DEAR CARRIE: I am a full-time hourly worker for a large clothing manufacturer based in Manhattan. Last winter during a snowstorm the company closed all of its offices. Since I am considered an essential worker, I was expected to be in, and I was, despite the weather. Should I have received extra compensation? — Slogged to Work
DEAR SLOGGED: Alas, hourly workers have to be paid only for the time they work. That’s true even when they have to brave perilous weather conditions to get to the office. Companies can always feel free to give workers more than the law requires, such as premium pay or a day off. And indeed gestures like that help cement morale. But they aren’t mandated.
DEAR CARRIE: I am 95 years old and have been collecting Social Security benefits since age 62, when I retired as a legal secretary. I have never applied for a spousal benefit, even though my husband earned a lot more money than I did. He is 97 and still alive. Is it too late for me to apply? — Too Late?
DEAR TOO LATE: It’s never too late, said Linda Lauria, a spokeswoman in the Social Security Administration’s New York regional office in Manhattan.
The issue is whether you qualify for an increased benefit because of your husband’s work record.
Social Security “would have checked for potential entitlement on the husband’s record when she applied for her own retirement benefit,” Lauria said.
In order for you to collect what Social Security calls “wife’s or husband’s insurance benefits,” your full-retirement age benefit would have to be less than half of your husband’s unreduced benefit, Lauria said.
You said you’ve been receiving retirement benefits since age 62; so you’re receiving just 80 percent of your full benefit, she said.
If you had retired at 65, you would have received your full benefit.
These distinctions are important to keep in mind when dealing with spousal benefits.
If your full benefit is $1,000, then 80 percent of that is $800.
But to be eligible for a bigger benefit because of your husband’s earnings record, your $1,000 full benefit would have to be less than half of your husband’s full benefit, Lauria said.
Using the above scenario, your husband’s unreduced benefit would need to be more than $2,000. Here’s an example she provided:
Wife’s unreduced benefit — $1,000; husband’s unreduced benefit — $2,250. Half of the latter is $1,125. In that example you would be eligible for an additional $125 to be added to the $800 you receive.
Lauria suggested you call Social Security at 800-772-1213 to determine if you are eligible for an increased benefit.
DEAR CARRIE: My daughter is an exempt employee who travels for her job. She has gone out to the West Coast a few times on a late evening flight out of New York, had a meeting the next day and then traveled back on a red-eye flight the same day, arriving the next morning in New York. Despite that, she is expected to go to work that same day after flying all night. Is this acceptable and legal? — Concerned Mom
DEAR CONCERNED: That’s some schedule, but it’s legal.
Labor laws don’t restrict the work hours of adult workers, except in a limited number of occupations.
If she were an hourly employee, they would have to pay her for a lot more hours. But as an exempt worker, she doesn’t even get that benefit.
Still, she may need to speak to her bosses about getting some relief.