What's always amazing doing this job is how you discover ... from time to time ... that different studios just fall into ignoring pesky laws and regulations.
Like for instance, seventeen years ago Klasky-Csupo just couldn't be bothered paying overtime to anybody. Like, if you were clearly "non-exempt" from overtime laws, you still didn't get any, even if you worked at the fun factory fifteen freaking hours per day. Their thing, I guess.
Fast forward to now. In the past few weeks, the issue du-jour at one of the larger studios is ... "working lunches" ...
The way it shakes out is, there's a project with an insane amount of production work occupying a short amount of production time. And everybody has their noses to the computer soft and hardware, getting shots done. The crew is working extra hours, but there's no problem in that regard because the hours are being paid. Time-and-a-half, double-time, whatever.
The difficulty is with the non-lunch lunches. Here's what I mean:
Noon comes. A meeting is called for 12:30 in the main conference room. And the supervisor says: "We'll be supplying lunch." And everybody troops dutifully to the meet, eats the sandwich, drinks the bottled water and/or Coke, listens to the spiel. And then everybody goes back to the soft and hardware in their rooms and cubicles to continue doing shots.
Great, but this is not "lunch."
See, there's this Notice of Wages, Hours and Working Conditions in the Motion Picture Industry? Put out by the Industrial Welfare Commission? And on page 9 of that notice, in Section 11, it says:
A) No employer shall employ any person for a work period of more than six (6) hours without a meal period of not less than 30 minutes, nor more than one (1) hour...
B) Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during a 30-minute meal period, the meal period shall be considered an "on duty" meal period and counted as time worked ...
Etcetera, etcetera. So over the last few weeks I've gotten calls about this, and yesterday I run over hard copies of the regulations so people who complained to me, so they know what their rights are. And when I'm strolling down the hall, a staffer I haven't talked to before eyeballs me in a way that says Talk to you a minute?" So of course I say "What's up?" and he says: "Can I ask you about ... meal breaks?"
This is a hint to me that this issue is preying on more than a few people's minds, because I get asked about it by people as I'm delivering copies of the regulations to other people.
To cut to the end credits, here's the nub of what I told the various folks who were miffed that they worked a long day without any real meal breaks:
"You don't want to make a Federal case of this, I totally understand. But you need to know what your rights are, and you need to take a meal break. So my suggestion is, after the "working lunch" where you scarfed down food while looking at the latest power point presentation, take thirty minutes away from your room and decompress. Go for a walk. Sit outside in the sunshine.
"Then when the production assistant comes around with the time cards and tells you to "put in a meal break," you can honestly put down a meal break and not have to, you know, falsify a legal document."
We'll see how it works out.