Manager fishing for extra hours?
May 9, 2013 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Summary: Is it legal in New Mexico to require an employee to come into work early for training, and then deny that worker the overtime pay?

Background: I work the IT Helpdesk at a medium-sized medical practice, roughly 200 employees. I talk to literally every single person in the company, and have a better idea of inner workings and morale than any manager or company officer. I overhear quite a bit of grumbling, especially from department X in which the manager has been slowly expanding her sphere of influence over the practice. Recently, someone from department X informed me that the manager requires all the departments she oversees to attend mandatory training (Such as HIPAA lectures, materials safety, and soforth) to come in an hour or two before their shifts. However these employees are NOT paid overtime for attending. I alluded that this sounded strange, but IWNAL and perhaps said someone should contact the NM Labor board.

A week later, I've been unable to force the question from my mind and tend to my other duties. I'm not looking to raise a stink (yet), but a glance through MeFi, the web, and my state's labor web site reveals nothing about unpaid meetings for hourly employees. I've a few friends who do take on labor dispute cases, but I don't necessarily want to bother them without someone else weighing in. (I admit, I'm cheap. My lawyer friend likes doubles of the really expensive single-malt scotch at our local watering hole.)

And finally, thank you to everyone who's read this, my first honest-to-goodness Ask MeFi question!
posted by endotoxin to Law & Government (10 answers total)
This is not cool and I doubt it's legal, unless the employees in question are salary, versus hourly, in which case all bets are off.

HOWEVER, if this doesn't affect you, you will win favor from NOONE for sticking your nose in where it doesn't belong.

I've had my head handed to me fighting other people's battles too often. If someone is complaining about this, cluck sympathetically and say, "Gosh, that's awful, someone ought to say something."

You can't help people who don't want to help themselves!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:21 AM on May 9, 2013

Overtime may not apply, or it may. The difference isn't quite as cut-and-dried as salaried vs hourly, because non-exempt workers can also be salaried and still eligible for overtime. The company is not the one who gets to decide who is categorized as exempt or non-exempt - I mean, they do, in reality, but the real decider is the Federal government.
posted by rtha at 11:29 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

However these employees are NOT paid overtime for attending.

not paid or not paid overtime? there's a big difference.
posted by cupcake1337 at 11:29 AM on May 9, 2013

Best answer: Just call the Dept of Labor's Wage and Hour Division at 1-866-4-USWAGE (1-866-487-9243). It's free; answering questions like this is their job.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:31 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm not looking to raise a stink (yet),

Unless the stink you raise has to do with your paycheck and your schedule and your manager, it is not your stink to raise.

That someone is complaining doesn't mean there's an injustice to be made right. And even if there is, don't assume that the health care professionals you want to help actually need your help. They're adults, and health care professionals. The first step for someone who has a beef with their manager is to communicate with their manager.

Also, your profile links to your real-world self. You really don't want to be making public posts about considering legal action against your employer for HR issues.
posted by headnsouth at 11:34 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I agree Ruthless, which is why I offered to the grumbler a suggestion that SHE call the NM Labor board, and not me personally. I might've overplayed my position by suggesting I raise a stink, but I can certainly offer Mr. KIS's recommendations if future situations warrant.

I'm fortunate enough that the IT department has treated me with the option to charge as much overtime as I think is necessary to get the job done. But it bothers me to see other folks not accorded the same rights.

I'll keep my nose out of it, but it's good to get some confirmation on my gut reaction.
posted by endotoxin at 11:38 AM on May 9, 2013

Should an affected employee wish to pursue a claim against their employer, these particular type of cases require the employer to pay attorney's fees when they lose under the FSLA, so it is quite easy to retain qualified attorneys to review the situation. The National Employment Lawyers Association maintains an excellent referral list. There are a number of exceptions, but an employment attorney could work through the facts in minutes. You can also complain to the DoL as suggested above.
posted by Lame_username at 11:42 AM on May 9, 2013

A week later, I've been unable to force the question from my mind and tend to my other duties.

This is the problem, not whether New Mexico state labor law blah blah blah.

Everyone has problems. Some of those people happen to be people you know, and some of those people will tell you about their problems. This is often referred to as "sharing a problem." That phrase can be a devastating one, because it makes it sound like telling you their problem means you have to do something about it, because it's now a shared problem. But it's not. It's a told problem. They can only share it with you if you let them.
posted by Etrigan at 12:40 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks Etrigan, you've pointed out a problem I face time and again. I work in Helpdesk. I'm helpful, sometimes more than I ought to be. I'll keep my trap shut, but the comments I've received today might save my bacon in the future, so I'm glad to have asked anyway.
posted by endotoxin at 1:13 PM on May 9, 2013

Point of reference: you can call the DoL for information anytime you want, without it being a "complaint." I do it occasionally when we want to clarify some darned obscure FLSA or FMLA question (the kind that is somewhat shy of "we had better ask for an actual formal opinion letter.")

Same goes with the EEOC for ADA questions, actually. Your tax dollars pay for the call centers and the databases full of answers to random questions; may as well give them a reason to answer the phone.

(If you call the DoL, at least as an employer, and the question is at all complicated, you - or at least I - end up being transferred to a local office, with someone who really knows their stuff on the other end.)
posted by SMPA at 7:21 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

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