Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.
DEAR CARRIE: I work as a sales manager for a large regional bank that recently changed our hours to an earlier start time. It now requires us to report to work at 8 a.m. Despite that earlier start, we sometimes have to attend networking events that run until 9 p.m., without receiving extra pay or time off. Also, when we work a sixth day, we do not receive overtime pay even when that extra day pushes us over 40 hours a week. Our employer keeps telling us that since we are exempt, we aren’t eligible for overtime. I don’t understand why I am considered exempt. While my full title is “territory sales manager,” I don’t supervise any employees. So how is denying me overtime legal? — All Work, Little Pay
DEAR ALL WORK: Your employer could legally deny you overtime if you fall into the outside-sales category. Those sales people primarily work outside of the office and are exempt from overtime.
If the company considers you exempt because of your “manager” title, it could be breaking the law and cheating you out of overtime.
Legally, you can’t be considered a manager because you don’t meet a key requirement under federal law that you point out: Managers have to manage people. In fact, federal labor law says that to be considered a manager, an employee has to manage at least two-full time employees, among other duties.
Your title underscores why it is paramount for employers to look at the duties of their employees, rather than their titles, to determine if they are exempt from overtime.
So check back with your company to try to pin down why it feels it doesn’t have to pay you for all the hours you work, and overtime when you rack up more than 40 hours a week.
In addition, call the U.S. Labor Department at 516-338-1890 for more information.
DEAR CARRIE: My wife is a nurse at a medical office in Nassau County. She works four to six hours a day. She often comes home complaining that the doctor doesn’t give her a meal break. Is her employer obligated to give her at least a 15- minute break so she can get something to eat? — Concerned Spouse
DEAR CONCERNED: I am afraid your wife is out of luck and lunchtime, because she misses the magical cutoff.
Under state law, employees who work more than six hours a day are entitled to at least a half-hour meal break. And no other breaks are mandated. Some employers give breaks to employees who work under that threshold because they know workers need a respite every few hours on the job. But they don’t have to provide those breaks.
DEAR CARRIE: My nephew works at a local pizzeria. He was fired from his job because his picture appeared in a local paper in a case of mistaken identity. His ex-boss still owes him a paycheck. He gives my nephew excuses like the bookkeeper is not in, or the bookkeeper said he was paid, which isn’t true. Would a call to the Department of Labor be appropriate? — Cry from Uncle
DEAR CRY: By all means call the state Labor Department. Your nephew worked the hours; so he has to be paid for them. And the last paycheck must be paid promptly.
Here is what the department’s website says:
“When employment has ended, the employer must pay the wages by the regular payday for the pay period worked. If asked, the employer must mail the final wages to the employee.”
You can reach the state Labor Department at 516-794-8195.
You didn’t ask about the legality of the firing, but it’s worth mentioning that it was probably legal because New York is an employment-at-will state. So employees not covered by a union contract or an employment agreement can be fired at any time and for any reason.