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Sharp Entertainment Sets $226,000 Settlement With New York State Over Overtime Pay

Sharp Entertainment has reached a $226,000 settlement with the state of New York over overtime pay due to production staffers who worked on the company’s roster of unscripted series.

The agreement calls for Sharp to distribute the back pay to production assistants and associate producers who were wrongly denied overtime pay while working ore than 40 hours a week for the company that is home to such series as Travel Channel’s “Man V. Food” and A&E Network’s “Bad Ink.”

The company was accused of inaccurately classifying certain production staffers as exempt from New York state’s overtime pay rules despite job duties and pay scales that fell into the category of qualifying for overtime pay. Sharp Entertainment maintains that its compensation formulas were designed to ensure that employees would receive a regular weekly paycheck even in the face of “uncertain production schedules” on many shows.

The settlement was unveiled Wednesday by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Schneiderman’s office reached a similar settlement for $411,000 in December 2016 with another unscripted production banner, True Entertainment.

“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 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 settlement calls for Sharp to distribute the funds to an undisclosed number of staffers as back pay. Going forward, Sharp’s payroll practices will be monitored by the Attorney General’s office. The company is required to disclose to employees in writing whether they are exempt or non-exempt from overtime rules. Production staffers who make less than $1,923 a week will be notified as to their eligibility for overtime payments.

Here is Sharp Entertainment’s full statement on the settlement.

“Over the last 15 years, Sharp Entertainment has employed thousands of employees in creating dozens of hit television shows. Every one of these employees has been paid fairly, competitively, and legally, and has received industry-leading health insurance benefits, vacation leave, holiday pay and other benefits.  Several years ago, the New York State Attorney General began looking at an industry-wide practice of paying certain production employees a weekly wage based on their status as “creative employees.” Producers like Sharp paid such employees a weekly amount not to save money, but to ensure each employee received a regular weekly pay check well in excess of the minimum wage, despite uncertain production schedules.

“The Attorney General, however, concluded that a small number of these employees are not “creative” enough to be paid weekly.  Needless to say, knowing what its employees do to create original television series, Sharp disagrees; and no court or governmental agency has ever come to the same conclusion as the Attorney General.  Nevertheless, several years ago, Sharp began paying these employees on an hourly basis, which did not materially impact their overall compensation because they previously had been paid a substantial and very competitive weekly amount.  In light of this change, rather than continue our disagreement with the Attorney General over whether certain employees are ‘creative,’ Sharp agreed to resolve the investigation amicably to enable all of its valued employees to concentrate fully on producing quality television shows.”

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