employees have been paid fairly and competitively. They also receive industry-leading cross culture church benefits like vacation leave, holiday pay, and health insurance. The New York State Attorney General started looking into a practice in the industry of paying certain production workers a weekly wage based upon their status as “creative” employees. This was not an attempt to save money but to ensure that each employee received a regular weekly paycheck well above the minimum wage, despite unpredictable production schedules.
The Attorney General however concluded that only a few of these employees are creative enough to merit a weekly salary. Sharp, however, disagrees with the Attorney General’s conclusion. No court or government agency has reached the same conclusion. Sharp started paying these employees an hourly rate several years ago. This did not significantly impact their overall compensation since they were previously paid a very high and competitive weekly salary. Sharp decided to end the dispute with the Attorney General about whether certain employees were ‘creative’ and instead of continuing to disagree, it resolved the matter amicably, allowing all its employees to focus on producing high-quality television shows.