Is it legal to ask teachers to work without pay at rehearsals, competitions and recitals?

Q: I have taught for two studios in my area and neither pays teachers for the many hours we are asked to spend at rehearsals, competitions and recitals. Is it legal to ask us to work without pay? ––Frustrated in Eastern PA 

  

A: This is a complex area of law because it’s regulated by the Department of Labor on both the federal and state levels. Unpaid overtime work may or may not be a violation of the law. This depends on a teacher’s status: whether she is an employee or an independent contractor; and, if she’s an employee, whether she is paid a salary or hourly.

 


Another thing to consider is that many states don’t recognize a 40-hour workweek for teachers, so time-and-a-half overtime pay doesn’t apply. That’s why teachers have to look specifically at all the facts. And it’s critical that studio owners correctly determine whether people working there are employees or independent contractors.

 

 

To be clear on this, contact your state Department of Labor. Also, the federal Department of Labor has a good website that teachers and studio directors can refer to and find out when overtime payment is due. These sites have a lot of crystal-clear general information because they’re not trying to sell you a service, they’re just trying to get people to comply with the law.       

 

Federal Department of Labor: www.dol.gov
 

 

State Department of Labor: www.dol.gov/whd/contacts/state_of.htm

 

 
Elena M. Paul, esq., is executive director of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Diary
Claire McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.