Marion Glandorf of Shoreham joined members of the Unemployed Workers...

Marion Glandorf of Shoreham joined members of the Unemployed Workers Action Group at a rally at Federal Hall on Wall Street to push for extended unemployment insurance benefits. (Aug. 12, 2010) Credit: Charles Eckert

DEAR CARRIE: What kind of income could disqualify someone for unemployment benefits? I am contemplating buying a vacation house and renting it out. If I lose my job, is rental income something that might prevent me from collecting unemployment benefits? -- Unemployed Landlord?

DEAR UNEMPLOYED: The rental income wouldn't automatically disqualify you from receiving unemployment benefits, the New York State Labor Department said. But as part of your claim, you must report that income and any other income. And if your landlord role interferes with your ability to seek work, you could be disqualified for benefits.

"We need claimants to report real estate income, as we need to evaluate if they have a substantial real estate business and if it also affects their being available for work," the Labor Department said. 

DEAR CARRIE: My company recently changed its overtime policy, and I wanted to know if its action is legal. The company now pays all nonexempt employees overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week. Before, it calculated OT on a daily basis. So now we earn straight time when we work 40 hours or fewer. But now nonexempt, or hourly, employees will earn 11/2 times their regular hourly rate after 40 hours.

Company-paid holidays will continue to be included in the sum of total hours worked in a workweek for purposes of overtime. But all other paid time off - vacation, personal and sick time -- will not be included in the total.

I understand the 40-hour rule even though I work a 35-hour week and will have a harder time getting overtime. But is it legal to exclude vacation, personal and sick days from the overtime count? The company says this policy more closely aligns our policies and practices with those of other major companies. -- OT Revamp Legal?

DEAR OT REVAMP:  The situation you describe is legal because your company previously gave you more than labor law required. Now it is scaling back its overtime rules to meet federal and state labor laws, rather than exceed them.

When your employer allowed you to earn overtime on a daily basis, it exceeded what the law required. By law, overtime is computed on a weekly basis, unless a union or employment contract says differently. Nonexempt employees qualify for overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours a week. Companies can exceed those laws but not give less than what the statutes grant.

The other part of the change -- to include company paid holidays in the overtime calculations -- also involved a policy that gave you more than labor laws required. Overtime-pay eligibility is based on hours actually worked, not paid-time off. So your company can legally scratch vacation, personal or sick days from its overtime tabulations.

Your company's OT policy still exceeds labor law requirements on two counts: Companies don't have to offer any paid holidays, and they certainly don't have to include those days in the overtime count, unless a contract calls for that perk.

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