Help Wanted: Hospital's DMV license plate search is legal

Overcrowded lots can be a problem. Many hospitals Overcrowded lots can be a problem. Many hospitals have access to DMV license plate information to help determine if unauthorized vehicles are parked in emergency lanes or other restricted areas. 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: I am an employee at a local hospital. Parking is a problem here, so we were told we could park in an adjacent, outpatient office parking lot that is part of the same health system. Later that day, someone from the outpatient facility was taking pictures of registration stickers on the cars in that lot. A few hours later, the chief of hospital security called to tell people to remove their cars. He told the employees that he ran their license plate numbers and was able to identify the culprits. We were appalled that our employer was able to access such information. We feel our privacy has been compromised. But we have not been able to find out if this is a legal or accepted practice in New York. Can you help?

-- Legally Un-Parked?

DEAR LEGALLY UN-PARKED: I turned to the Department of Motor Vehicles for an answer. It says the hospital's response was legal. Here is what spokesman Peter Bucci said:

"Most large employers keep their own record of the vehicles and license plate numbers of their employees. Many hospitals also have access to DMV license plate information to help determine if unauthorized vehicles are parked in emergency lanes or other restricted areas. Also, in some locations on Long Island, a license plate search is required before an illegally parked vehicle can be towed to ensure that the owner is notified."

This answer won't solve your nagging parking problem. But I hope it will quell your fears about whether the hospital overstepped its bounds.

 

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DEAR CARRIE: You have written that federal law prohibits employers from changing schedules to avoid paying workers overtime when they have worked more than 40 hours a week. Because revenues are down, our employer has asked hourly employees to either come in later or leave work early during the week to avoid any overtime. Does this directive violate federal law? Of course, when overtime is unavoidable, our employer always pays it.

-- Overtime Avoidance

DEAR OVERTIME: Employers have legal options for preventing hourly employees from exceeding 40 hours a week. And those options include the two that you referenced: asking workers to come in later or leave early.

Although those abrupt schedule changes may inconvenience employees, they are legal.

You correctly noted at the outset of your letter that once employees have worked more than 40 hours in a workweek, the company can't legally at that point rejigger their schedules to avoid paying them overtime for those extra hours.

 

DEAR CARRIE: My daughter works part time at a well-known restaurant. She is an hourly employee and works about 15 hours a week. Many nights, the manager requires her to clock out but then refuses to let her leave until all the customers have left. She is there sometimes two to three hours after she clocks out. Yet, she is not paid for that extra time. The doors are locked, and if she were to leave, she would be fired on the spot. The management claims this is corporate policy. While quitting would solve her immediate problem, it will not change the policy. Is it legal? Whom does one complain to?

-- Concerned Mom

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DEAR CONCERNED: If she has to remain on the premises, she has to be paid for that time. That is the law.

Here is what the U.S. Labor Department regulations say:

"The workweek ordinarily includes all time during which an employee is necessarily required to be on the employer's premises, on duty or at a prescribed workplace."

She needs to gingerly tell her employer that the company has to either pay her for that wait time or let her go home.

For more information, call the department at 516-338-1890.

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For more on state and federal regulations governing minimum wage and overtime, go to http://bit.ly/1piFaG2 and http://1.usa.gov/SWzvZo.

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