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BusinessColumnistsCarrie Mason-Draffen

Widow and ex-wife may be able to collect benefits

You may qualify for benefits on an ex-spouse's

You may qualify for benefits on an ex-spouse's social security record if you were legally married at least 10 years before the divorce. Photo Credit: ISTOCKPHOTO

DEAR CARRIE: I am divorced and have never remarried. Can I receive widow benefits under my ex-husband’s social security record, or is his widow the only one eligible? — The Ex Factor

DEAR EX FACTOR: You can qualify for widow’s benefits on your ex’s social security record if you were legally married for at least 10 years before your divorce, said Linda Lauria, a spokeswoman in the Social Security Administration’s Manhattan office. You also must be at least 60 and must not have remarried before that age.

DEAR CARRIE: Just out of curiosity, why don’t federal employees pay into Social Security? — Taxing Question

DEAR TAXING: Well, they once didn’t, but now they do.

Before 1984, federal employees paid into the Civil Service Retirement System, and were exempt from FICA deductions, which include Social Security payroll taxes, Lauria said. That meant those workers didn’t earn credits toward social security benefits.

And if those same employees later worked in private-sector jobs that qualified them for social security benefits, the amount they were entitled to would be reduced because of their government pension.

After amendments to the Social Security Act, federal employees, hired as of Jan. 1, 1984, became subject to FICA withholding, Lauria said.

DEAR CARRIE: I work in a public school as a per diem nonunion custodian. I got called to fill in for a full-time worker. I worked eight hours, without taking my half-hour lunch break. But I was paid for just 7 1/2 hrs. Is this allowed? — Short of Lunch and Pay

DEAR SHORT: Hourly workers have to be paid for all the time they work. Since the district allowed you to work during your lunch hour, it has to pay you for that time.

In labor law that concept is known as “suffering” employees to work, and here is what the U.S. Labor Department’s website says about it:

“Work not requested but suffered or permitted to be performed is work time that must be paid for by the employer. For example, an employee may voluntarily continue to work at the end of the shift to finish an assigned task or to correct errors. The reason is immaterial. The hours are work time and are compensable.”

And when any extra time you work takes you over 40 hours a week, you have to earn overtime for those extra hours.

In the meantime, the district owes you for the working lunch. If possible, give the district a heads-up next time, when you think that your workload will require you to work through lunch and that you will record an eight-hour day as a result. At that point, a supervisor could approve the time — or not. But either way, if you wind up working eight hours, you have to paid for all that time.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated some of the Social Security eligibility criteria for collecting divorced widow or widower benefits on the record of a deceased ex-spouse. Applicants must be at least 60 and must not have remarried before that age.

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