Can my employer dictate my work hours?
June 8, 2006 9:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm classified as an exempt employee. Can my boss require me to arrive at work at a certain time, or even to work a certain number of hours?

My understanding is that employees who are exempt from the overtime provision of the U.S. federal and state labor laws are to be paid a guaranteed wage without regard to the number of hours of work performed, but I can't find this documented on any of the federal or Illinois government sites. I put in my 40 hours a week, sometimes a bit more, but I prefer to do it from 9am to 6 pm (if I take a lunch hour). My boss has told me I need to arrive at 8am because "people have commented about your coming in so late." Can someone point me to the law that says they can't dictate the hours I work if they want to classify me as exempt. (I fully understand the perils of rocking the boat. I just want this information for my own knowledge and possible use at a later date. For the record, I don't believe my job qualifies as exempt anyway, but that's a different question.)
posted by Joleta to Work & Money (24 answers total)
Not sure about Illinois - but Arizona is not a 'right to work state'

I.e. you can be fired for any reason, without notice.

So I guess the short answer would be yeah, I guess you can come in whenever you want but you may be subject to some "rocking the boat" enforcement.
posted by jimmy0x52 at 9:08 PM on June 8, 2006

Just because you're salaried doesn't mean you necessarily get to set your own hours. If you decide to work one hour a day, from 2:00 to 3:00 AM, your wages don't go down but good luck keeping your job.

Illinois is an "at-will" employment state, which means you can be fired for any reason that is not specifically illegal. "Refuses to work during business hours" is probably not illegal.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:08 PM on June 8, 2006

They can absolutely dictate your hours if you are an at-will employee, which in Illinois, is perfectly acceptable. Which means that they can set hours, and if you don't adhere to them, they are within their rights to fire you. Some jobs are more flexible and only care that you complete the work and do 40 hours; other jobs require that you be available during certain hours. I can understand the rationale for wanting you to be there certain hours - accessibility by clients, meetings with the rest of the group, etc. If the hours don't work for you, you may want to consider some arguments as to how the shifted hours benefits the company and you both. But, unfortunately, you won't find any help through the employment law.
posted by galimatias at 9:12 PM on June 8, 2006

Exemption from overtime is not the same as being exempt from showing up at work in the morning at the sime time as everyone else. Similarly, getting paid by the hour doesn't necessarily mean that you can't set your own hours.
posted by bingo at 9:12 PM on June 8, 2006

>> Can my employer dictate my work hours?

Absolutely. Exempt or not, it doesn't matter.
posted by whatisish at 9:30 PM on June 8, 2006

On the other hand, if your employer treats you as a non-exempt employee, isn't there be a way to get reclassified as non-exempt?
posted by hattifattener at 9:34 PM on June 8, 2006

(er, be)
posted by hattifattener at 9:35 PM on June 8, 2006

Asking you to start your work day at 8am does not equate to treating you as a non-exempt employee.

The answer to the poster's question is a resounding yes, in all 50 states
posted by 5bux at 10:53 PM on June 8, 2006

hattifattener, the boss is not treating Joleta as a non-exempt. If he started docking pay for hours not worked, then we'd have a problem. This issue has nothing to do with the FLSA. Joleta, if you don't like coming in at 8, you just need to find a different job with flexible hours.
posted by pomegranate at 3:14 AM on June 9, 2006

There may be some confusion here between exempt employees and contractors. In the case of exempt employees, the answer is yes. In the case of contractors, the answer is no (with respect to which hours are worked; number of hours usually affects compensation for contractors).
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:25 AM on June 9, 2006

Work isn't a democracy. Neither is it a court of law. It's more or less a feifdom, usually ruled by a petty tyrant, occasionally by a benevolent dictator, and all too infrequently by a wise mentor. The law governing most aspects of workplace behavior is scant protection from anything, and approaching work as a legal issue reveals structural incompatibilities between your approach to the world and the local king's.

It seems a time shift wouldn't be disruptive, but simple minded 'leaders' sometimes feel most comfortable in homogenous settings, and boss is homogenizing YOU.

If it's super important to time shift, perhaps a trade of some sort is in order. Can you do something everyone hates in that hour between 5 and 6 as compensation for your elective inconsistency? That may win an abeyance.

Some sort of personal influence is a superior response as opposed to getting all legal on him. Negotiate! (and have fun while doing it!)
posted by FauxScot at 4:38 AM on June 9, 2006

So who are these people who are commenting on your work hours? Do you comment when they leave before you? Do they not know that you are there an hour after they go home? Do they think you are getting a 40 hour pay for 35 hours of work?

If the 9am start time is important to you and it's a small enough workplace, can't you just make time to talk to your co-workers about it? If the job itself only requires that it get done, and no one has to be picking up your slack for that hour ie; clients call for you, opening procedure duties... I don't know what you actually do for a living, so it's hard to tell if that first hour is important or not.
posted by Jazz Hands at 4:52 AM on June 9, 2006

Check whether your company has any flex-time policies. As I understand it, some companies will have a set of core hours that they want employees to be present for, e.g. 10-4, and other than that the employee can work around it. Some companies also allow for employees to schedule more hours on some days in order to allow for working four days weeks, or a four day week every other week.

It sounds like this company does not allow flex-time, or if it does your boss is not aware of it. Next time you are looking for a job, check for these types of benefits.

Btw, if you work in the financial sector in Chicago, they keep weird hours and it is usually the case that they want you to come in dog-awful early.
posted by bleary at 4:53 AM on June 9, 2006

Your boss has a problem. Try to resolve the problem. I prefer the same sort of hours, and when a few complainers stopped by the office at 6:30, and there I was, merrily working away in the peace and quiet, they stopped bitching. Do people leave early? Are you the one who finishes tasks because they're out the door at 4:29 every day, and they spent the last 10 minutes suiting up to leave? Do you get more done because the office is quieter? Talk to your boss and see if you can find a way to have the flextime you so enjoy, without creating trouble in the office, and for it to be a good business solution.
posted by theora55 at 4:55 AM on June 9, 2006

By the way ...

My boss has told me I need to arrive at 8am because "people have commented about your coming in so late."

just really means that your boss is not conveying correctly what he wants. He's trying to make it seem like it's not his decision for you to get in at a regulated time. By blaming it on "people" it lets him be the nice guy. But really, if "people" got to make the decisions in an office, why would you ever need a boss? What he probably means is

9:00 is not an appropriate time for you to arrive at the office. I want you in here at 8:00 every day.

This is, of course, bullshit behavior for an effective boss. Perhaps playing on his inability to be the "bad guy" in this situation will allow you to negotiate the arrival time you desire.
posted by clearlynuts at 5:02 AM on June 9, 2006

Jazz Hands: I have no idea who complained about when I arrive at work. It may not even be someone in my department. No one else does my work so no slack for anyone else to pick up. No one schedules meetings before 9 am. And they all see me working at my desk when they leave before me. This has me scratching my head, too, but okay, I'll get there at 8:00 am.

Kirth: I think you put your finger on it. I might have been confusing the exempt rules with the contractor rules.

Hattifattener: I'm considering how to be reclassified as non-exempt. That's why I wanted all the pertinent amunition.
posted by Joleta at 5:06 AM on June 9, 2006

Unless you signed a contract that says what your work hours will be--or otherwise gave you freedom to set them--your company can require you to work given hours. It's just like requiring you to do a given task or be fired.

jimmy0x52: the term right to work state has nothing to do with this sort of possible employment protection. Right to work means that unions can't sign contracts with company requiring all employees of a given type have to be a member of a union. They're more or less union-busting laws.
posted by skynxnex at 5:13 AM on June 9, 2006

the term right to work state has nothing to do with this sort of possible employment protection.

Maybe jimmy was thinking of "at will" employment?
posted by jaysus chris at 5:51 AM on June 9, 2006

Yeah sorry - couldn't think of the right term I guess.

"At will" was what I was going for based upon everyone else's definition(s).
posted by jimmy0x52 at 5:56 AM on June 9, 2006

Seconding clearlynuts . Some bosses love to phrase their requests such that it seem like they're on your side, when in reality it's just a way of getting what they want.
posted by Meagan at 6:01 AM on June 9, 2006

I had virtually the same conversation with my boss at my last job. I then proceeded to raise holy hell amongst my team to find out which one of them had complained - especially given that while I came in late, I was present for all of core hours (10-4) while the people who came in early (6-2) were not. I found out that none of them had complained, and it was just that my boss didn't like it.

Given that I had corporate policy on my side, I just kept coming in at 10 and working til 7.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:15 AM on June 9, 2006

When I worked a project at a US government agency, the rule was to schedule meetings only between 10 am and 2 pm, Tuesday through Thursday, if you wanted to make sure that everyone would be there. Once I went to somebody's office at 10:30 AM on a Friday, only to be told that he had taken a half-day - meaning 6 AM to 10 AM.

But I digress. You work in the private sector. 8 to 4 is to the Midwest what 9 to 5 is to the East. As was said above, there is mounting pressure to coordinate with New York financial markets. That, and the growing popularity of "parents hours," means that more and more stuff is happening before 9 AM.

Consider moving to New York or Boston and becoming a corporate lawyer or investment banker - there, nobody cares when you come in, it's all about how late you stay.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:35 AM on June 9, 2006

Earlybirds are a self righteous bunch, equating folks who start later as lazy no matter how many more hours the late starters work.
posted by zeoslap at 8:23 AM on June 9, 2006

Here in CA, they sure can. I had a salaried desktop support/sysadmin, and most of the employees would come in at 10-12. except that my new boss demanded that I be there at 8am to tend to the frequent Outlook problems that the controller (the only Outlook user in the company, too) would have. So I got up ass early, got on a crowded train at 7am, just so I'd be there at 8am to help the one user that insisted she also start work at 8am and insisted on using Outlook.
Yes, it sucked ass. And sadly, yes, it was legal. So were the late evening calls from the engineers. And the weekend work.

/is happy he no longer has that job.
posted by drstein at 10:45 AM on June 9, 2006

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