Did you sign a contract with an “all hours worked” clause? There’s a trick to get around it for non-union employees.

Some studios present artists and animators with contracts that say you will be paid a set rate for “all hours worked” or “all work performed.” This is so the company doesn’t have to pay you for working late during crunch time. They can legally do it as long as the average pay for your hours doesn’t dip below minimum wage, which is a paltry $10.85 these days.

There’s an easy way to get around these clauses.

If you’ve signed a contract that outlines your pay but not your hours, make sure you ask your employer when you’re supposed to work. Most studios include this info in the initial orientation when you’re hired. Let’s say they want you in the office from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with an unpaid lunch hour. You can follow up with an email that states, “Just to confirm, based on our conversation yesterday, my hours of work are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with an unpaid hour for lunch.”

Once you’ve put this in writing, the onus is on the employer to refute what you just said. If your employer does not reply, the information in the email still stands and it can be used as strong evidence to support your case if you become embroiled in a pay dispute. Of course all of this could be avoided if you’re in a union. Most people forming a new union negotiate hours of work in their first contract, so getting paid overtime for staying late is never an issue. To find out more about how unions can help people in visual effects, game development and animation, email [email protected].

For more tips on avoiding common employer traps, click here.