California Overtime Laws: Reporters and Journalists are supposed to be paid Overtime, says the Ninth Circuit

On September 27, 2010, the Ninth Circuit in Wang v. Chinese Daily News, 623 F.3d 743 (9th Cir. Cal. 2010) disagreed with the newspaper company, upholding violations of wage and hour laws committed against newspaper reporters and journalists. The California district court originally found that the newspaper company violated state labor laws by failing to give newspaper reporters labor law breaks and the newspaper company failed to pay the reporters proper overtime pay as required by state and federal wage and hour laws.

The newspaper company argued that it was not required to pay newspaper reporters overtime compensation for working more than 40 hour weeks under the Fair Labor Standards Act because the newspaper reporters meet the test of the creative professional exception to federal and state overtime laws. Federal wage and hour laws exempt certain companies from paying overtime compensation to professional white collar workers. To qualify as an exempt professional under federal overtime law, a newspaper reporter must be paid at least $455 every week and the reporters "primary duty" must be the performance of work involving invention, imagination, originality or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.

Reporters journalists are entitled to overtime compensation when they perform job duties involving routine mental, manual, mechanical or physical work. California wage and hour law, with respect to overtime rules for professional employees and reporters, is similar to overtime laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act in that a professional employees is one who is primarily engaged in the performance of work that is original and creative in character in a recognized field of artistic endeavor and the result of which depends primarily on the invention, imagination, or talent of the employee.

The Obama Administration has chimed in on this issue about overtime pay for professional employees and reporters. The Department of Labor takes the position that journalists and reporters are required to be paid overtime compensation when they perform job duties that are limited to collections, organizing and putting data into a computer or other system. In order for newspaper reporters and journalist to be denied the benefits of state overtime laws and federal overtime laws, the employees must perform job duties that involve creation, imagination or ability. Reporters and journalists are entitled to overtime compensation under wage and hour laws when their work is routine and clerical in nature, rather than creative.