Q: I work for a well-known local doctor and don't want to lose my job. So I don't fight it when he pays less than he should each week.
His wife, the office manager, corrects my time sheets weekly, alleging I only work eight hours daily and thus deserve no overtime. When I initially protested, she pointed out that sometimes during the day we're light on patients and so I'm just waiting for the doctor or patients and not actively "working."
I sign my time sheets before she modifies them and so I have no independent record -- it would make her upset if I asked for a copy of them. I haven't worked less than 8.5 hours any day in the past six months. What can I do? Do I need to quit and find a new job?
A: The Department of Labor (DOL) provides a free smartphone application time sheet that allows employees to track their work hours and calculate how much they are owed in straight wages and overtime. This app also allows them to keep track of bonuses, commissions, tips and holiday pay.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that employers keep accurate records of hours worked by employees. When organizations don't do this, the DOL presumes an employee's records may be accurate, particularly if the employee tracks their hours in real time on a smartphone using the DOL's app.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked during the workday, beginning the moment employees engage in work tasks or in activities "integral and indispensable" to work tasks. Because you need to remain available during the workday for your doctor and patients, you deserve payment for your hours.
My suggestion: Start recording your real time; find a new job where the office manager pays fairly and present the DOL with your records.
Q: I just got fired because I protested my wages. Isn't this illegal? I called the company's personnel officer and said it was retaliation. She said because I never had bothered to put my issues in writing, I hadn't really complained and so no retaliation existed.
A: In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an employee who verbally complains their employer's practices violate the Fair Labor Standards Act has protection from retaliatory firing.
In this case, Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation, Kasten claimed he complained to his lead operator, the operations manager and human resources personnel that the location of the company's time clocks meant that employees weren't fairly paid for the time they spend putting on their gear at the beginning of their shift and taking it off afterward.
Kasten alleged he was disciplined and fired because he complained and this lawsuit made it to the Supreme Court. The company countered they fired Kasten because he refused to use company-provided time clocks and argued Kasten couldn't claim retaliation, because the FLSA protects only employees who "file" a complaint in writing.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kasten, stating that "file" doesn't require a document. Their ruling explained that requiring employees to put complaints in writing might thwart the statute's protective purpose by discouraging complaints from less educated, illiterate or overworked employees. They added that an employee's complaint must be sufficiently clear and detailed for a reasonable employer to understand it.
Further, according to employment attorney turned HR consultant Richard Birdsall, verbal complaints about pay either to supervisors or co-workers are protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act as a "concerted activity" concerning workplace terms or conditions.
-- Lynne Curry is a management trainer, consultant and president of Alaska's The Growth Company Inc. in Anchorage. Email her at lynne@thegrowth company.com.