Here are the three forms you will need to file a wage claim. Please complete these forms before contacting the WGAW.

1. DLSE Wage Claim Form
2. DLSE Additional Employers Form
3. OT Computation Form

Filing an Overtime Wage Claim

The WGAW has assisted dozens of reality writers in filing wage claims against non-signatory companies that refuse to comply with wage and hour law. If you would like assistance in filing a wage claim, please email.

If you've worked on a reality TV or game show, chances are you worked long hours without any overtime pay. As a result, you may be owed back pay for the overtime you did not receive.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I know if I qualify?

2. What am I entitled to if I am a non-exempt, hourly employee?

3. What happens if my employer did not follow these requirements?

4. How long do I have to file for unpaid overtime and penalties?

5. How can I be an hourly employee if I was paid a fixed weekly rate?

6. But what if I have been paid overtime as a part of my fixed weekly rate?

7. How do I file an overtime claim?

8. Where is the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement?

9. What will happen to me if I file a wage claim? Will I be able to work for the company I file the claim against?

10. Do I have to be a WGAW member to file an overtime wage claim?

1. How do I know if I qualify?

Attorneys have conducted a careful analysis of the nature of reality TV writers' work, which revealed that most of these writers should be classified as non-exempt employees subject to state and federal overtime requirements. If you have worked as what is usually called a “story producer” or as a writer on a game show, you may be eligible.

To read a summary of the law relevant to exemptions, click here. You can contact the WGAW for help in determining what classification you fall under.

If you are not a writer, but you work in the production of game shows or reality TV, you can also contact the WGAW for assistance.

2. What am I entitled to if I am a non-exempt, hourly employee?

If you are a non-exempt, hourly employee, under the California Labor Code - Wage Order 11 of the California Industrial Welfare Commission, which covers employees in the Broadcast Industry - you are entitled to:

  • Overtime after eight hours worked in a day or 40 hours worked in a week, calculated at 1 1/2 times your regular rate of pay.
  • Double-time after 12 hours worked in a day, calculated at two times your regular rate of pay.
  • Overtime pay at 1 1/2 times for all hours worked on the seventh consecutive day
  • Double-time for every hour in excess of eight hours on the seventh consecutive day
  • A thirty-minute meal break for every five hours worked
  • A ten-minute rest break for every four hours worked.
  • The employer is required to keep accurate records showing when the employee begins and ends each work period. Meal periods, split shift intervals and total daily hours worked should also be recorded. The employer also must keep records of total wages paid, hours worked and applicable rate of pay each payroll period. This information should be made readily available to the employee upon reasonable request.

3. What happens if my employer did not follow these requirements?

If your employer does not or did not follow the requirements outlined above, it may be in violation of California Labor Code. The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) hears claims by employees who were not employed in accordance with these requirements.

If you were not paid overtime, you may be entitled to back wages. If you were not given meal breaks, you may be owed meal period premiums. The WGAW can assist you throughout the process of filing a wage claim.

4. How long do I have to file for unpaid overtime and penalties?

The statute of limitations allows workers in California to file claims seeking unpaid wages and meal period premiums for up to three years after the violation.

5. How can I be an hourly employee if I was paid a fixed weekly rate?

The pervasive practice in the production of reality television is to pay employees a fixed weekly rate, which typically does not meet the legal test for a proper salary. Employees are required to fill out a timecard every week. Normally, they are asked not to enter their actual hours worked but rather some fixed amount, commonly eight or ten hours. Sometimes they are asked to write the word “worked” on their timecards. Pay stubs usually then reflect either a straight 40-hour week or they may include a consistent amount of overtime, usually ten or 20 hours. Check out these pay stubs (example 1 andexample 2) to see how your employer should actually calculate your pay rate and overtime hours.

Also, see FAQ #1: There are two pay practices in particular that may demonstrate that even if you were paid a fixed weekly rate, it did not constitute a bona fide salary. First, your employer may maintain detailed, though perhaps inaccurate time records for you, while it classified you as exempt employee. These records, especially if the employer documented different rates of pay depending on the number of hours you worked, might contradict how a salary should be compensated. A salary is based on services performed, not time spent at work.

Second, your employer may have docked your pay if you worked only partial days or weeks for reasons other than a personal, voluntary decision to take time off from work. Your employer must pay you, as an exempt or salaried employee, an entire week's pay for any week in which you performed any work. Impermissible deductions therefore would disqualify your employment from exempt status and trigger the overtime requirements of the California Labor Code.

Moreover, you may have submitted work to a producer who made a final decision concerning the content of your work, i.e., interview or episode outlines that were created pursuant to a routine format. Hence, rather than regularly exercising discretion and independent judgment concerning the content of your work, you actually revised content provided to you according to accepted formats and conventions. Where the latter is true, you may be entitled to overtime because you do not customarily and regularly exercise discretion and independent judgment in the performance of your duties.

6. But what if I have been paid overtime as a part of my fixed weekly rate?

Often, if an employee is paid a fixed weekly rate, for example $950, in order to create the appearance of paying overtime the rate is “backed into” the hours. If the employer wants to create the illusion that the employee is being paid for 40 straight hours and 20 overtime hours this is done by using the following the following equation, or “paycheck algebra”:

40 hours straight time + 20 hours overtime = $950

To identify the proper hourly and overtime rates it is the hourly rate that becomes the variable as the total amount and the hours worked are fixed.

40(x) + 20 (1.5x) = $950

40x + 30x = $950

70x = $950

70x = $950
70 70

x = $13.5715

Hourly Rate (x) = $13.5715
Overtime Rate (1.5x) = $20.35714

The result is that on many paychecks, the employee's hourly rate has been calculated to show the thousandth cent.

Your hourly rate should never change.

This is how the above employee, who worked 40 straight hours and 20 hours of overtime, should have actually been paid. This assumes the person worked 12 hours a day for 5 days a week.

 

Take the weekly rate and divide by 40. This is the hourly rate. $950/40 = $23.75
The first 0 - 8 hours worked in a day is straight time, so multiply by the hourly rate. $23.75 * 8 = $190
Anything between 8 - 12 hours worked in a day is overtime pay at 1 1/2 times the hourly rate.

$23.75 * 1.5 = $35.625 (overtime rate)

$35.625 * 4 = $142.50

Add together to get the actual daily pay with overtime: $190 + $142.50 = $332.50
Multiply by 5 days to get the actual weekly pay, with overtime: $332.50 * 5 = $1,662.50

Instead of $950 per week, this person was actually owed $1,662.50.

(Please note if you work over 12 hours in a day, your overtime rate is twice your hourly rate.)

Use this document to calculate what you might be owed. Contact the WGAW for assistance in calculating what you may be owed in unpaid overtime.

7. How do I file an overtime claim?

If you file a wage claim with the California DLSE, the burden is on your employer to prove that you were properly paid overtime if you worked in excess of an eight hour day or a 40 hour week. Contact the WGAW to help you through this process.

The DLSE has several resources on its website. For “How to File a Wage Claim” from the California DLSE, please see the DLSE Website. Also see DLSE Policies to understand the complete process of filing a wage claim.

The WGAW may provide you legal assistance with your claim. We strongly suggest you contact the WGAW before you send anything to the DLSE.

The following is the initial procedure for filing a claim with the DLSE. First, you must file an initial report or claim. Find the DLSE form here. (Here we offer some instructions on filling out the form, but we do suggest you contact the WGAW for assistance. We will respond as quickly as possible.)

  1. Complete your personal information.
  2. In the “Against/Contra” section, put the production company name. Under the Name of Person in Charge, put the owner of the production company OR executive producer of your show.
  3. Fill out the Wages & Conditions of Employment Section.
  4. The WGAW can assist you in filling out the Gross Wages Claimed section.
  5. At the bottom, there is a section that says “Brief explanation of issues.” Type up a short paragraph that explains your situation including:

a. Your employment start/end date.
b. Your position/title.
c. Your daily duties and responsibilities.
d. General outline of the hours you worked.

Second, there is an another Additional Employers form where you add the payroll company and the network as “joint” employers.

Third, there is an Overtime Rest Period, Meal Period Computation form.

e. The WGAW can assist you in filling this out.

Finally, you need to fill out a calendar for the dates you worked on the show.

f. Use the attached blank calendar.

i. Put your name at the top right corner.

ii. Write the TOTAL number of hours you worked for every day you worked.

iii. To the left of each week, write what your weekly pay was for that week.

The claim forms CANNOT be filed electronically or by fax. You MUST print and either mail or hand-deliver a copy of your claim form to the DLSE office that handles wage claims for the city/location/community where you performed the work.

8. Where is the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement?

For a list of locations, please go here.

9. What will happen to me if I file a wage claim? Will I be able to work for the company I file the claim against?

Many reality writers legitimately fear that they will not be able to work again in reality TV if they file for their unpaid overtime wages. However, you should know that of the reality writers who have filed wage claims, joined class action lawsuits, or participated in organizing activities, there is no evidence that any have been prevented from working again in reality TV or the industry. Some have made new relationships by going through this process, and have found sympathetic WGAW members in the industry that helped to guide them toward new employment. If you would like to talk to other reality writers that have been through these process, the WGAW can put you in touch with some. Filing a wage claim does not necessarily mean you will be blacklisted from working at a company. Be prepared for a range of reactions, but know it is your right to file for and receive these overtime wages.

Also, filing for and receiving your unpaid overtime is one way of pressuring your employer to improve your working conditions so that they are up to industry standards. Consider this: either production companies should start treating reality writers with the same respect others receive in the industry and provide them with industry standard benefits like health care, or the companies should pay reality TV and game show writers what they are owed under the California Labor Code.

10. Do I have to be a WGAW member to file an overtime wage claim?

No.