Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.
DEAR CARRIE: I work for a cargo and passenger airline. We work four 12-hour shifts each week, or 48 hours. We thought we were eligible for overtime since we work more than 40 hours a week. But the company says airline personnel are exempt from overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Is that true? -- Up in the Air
DEAR UP: It's true. The FLSA, which contains federal regulations on such things as overtime and minimum wage, exempts airline personnel from overtime, said Irv Miljoner, who heads the Long Island office of the U.S. Labor Department.
In an interview conducted before the current partial government shutdown, he quoted Section 13(b)(3) of the FLSA, which exempts from its overtime-pay requirements, but not its minimum-wage requirements, "any employee of a carrier by air subject to the provisions of Title II of the Railway Labor Act."
Title II, in turn, applies to "every common carrier by air engaged in interstate or foreign commerce . . . and every air pilot or other person who performs any work as an employee or subordinate official of such carrier or carriers." That latter part would particularly apply to you. So you have to be paid for the hours you work but not overtime when you work more than 40 hours a week.
DEAR CARRIE: I am a salaried employee and I work 10-hour days, including Saturdays. Can I legally cut back my hours to eight a day without any disciplinary action, or can my employer insist that I work the 10-hour days? -- Long Days
DEAR LONG DAYS: Employers don't have to limit the daily hours of employees who are 18 and over.
Even when New York State labor laws limit the number of days that employees in certain industries work weekly, it doesn't generally limit the hours of their working days. For example, state law requires employees of factories and retail operations to have one day off a week. But how long their working days are depends on their employers, absent a union or employment contract. That doesn't mean it makes sense to require employees to work long hours routinely. But it's legal.
If you balk at working the long schedule, the company could fire you because New York is an employment-at-will state. That means that an employee not covered by a union contract or employment agreement can be fired at any time for any reason.
DEAR CARRIE: My friend works for a small company. The employees were sent home four hours early one day because of a power outage. The owner later docked the employees half a day of vacation time. Is this allowed? And if so, would it also have been legal for him to dock their hourly wages instead? -- Legal Deduction?
DEAR LEGAL: If your friends are hourly, or nonexempt employees, the employer's actions were legal. Hourly workers have to be paid only for the hours they work. And when they miss hours, even through no fault of their own, employers can decide whether to dock their pay or their paid time off, unless a union contract says otherwise.
If any of your friends are exempt, the employer could also dock their paid-time off, but it couldn't dock their pay. Companies can legally dock exempt workers' pay only if they miss a full day for personal reasons.
For more on airline employees and exemptions from overtime, go to http://1.usa.gov/1fVpo4r
For more on state labor law and hours of work, go to http://bit.ly/TL8Eil