Help Wanted: Getting paid after Sandy

Even though an employee worked productively during the Even though an employee worked productively during the power outages of superstorm Sandy, whether there will be pay attached to the accomplishments depends on how that employee is classified, experts say -- hourly employees must be paid; exempt or salaried employees are not owed. 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 work for a local museum that lost power for 12 days due to superstorm Sandy. Because I had electricity at home, I was able to contact museum clients and set up appointments to show the grounds while the building was closed.

I actually showed the location to two clients and booked a $9,000 photo shoot. How much time am I able to claim for the work done at home and for emails regarding this contract that I received and answered as late as 8 p. m.?

We were asked to use our sick days and vacation time to make up for the days the museum was closed. But considering the work I did at home I think I should be paid rather than have to deplete my paid time off.

Also, members of the grounds crew came in for their regular work day and were not paid overtime. Is any of this legal? -- Sandy Fair Pay?

DEAR SANDY: Your status would determine whether the museum has to pay you wages for the time you worked at home. If you are nonexempt, which generally means hourly, you have to be paid for all the hours you work. That includes work done from home. If you are exempt, then you don't have to be paid for the extra time. Exempt workers fall into the administrative, executive, professional and outside-sales categories.

As for overtime, that is based on a workweek, not a single day. And by law it doesn't depend on extraordinary circumstances, like the grounds crew showing up in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Under federal and state laws, overtime kicks in for nonexempt employees after they work more than 40 hours a week. Some union contracts define overtime as more than 35 hours a week.

DEAR CARRIE: My company has been deducting insurance premium payments from my check every pay period since Oct. 1. Yet when I called the insurance company in mid-October to verify I was covered, it said I wasn't. I also tried to get a letter from our human resources department to prove my daughter was covered. HR also said neither one of us was covered. So I checked with the company finance department. It said the company has been sending my payments to the insurer. But the department also said it could do nothing about my lack of coverage. Can you help me resolve this mess? --  Elusive Benefits

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DEAR ELUSIVE: I turned to a local benefits group for tips on how you can break this communications logjam.

You'll need to do some backtracking. Return to human resources to verify that you are enrolled in the health insurance plan and emphasize that the insurance premium payments are being deducted from your check, said Gregory Feigenbaum, vice president of business development at the Long Island Employee Benefits Group in Hauppauge.

"If HR confirms that he/she is enrolled, then HR needs to coordinate that with the carrier," Feigenbaum said. "If HR believes that the employee is not enrolled, then he/she should seek clarification as to why their payroll is being reduced, and whether HR received his/her enrollment and payroll reduction forms."

And he added, "HR has a responsibility to assist the employee through the benefits enrollment and education process."

If that fails, then he suggests you go to the manager overseeing the HR team.

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"In sum, my suggestion would be to try to resolve this issue internally through the management chain of command," he said.

But failing that you can contact the U.S. Employee Benefits Security Administration, which regulates employer-based health plans. Call 866-444-3272.

Read more on overtime and exempt employees at http://1.usa.gov/sQRzCo

Find more on regulations regarding employer-sponsored health plans at http://1.usa.gov/TOXoS4

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