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Q&A: Am I owed overtime for this veterinary practice shift?
An expert lays out the overtime law for Illinois then discusses the bigger issue: overtime conversations with the boss.
Q. Illinois law states that I receive time-and-a-half for overtime, which is more than 40 hours in a work week. But when I work 35 hours one week, then 45 hours the next week, my boss doesn’t pay me overtime because it balances out to 80 hours in a pay period. What’s right, and what should I do?
This is not just Illinois law but federal law, says Sheila Grosdidier, RVT, MCP, PHR, and partner at VMC Inc. in Evergreen, Colo.
“You are on very solid ground. In this situation, [approach the boss who’s not paying overtime] try the same way you would approach a client who has been misinformed or is incorrect,” Grosdidier says. “Determine first if your boss will respond better to the facts or to the relationship approach.”
If you are taking the facts approach, Grosdidier recommends you start the conversation like this:
"Dr. Jones, I respect what you have said regarding how overtime is calculated week to week here at the practice. While I was having some tax information reviewed by an accountant, there was a discussion about wage calculation and how overtime is calculated at the practice came up. The accountant suggested that I share this with you. It concerned me that there are fines involved if the state or federal authorities became aware that regulations were not followed. According to the accountant, laws seem to change on occasion, and I wanted to bring it to your attention. We are a team here, working for the best of the practice.”
This isn’t a personal attack, it’s informational. Make sure you pick a good time and speak about it privately, says Grosdidier.
If you need to take a more emotional approach, Grosdidier says to start with your feelings. Focus on the problem, not on what your boss has done in the past. Try out this script:
"I feel I need to mention this. While a friend who is an accountant was helping me with my taxes, she mentioned that my overtime is not being calculated in alignment with the state and federal laws. I wanted to share it with you as it concerned me that there are fines involved if the state or federal authorities became aware that the regulations were not followed. According to the accountant, laws seem to change on occasion, and I wanted to bring it to your attention. We are a team here, working for the best of the practice."
Remember not to come off as threatening in any way, Grosdidier says. Your goal is to get the practice owner or manager to see you as providing an answer in a non-accusatory manner. If they check this out on their own, they will learn that they are potentially responsible for back wages and at the very least should immediately fix their problem.
You have the right to be assertive, yet respectful. It is your wage. Additional information about wage regulations can be found on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division at http://www.dol.gov/whd. The agency oversees hourly employment and offers handy tools online for employers and employees. State requirement links can be found through this site as well.
If these conversations don't fix the problem, you shouldn’t give up. This is your money, and you have the right to be paid correctly.