Stella sent me a Twitter1 DM, asking about lying on the time card.
Hi, fellow PA, follow your blog, curious, have you ever written an article about changing your time card? I work as commercial PA, where over time & 6th day pay are given, but often get asked by PMs to change TC or not put real hours to avoid extra earnings…just curious if you have written about that experience
This has come up before. A few years ago, someone at ESPN was caught telling the crew not to report overtime; they were later fired for this unethical and, at least in the US, illegal practice. The rule should be, clock out when you clock out, and let the chips fall where they may.
I say that’s what it should be, but in the real world, sometimes you have to compromise.
Counting the Minutes
Say you went fifteen minutes over; that’s maybe ten extra bucks in your pocket, right? It’s not a big deal, but it’s even less of a deal to the big studio you’re working for. You don’t need to give them an inch when you know they wouldn’t in return. Besides, you’re only keeping an accurate time card; no one can fault you for that.
But what if you’re working on a low-budget indie? That ten bucks isn’t a big deal, unless everyone on the crew is reporting it. Then you’re collectively costing the production hundreds, even thousands of dollars, potentially impacting the whole film. And for what? One more beer on Saturday night?
I’m talking about minutes here. Nickle and diming the production will reflect negatively on you in the long run. You don’t want to be the guy who stirs up trouble every time the director needs one more take before the end of the day.
Minutes Becomes Hours
That’s not what Stella is asking about. She wants to know about changing your time card by hours and even days. That’s simply not okay.
To clarify something about the “sixth day”: there’s no actual rule about this. Manditory overtime only comes into play on the seventh work day, and then only if it’s in the same “work week.”
The 7 days must be worked in the same week. Thus, if you have a standard work week of Sunday-Saturday (most people do), then even if you work 10 days in a row from Tuesday to the following Friday, you will not trigger this particular provision because all 7 days were not in one week. You worked 5 days in one week and 5 days in the next week. Of course, if you worked more than 40 hours in either week or more than 8 hours on any day, then you would be entitled to overtime, but you would not receive anything additional simply because you worked 10 days in a row.2
Finally, it should be noted that in most cases when you work all 7 days in the same work week, you usually have hit 40 hours in the week after 5 or 6 days. As such, in most cases, you are already making overtime on the 7th day anyway because you are past 40 hours in the week. You do get double time an extra 4 hours early on that 7th day, but this usually does not amount to that much additional compensation.
So, really, Stella’s employer may just not realize that working six days in a row doesn’t technically matter, except in so far as the total number of hours worked. This being the film industry, you’re definitely getting overtime (i.e. more than 8 hours) every day anyway.
If the UPM asks you to alter your time card by hours or days, I wouldn’t do it. Tell him that you’re not comfortable falsifying a legal document, which a time card is. Alternatively, you could agree to alter it, as long as he puts his request in writing. That’ll shut him up real quick.
Either way, make a copy of your time card. If they’re so unscrupulous as to ask for fake time cards, I wouldn’t put it past them to change your time card after the fact. You’ll need a record if you want to file a wage claim later.
Every Time is Different
Now that I’ve drawn a line in the sand, let me step back a minute. There’s always room for compromise if the particular set of circumstances calls for it.
For instance, I once worked on a reality show for 24 hours non-stop. The other PA and I were supposed to be on call for the contestants, who were sequestered, if they needed anything.
The thing is, the contestants obviously slept during that day. The UPM told us we could sleep, too, if we wanted. Of course we took him up on that. Not only did I get a full night’s sleep, but the contestants didn’t call for us more than a few times that day. I basically got to hang out with my friend like we would on any other Saturday, only we got paid for it.
The UPM asked to to report it ont he time card as two, 12-hour days instead of one, 24-hour day, because the OT would’ve been insane. And you know what? I was fine with that. I got paid to sleep, for pete’s sake. I didn’t need to squeeze them for every drop.
And I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that that same UPM has hired me multiple times since.
The lesson here is, don’t allow yourself to be abused, but don’t take advantage of your employer, either. Everyone is going to draw the line differently, but so long as you’re honest about what you think is fair dealing, and you’ll probably be fine.