The boss snips away at our pay


I'm the office manager of a small hospital, and I found out the practice owner had our payroll clerk deduct an hour of pay for our staff members for a lunch and learn. She also makes us carry overtime to the next pay period because she refuses to pay overtime. What can I do?

"The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that in most cases hourly employees must be paid for meetings," says Sheila Grosdidier, RVT, a partner and consultant with VMC Inc. in Evergreen, Colo. The exceptions are when the meeting is entirely voluntary, non-work-related, outside of the team member's normal working hours and includes no productive work while attending the seminar.

Pay the right way

The FLSA carries the presumption that when employees attend meetings and seminars, the employer will pay for their time. "This means that for the most part, you are supposed to pay employees for meetings and seminars," Grosdidier says.

For example, an employer may believe the meeting is exempt because it's not during the employee's regular working hours. Grosdidier says for this exemption to apply, it generally means that the meeting was 9:30 p.m. at a movie theater, the employee normally works during the day and the team watched a movie.

"In view of the Department of Labor, if the employee earns the hours, the pay is theirs as well," Grosdidier says. "Since some team members were paid and some weren't paid, this is a tough decision to defend."

Carrying over overtime and other no-nos

"Now, let's look at carrying over hours to avoid overtime to the next pay period," Grosdidier says. "For hourly employees? No, no, no."

Any employee on a recurring work week schedule who works more than 40 hours must receive overtime at a rate of no less than 1.5 times the base wage. California's rules are different, so check your state's specific wage requirements at

"This means the hours an employee works must be paid in the work period they were worked. Moving them into another period is sometimes called compensatory time and isn't done in hourly employees in this industry," Grosdidier says.

Start by sharing your concern with your employer. The Department of Labor takes these complaints seriously and it's easy to file a complaint from their website or their smartphone app. If employers are found to be willfully noncompliant, they may be open to civil penalties as well as government fines.

"Eighty percent of the increase in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims last year were all wage and hour issues," Grosdidier says. "I believe you can show your boss that paying fairly for team training is not just a good investment in the team, it's the right thing to do. And, as the manager, you must speak for the business."

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