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:


State Department of Labor:


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

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