The popular television program “Fashion Police” is facing trouble now that its writers are claiming serious violations of California’s wage and hour laws. Writers on the E! Network program say they have been underpaid by approximately $1.5 million.

The writers are going on strike, and demanding a new contract that allows them to join the Writers Guild of America union. This will provide them with more protection and with better wages and benefits.

The writers say that bosses on the show regularly required them to work shifts in excess of 16 hours. The complaint they filed with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement asserts that the writers are never given overtime pay and are sometimes even forced to work without compensation.

The Writers Guild of America is standing behind the striking writers. The union’s rules prohibit members from taking the place of writers who are on strike. The union has also called on Joan Rivers – who is one of the hosts of the show along with Kelly Osbourne, Giuliana Rancic and George Kotsiopoulos – to remember her roots and support these struggling writers.

Unfortunately, wage and hour violations are a big problem in the television industry, particularly in non-union workplaces. This is especially true on reality shows and other non-scripted cable programming. However, writers are sometimes reluctant to report these violations because they see these jobs as stepping stones to more reliable work on unionized scripted programming.

The striking writers hope their efforts will help change this attitude. They say they are fighting not only for themselves, but for the rights of all.

Source: In These Times, “‘Fashion Police’ Accused of Wage Theft,” Sarah Jaffe, April 19, 2013.