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Short weeks questioned for salaried workers [USA]

By SlydeRule in MLP
Fri Jun 29, 2001 at 07:19:04 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

[USA] The San Jose Mercury-News reports that the practice of forced unpaid time off runs afoul of labor laws when applied to salaried employees.

It probably is no surprise that employers want to have it both ways:
  • "We've got a lot of extra work, you have to put in extra hours but we won't pay you for them."
  • "We don't have enough work, you have to take some days off and we won't pay you for them."
However, the employers are learning that it doesn't work that way. If a worker is being paid by the hour worked, then he has to be paid for every hour worked, and overtime figures in. If a worker is being paid a salary, then he gets that salary no matter how much or how little he has to work.
Federal law says that if salaried workers who don't get overtime pay work any part of a week, they are entitled to be paid for the entire week. -- from the SJMN article
California has an additional wrinkle, which is the actual focus of the referenced article. Miles Locker, Chief Counsel of the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement, wrote an opinion on May 30th that under AB 60, salaried workers in California are considered as being paid by the month.

This caused some consternation because a number of California tech companies have been planning one-week-long shutdowns to try to save money. If Locker's opinion held up, the companies would still have to pay their salaried employees for the entire month.

[California] state Labor Commissioner Arthur Lujan already rescinded Locker's opinion last Friday in a two-paragraph letter that deferred judgment on the issue to another authority, either the [state Industrial Welfare] commission or the state legislature. -- from the SJMN article
The Industrial Welfare Commission is slated to consider the issue at their June 29th meeting.


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Short weeks questioned for salaried workers [USA] | 9 comments (8 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
History repeats itself (4.76 / 21) (#2)
by QuantumG on Fri Jun 29, 2001 at 02:23:39 AM EST

Was a time when factories ran around the clock and would then close down for months on end until all that stock was sold. The workers had a great solution to this problem called "the stint", an agreed upon rate of production that no worker would go over. To quote Joanne B. Ciulla:

Employers were constantly trying to make employees work faster. Most workplaces had a stint, and those who failed to maintain it by doing too much or too little were ostracized. Workers who upheld the stint despite the curses of their boss earned reputations as "good men" and trustworthy masters of the trade. The worker restriction of output symbolized "unselfish brotherhood," personal dignity, and "cultivation of the mind." One reason why the stint was important is that workers wanted control over the amount of time that they worked. Businesses at this time often ran factories around the clock and then shut them down for months at a time.

Another interesting part of the workingman's moral code was having a "manly bearing" toward the boss. In the nineteenth century this popular expression was an honorific signifying dignity, respect, and egalitarianism. A person earned his honorific by refusing to work while the boss was watching. It is useful to reflect on the difference between only working when the boss is watching and not working when the boss is watching. They are both gestures of defiance, but one is about keeeping one's job and the other is about keeping one's dignity. The first says, I don't want to work, but I will, because you are watching. The second says, I'll work because I want to, and not because you are watching. The time-study engineer Federick Winslow Taylor devoted himself to stamping out both gestures of defiance.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.

(OT)Your post is interesting (4.00 / 4) (#4)
by thePositron on Fri Jun 29, 2001 at 06:07:56 AM EST

Would you happen to have some links or books that you could suggest?

[ Parent ]
The Working Life (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by QuantumG on Fri Jun 29, 2001 at 05:18:49 PM EST

The above is a direct quote from this book. Any book about the industrial revolution is likely to have a lot about unions.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
death (4.00 / 5) (#3)
by dr k on Fri Jun 29, 2001 at 04:31:31 AM EST

If I worked at a company that was planning such a shutdown I would run like hell. A company that resorts to this kind of solution is flirting with disaster, when you consider that the situation is likely a result of errors or poor luck many months in the past. The owners of the company have known for many weeks that there was going to be a problem, but they've hidden it from the employees.

Is the tech industry a truly unique mutant? Aside from US government offices, are there any other industries that would tolerate this kind of nonsense? Work without pay? Take unpaid leave? In your eye.
Destroy all trusted users!

Look who's playing (4.50 / 2) (#8)
by xdroop on Sat Jun 30, 2001 at 08:35:09 AM EST

Autodesk. Sun. HP. These are not small companies in imminent danger of collapsing and vanishing from the face of the earth. And most of these companies are doing it so that they can burn off the accrued vacation time which acts as a liability on their balance sheet -- in the case of Autodesk (the only company which I have anything remotely approaching personal experience with), this kind of shutdown can lower liabilities by half a million US dollars per day -- thats $2 million for the week.
xhost +
[ Parent ]
There's a word for this (4.33 / 6) (#5)
by dutky on Fri Jun 29, 2001 at 11:31:12 AM EST

It's called being layed off.

Generally, when a worker is layed off, they are entitled to unemployment benefits, payed out by the state. This all comes back to haunt the employer as an increase it the employer's unemployment insurance premiums.

If you are working for a company that plans to pull one of these stunts and intends not to pay you for that period of time, head right down to the unemployment office and collect your money. You'll feel better with the money in your pocket, and your company will think twice about this sort of behavior in the future.

Another good thing to do during the week you are layed off is to set up some interviews with other employers, which you may be required to do, anyway, in order to collect your unemployment check. You may need to set up the interviews ahead of time, since some employment offices require that you actually go to the interviews before you can collect your check.

All of that said, there are benefits to employers in this kind of shutdown, even if they still need to pay their salaried employees: first, not all employees are salaried, so there is still some money to be saved from payroll, second, if you can shut off all the equipment in the buildings (air conditioning, lights, computers, etc.) then you can save a healthy chunk of change on utility bills, finally, some services the company pays for may be contracted out, and can be suspended during the down time.

With this rational, it might make some sense for the company to either a) add an extra week of paid vacation to everyone's benefits (and require that everyone take that week at the same time) or b) shorten the work week by one day, and shut the offices down over the longer weekend. A company might even be able to barter the extra time off for slightly lower salaries or wages, and some studies have suggested that shorter work weeks lead to increased productivity.

Unemployment catch.... (none / 0) (#6)
by Elkor on Fri Jun 29, 2001 at 03:14:07 PM EST

This may vary from state to state/country to country but some states have a waiting period before unemployment kicks in.

In VA, I believe the period is 2 weeks. So if my company shut down for 1 week, I wouldn't be elligible for unemployment.

Just a thought....

"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
You know.. (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by mindstrm on Sat Jun 30, 2001 at 12:47:07 PM EST

it should be simpler.
If a company tracks how many hours you work, then you should be paid by the hour.

If they instead look at whether or not you accomplish your assigned duties, you should be on salary.

If they look at how much you accomplish, you should be on comission.

Far to many companies put people on 'salary' then treat them like hourly slaves... not paying them overtime, yet deducting money for days lost.

Short weeks questioned for salaried workers [USA] | 9 comments (8 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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