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Produced By October/November 2016
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Working Knowledge - From The National Executive Director

Posted By Vance Van Petten, Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Back in 2005, the PGA published a pamphlet that was modest in size but enduring in popularity. Titled “Your Rights as an Employee,” the booklet delivered 20 Q&A’s that sketched the basic framework of employment law as it applies to the entertainment business. It tackled this subject in direct, accessible language written to answer the most fundamental questions about the law that underlies our jobs: Are you an employee or an independent contractor? Are you entitled to overtime pay? How does the law protect employees from abusive conduct or discrimination?

We published that pamphlet in response to members’ concerns about their professional status and working conditions. Please remember than unlike the DGA, WGA and SAG, the Producers Guild is not a collective bargaining unit. Producers and companies don’t have a negotiated minimum basic agreement that dictates terms like wages and hours. Instead, producers and their teams rely on the employment protections offered by state and federal law. Not every PGA member is familiar with those laws—hence our determination to collect that information in one place, an easy-to-read guide that could serve as a reference—and not just for employees but employers as well.

Eleven years later, working conditions and employee rights remain a primary concern for our membership. Enough has changed in the intervening years that we went back to our Guild’s labor and employment counsel in New York and Los Angeles and asked them to revise our pamphlet to reflect new laws and practices, as they apply both on the federal level and the state level in California and New York. Numerous PGA members contributed to the effort, but I’d like to single out the dedicated work of Harvey Wilson in pushing the new pamphlet forward.

We’re very pleased with the result and hope that you will be too. If you’re a PGA member, you should find a copy of “Employment Rights of the Producing Team” included with this issue of Produced By. If you’re not a member, you’ll be able to find all of the information as a pdf on producersguild.org, or just stop by the PGA offices and we’ll be happy to give you a copy.

Producing is a unique job. Of all of the major creative positions in Hollywood, producers have the longest job descriptions and the fewest protections. Sometimes producers function as employees, and sometimes we work as employers. No matter which role you’re filling on a given project, a working knowledge of the basics of employment law is essential. It’s not hard to get taken advantage of in this business, nor is it rare to find yourself suddenly liable for issues that you didn’t know were your responsibility. Don’t let either fate befall you. Know your rights as an employee. Know your obligations as an employer. Armed with that knowledge, you’ll be in a position to tell the stories you want to tell and safeguard the career you’ve worked so hard to build.

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