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Joan Rivers' 'Fashion Police' Writers File Labor Complaints

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on April 11, 2013 3:57 PM

Is Joan Rivers really a Prada-clad Miranda Priestly in her own right? Rivers' "Fashion Police" writers recently filed labor complaints against her production company for back pay with the California Division of Labor Standards. Now, the reality show writers have added another $400,000 to the $1.1 million they are already seeking.

The labor issue highlights the question of when an employer owes creative employees wages for overtime.

The E! Entertainment writers are claiming that "Fashion Police" violated state laws requiring an employer to pay hourly employees their regular wage rate for all the time they worked in an eight-hour period, Deadline reports.

In addition, the writers are relying on the law that requires overtime payment for any work performed beyond eight hours in any workday or forty hours in any workweek.

Under federal law, employees who are not "exempt" must receive overtime pay for any time worked beyond forty hours in any workweek. The rate of overtime pay is one and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay. Also, there's no proxy for pay like extra vacation or random perks. Overtime must be paid in wages. For public policy reasons, an employee can't waive their right to receive overtime.

However, creative professionals who make more than $455 per week, or $23,660 a year are actually exempt from overtime requirements. An employee is a "creative professional" when his or her primary duties involve invention, originality, imagination or talent in a field of creative or artistic endeavor.

Although some might argue that "Fashion Police" is anything but original or imaginative, the writers would in fact be categorized as creative professionals. For this reason, the writers may not be entitled to the overtime pay they are seeking.

On a side note, it's interesting that the Writers Guild of America, West, provided legal assistance to the writers with their labor complaints, even though "Fashion Police" is not unionized. The irony? Rivers herself is a member of the Guild.

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