Doctor can be forced to work on his day off

A doctor can be required to work on A doctor can be required to work on his usual day off, with a few exceptions if there is no individual or union contract with an employer. Photo Credit: iStock

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Carrie Mason-Draffen Newsday columnist Carrie Mason Draffen

Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.

DEAR CARRIE: We just purchased an urgent-care facility that employs a doctor. He averages 41/2 days, or 36 hours a week, and he is exempt because he is a professional. Can we require him to work a Wednesday, his day off, when the practice is closed on a Friday because of a holiday? His situation is tricky because as an exempt employee he must receive at least the same salary each week if he does any work that week, unless he takes off full days for personal reasons. So if he didn't work that Wednesday, he would get the same pay, even when the office is closed on a Friday. -- Concerned Employer

DEAR CONCERNED: I enlisted the help of an attorney who represents employers. He is Carmelo Grimaldi, a partner at Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone in Mineola.

He says that neither federal nor state labor laws prohibit you from requiring the employee to work on his day off.

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Grimaldi said it appears from your question that your employee doesn't have an employment agreement or union contract that stipulates Wednesday as his day off.

"In other words, you have not contractually restricted / limited yourself in regards to the employee's work schedule," he said. "If the employment relationship is terminable at the will of either party, as it appears here, your employee can either work on Wednesday as directed, or resign."

As with many other laws, exceptions are the norm. In this case, if the employee requires Wednesdays off for religious reasons or for a disability accommodation, forcing him to work that day could be a violation. If none of the exceptions apply, you need not worry.

"Simply stated," Grimaldi said, "there is nothing stopping you from directing the employee to work on Wednesday."

DEAR CARRIE: The hospital where I worked was restructured by an outside consulting company and the layoffs began. Employees over age 62 with more than 10 years on the job were offered severance packages. Many employees, including myself, did not want to leave. But I was unsure of my future at the hospital, because a new director took over many of my former duties. Before deciding what to do, I met with a vice president and asked her about my job security, but she wouldn't confirm it. So I took the package, which included three months' severance pay. That has now ended. I also now receive early pension benefits to help pay the bills. Would I qualify for unemployment benefits? -- Forced Exit

DEAR FORCED: You should definitely apply now that your severance has ended. Under new regulations that took effect Jan. 1, laid-off workers can't legally collect unemployment benefits while receiving severance payments that exceed the $405 weekly maximum unemployment benefit.

Even though you decided to take the package, and in essence resigned, you did so because you thought you might be laid off later -- and with no severance benefits.

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As for qualifying for jobless benefits while receiving a pension, you could be eligible if you meet certain criteria. For instance, you must be willing and able to work. Also, the Labor Department could reduce your unemployment benefits if any of the following state regulation applies to you:

"This reduction will be made if you receive a pension from an employer for whom you worked in the 18 months immediately before filing your claim and that work made you eligible for or increased the amount of your pension, and your employer contributed more than 50 percent toward your pension."

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