CBS TV Studios Retroactively Cuts Assistant Hours Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

CBS TV Studios Retroactively Cuts Assistant Hours Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

31 Mar 2020 (PT)
CORONAVIRUSCBS

Under California labor law, employees must be paid overtime rates time and a half for any hours worked over eight hours in a day and 40 hours in a week.

CBS Television Studios has informed assistants that it is retroactively cutting their hours for the week of March 22-28 and cutting hours for March 29 to April 4 as media companies are looking to tighten their budgets amid the coronavirus economic fallout.

"I just received notice that starting this week week ending 4/4/20 everyone will get 40 hours even if you have an OT approval letter," an analyst in development finance at CBS Television Studios in Los Angeles wrote assistants in an email on Tuesday morning. "As for your OT worked last week week ending 3/28/20, all your hours will be reduced to 52." Many assistants, who tend to be hourly employees, regularly work at least 60 hours per week and depend on overtime rates for their livelihoods.

"Till further notice, starting week ending 4/4/20, all timecards should be turned in with ONLY 40 hrs.," a production coordinator added in an email also sent on Tuesday. "Any hours passed will not be approved and will be returned to you for adjustment. No overtime will be approved even with an approval letter attached."

The emails, first surfaced in a tweet by showrunner's assistant Olga Lexell, were confirmed with multiple assistant sources by The Hollywood Reporter. CBS has not yet commented on the memo.

Under California labor law, employees must be paid overtime rates time and a half for any hours worked over eight hours in a day and 40 hours in a week. Employees must even be paid for unauthorized overtime; however, an employee can be disciplined for exceeding internal overtime rules. Employees who are not paid for overtime they have worked are eligible to file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

"Under California law, hourly employees must be paid for all time worked. Period. If they work overtime, they must be paid for that overtime. Period. Whether or not CBS wants people to stop working overtime, they still must pay any overtime actually worked under current law," labor lawyer Kevin Ruf, a partner at Los Angeles' Glancy Prongay & Murray LLP, who argued California's Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court on behalf of delivery drivers, wrote in a statement when apprised of the situation.

"We're very upset and discussing amongst ourselves what to do. I know that group of assistants is being created as we speak to discuss how we'll handle it," one CBS assistant source tells THR. "We collectively don't believe that the people who sent the emails are the ones who made the decision, they're just the messengers for a decision that was made further up the food chain."

"My coworker and I called each other in tears this morning, wondering what we could possibly do to stay afloat. We're checking on our friends, who are also in panic mode," another assistant source says. "We all know that our bosses will be fine if they have to take a pay cut. They'll still have a place to live and food to eat and a car to drive. But when you're making minimum wage in one of the most expensive cities in the country, losing almost half of your income can ruin you."

The news also sent shock waves through the #PayUpHollywood community, which advocates for better pay and treatment of support staff in entertainment, on Twitter on Tuesday. "We've been hearing by more and more stories of assistants losing pay everyday at different companies," #PayUpHollywood cofounder Liz Alper tweeted. "Many are hurting but these workers especially live hand to mouth. Take care of them. Urge the companies to do so too."

Source: Hollywood Reporter

CORONAVIRUSCBS
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CBS TV Studios Retroactively Cuts Assistant Hours Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
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