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True Entertainment Settles New York State Overtime Investigation

True Entertainment (Real Housewives of Atlanta) has agreed to pay $411,000 to hundreds of employees in a settlement with New York State.

The office of attorney general Eric Schneiderman said the settlement was restitution over failure to pay overtime despite some employees working 50 and as much as 72 hours per week.

True Entertainment has also agreed to a compliance regime. although it does not agree it was being unfair to its employees.

The AG's office said its investigation found that the workers were paid weekly or daily salaries with no premium for work over 40 hours and without keeping accurate records of the hours they had worked.

While the state has exemptions from overtime for professional employees or high-level, high-paid execs, that did not apply to the workers, Schneiderman's office said.

“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," he said.

"The Writers Guild of America, East has been working closely with Associate Producers (APs) and other employees in the nonfiction/reality television sector, and many report working incredibly long hours without extra pay," said WGAE executive director Lowell Peterson.

"We are grateful that the Attorney General is taking action to ensure that these TV employers follow the law," said Peterson. “The union is working with employees to negotiate enforceable contracts that guarantee time and a half pay to APs and other overtime-eligible employees for all hours above 40 in a week."

The restitution will go to production assistants, associate producers and workers "who performed equivalent tasks."

“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," said the company in response to the announced settlement. "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. We greatly value our employees at True Entertainment, and look forward to continuing to focus on creating and producing high quality programming for our network partners.”

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.