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Nitrogen Studios (Cinesite) Employees Awarded Overtime Pay For Work on 2016 Film "Sausage Party"

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

BC employers that misclassify employees to avoid overtime pay, take note!

In a victory for animators and visual effects artists in British Columbia, the BC Employment Standards Branch has issued a determination (ESB Nitrogen Studios determination) awarding overtime pay to employees of Nitrogen Studios (now Cinesite) for their work in 2016 on the feature film Sausage Party and has levied a $500 fine against the studio.

In this investigation regarding unpaid overtime, the employer claimed that they were exempted from overtime requirements in the Employment Standards Act because it was a “high technology company” and its’ employees were “high technology professionals”.  The ESB officer concluded that these employees were not high technology employees as defined by section 37.8 of the Regulation and stated: Not every employee using computer technology or technological products in his or her work is a “high technology professional.”  If this were correct, every employee using in his or her employment, a computer, telephone, or motor vehicle would fall within the exemption.

The High Technology Company exclusion exempts “high technology professionals” from basic provisions such as minimum daily pay, overtime, statutory holiday provisions, meal breaks, split shifts and hours free from work each week.  This ruling affirms what the IATSE has always maintained, that all work is valuable and should be paid appropriately.  Our submissions to the BC Employment Standards Act Reform Project have repeatedly asked that animation and visual effects workers not be excluded from the full protection of the Employment Standards Act.

IATSE has represented entertainment workers across North America for over 125 years.   We support animation and VFX artists who face many challenges in freelance, non-union workplaces.  Many artists are interested in union representation and the IATSE supports the rights of these workers to organize and empower themselves through collective action.

IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb stated, “Finally, the shameful practice of denying workers their overtime pay has been debunked.  In a time of record profits by entertainment industry conglomerates, thousands of highly-skilled artists who create their product have been subjected to hardship and unfair treatment in their workplace.   These workers deserve better and this determination confirms it.”