A.G. Schneiderman Announces $226,000 Settlement With Reality Television Production Company That Underpaid Workers

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 25, 2018

Attorney General’s Press Office / 212-416-8060
nyag.pressoffice@ag.ny.gov
Twitter: @AGSchneiderman

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES $226,000 SETTLEMENT WITH REALITY TELEVISION PRODUCTION COMPANY THAT UNDERPAID WORKERS

Sharp Entertainment LLC—Producer of “Man v. Food” and “Bad Ink”—Will Pay $226,000 in Restitution to Employees for Unpaid Overtime

Settlement is Second in AG’s Ongoing Investigation into Television Production Industry to Protect Workers’ Rights to Proper Overtime Pay

To Date, AG Schneiderman Has Won Back Over $630,000 for Television Production Workers

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with Sharp Entertainment LLC, producer of “Man v. Food,” “Bad Ink,” and several other reality television programs, for misclassifying employees and subsequently failing to pay scores of employees overtime. Following an investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s office, Sharp Entertainment agreed to pay $226,000 in restitution to employees who did not receive overtime for having worked well over 40 hours each week and to reform their business practices. Today’s settlement follows the Attorney General’s $411,000 settlement with True Entertainment LLC, which produces “The Real Housewives Of Atlanta.” Both settlements are part of the Attorney General’s effort to ensure proper overtime pay in the television production industry. In total, the Attorney General has won back over $630,000 for television production workers.

“Employees deserve fair pay for their work – period. Our overtime laws are meant to guarantee that employees are fairly compensated for their long hours,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “To date we’ve already won back over $630,000 for TV production workers in New York – and my office will continue to act to protect workers’ fundamental rights.”

The Attorney General’s investigation found that, beginning in January 2009, Sharp Entertainment misclassified employees, including Production Assistants and Associate Producers, as exempt from overtime pay. As a result, many of these workers were entitled to overtime pay but never received it. In addition to failing to compensate their employees properly, Sharp Entertainment did not keep adequate records listing the full amount of hours employees worked, and did not provide employees with accurate statements of the hours they worked during each pay period.

While there are exemptions from state and federal overtime coverage, including for certain high-level, highly compensated, or professional employees, none of those exemptions applied to the workers covered by the settlement. The overtime law focuses on the specific job duties actually performed by employees. Production Assistants and Associate Producers for Sharp Entertainment had a range of duties, including crowd control, making travel arrangements, obtaining releases from people appearing on camera, and logging footage. Based on their duties, these employees were entitled to overtime. Sharp Entertainment violated Executive Law 63(12) and the New York Labor Law by not paying employees accordingly.

In addition to paying $226,000 in restitution, Sharp Entertainment has agreed to several important reforms of its current business practices. These include:

  • Notifying all Production Assistants and Associate Producers in writing that they are classified and will be treated as overtime-eligible, non-exempt employees that are entitled to be paid at one and one-half times their regular rates for hours worked in excess of 40 in any work week.
  • Giving all employees true and accurate wage statements listing the amount of regular and overtime hours worked by employees.
  • Updating their employee handbook to include information about overtime pay eligibility.
  • Training current and newly hired human resources staff, including the payroll department, as well as all of its supervisory personnel, who have substantial input or control over employees’ classification as overtime exempt and the handling of their pay records.

Overtime laws exist to discourage employers from assigning long workweeks, to provide some compensation for people who have to put in very long hours, and also to spread and create employment throughout the workforce, by incentivizing companies to hire additional employees rather than overworking a more limited staff.

The settlement funds will be distributed to Production Assistants, Associate Producers, and workers who performed equivalent tasks. Sharp Entertainment must now analyze the job duties of workers with the job title “Producer” who earn below a certain amount to determine whether the workers are entitled to overtime. The company must also cooperate with all ongoing requests from the Attorney General’s office for information to ensure compliance with state law.

The Attorney General’s investigation was handled by Assistant Attorney General C. Michael Higgins, under the supervision of Labor Bureau Civil Enforcement Section Chief Mayur Saxena. The Labor Bureau is led by Bureau Chief ReNika Moore and Deputy Bureau Chief Julie Ulmet. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for the Social Justice Division is Matthew Colangelo.

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