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Can I get Retroactive Wages? Maryland

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  • Can I get Retroactive Wages? Maryland

    Hello, all,

    I work for an organization that posts its FY2008 salary scales on their public website. Recently, my colleagues and I discovered that we have not been paid in FY2008 anywhere near what these published pay scales say we are paid. There is no question of our immigration status or anything of that nature. They are simply posting untruths, whether intentionally or not.

    What does Maryland labor law say about this? Can we collect retroactive pay? In all fairness, I should perhaps add that the organization has been telling us that they are conducting pay reviews to help ensure fairness in pay policies.

    Thanks in advance,

    Ginger

  • #2
    Not all employees doing the same job need to be paid the same unless there is a union contract requiring it, or the differences in salary are SOLELY the result of a Title VII characteristic, such as race, gender, religion, national origin, etc.

    In what context are the website salaries being mentioned? General information, open positions, something else? You mentioned "pay scales"; is that a range or a single stated amount? There is nothing in the law that is going to punish an employer for mis-stating or even "lying" about salaries on their website.

    If you are being paid the amount you agreed to or what a union contract or enforceable employment contract calls for, I'm not seeing any legal recourse, unless there is something you haven't shared. "Fairness" in salaries is not required unless the Equal Pay Act or the discrimination issue mentioned above comes into play.
    Last edited by Pattymd; 06-09-2008, 04:08 AM.
    I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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    • #3
      Hi, Patty,

      That was helpful, thanks. Your savvy answers make sense, even though I am still wondering about the ethics of it. Am I misguided to frame the situation in terms of ethics? If an organization publishes pay scales but does not have to adhere to them, then what is the point of even having such pay scales?

      We are not unionized, no; and there is no discrimination issue involved.

      The pay scales are accessible from the Human Resources link on the organization's home page, and I would say that they are there for general information purposes. They publish ranges, yes; and what I and my colleagues are paid averages a good 50 cents to a dollar an hour below even the bottom figure in that range. They cannot even locate an official job description for the position that we hold, even though there is a job title on aforementioned salary scales. We're told that they're in the process of trying to rectify that, too. We were hired on a haphazard basis, and the hourly rates we made in the department (same organization) we came from, carried over to the new department. If I had to guess why, I would guess that it was due to the lack of stable management in the new department (lots of turnover in that respect) and general confusion that reigned there before the new, permanent manager took over.

      I actually enjoy my job; I'm not interested in retribution, just justice, if justice (as I perceive it) were available according to the view I held before you responded. It doesn't sound as if it is. We had no idea when we were hired in the new department that there was no job description for the job we were being hired for or that the organization had, in fact, an official hourly pay scale for that position and, in fact, for all of its positions, salaried and hourly. There has evidently been a very loose arrangement for many hourly positions at this organization, both in terms of number of hours worked per week, pay rates, and so forth. An overhaul of the organization's entire pay system took place this year. Generally the outside consultant found that professionals at our organization are paid several percentage points above market rates, while hourly (non-exempt) are paid several percentage points below market rates. The fact that we do important work for slave wages wasn't as bad, though, as finding out that it was all evidently just some weird fluke, albeit one that they seem to be attempting to correct. As I said, I like my job and I'd like to keep working there if they can see their way clear to bring our pay up to something approaching the level of a living wage.

      Thanks for listening, thanks for responding.

      Ginger

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      • #4
        Well, you can certainly ask your manager or HR about it. But I'm thinking that the scales on the site may be a recruiting tool only; bait and switch, maybe. Maybe not.
        I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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        • #5
          Do you by chance work for a public/municpal/state employer? It is very unusual for a private sector employer to publish their salary ranges on a website for all their competition to see. Public employers however, must publish this information.

          Likewise job descriptions are not required by law except for public sector (or most at any rate). Are you certain that you are looking at the right scale for your position? If there isn't a job description available to make sure you are looking at the right job, it may be that you are looking at the wrong one.
          I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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          • #6
            Hi, Elle,

            Thanks for taking an interest.

            It's an open-enrollment institution of higher learning whose operations are funded in part by public funds.

            I'm certain I'm looking on the scales at the right job designation, yes. There are pay ranges there, by job title, for every officially classified position at the school, from the highest of the higher-ups to the lowest groundskeeper and housekeeper. There is a job title for us there, but no one has been able to find a job description to match it, if indeed one ever existed.

            Would their status as institution of higher learning that receives public funds, then, be a possible reason why they publish the salary scales on their public website? Makes sense to me.

            Does it change the picture at all concerning whether we might possibly be entitled to ask for retroactive wages, all things being equal? That is, if it is determined officially that there has been a published job title and salary range which indeed classifies the job we are doing, and that they simply, for whatever reason, have not been not paying us in accordance with that?

            I noticed on another state college's website a disclaimer saying that they reserve the right to change compensation rates at any time at their discretion; so I kind of intuit that our school could probably, legally, explain their way out of almost anything that could be construed as a possible breach of ethics or laws or anything else.

            Thanks to Patty, too, for iterating the suggestion to talk to my manager and HR. Our manager is fully aware of the situation and is very pro-us, I'm pleased and fortunate to be able to say.

            Ginger

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            • #7
              Is this institution a part of the University of Maryland system or just receiving some public funding? Is it a public instution or private? It makes a difference. No need to share the name of the school, though if you want to PM me the name that might help, but the rules are different in each scenario. UMUC has different regulations than one of the community colleges than say McDaniel. And the USNA is a whole separate ball of wax.
              I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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              • #8
                A related question I had relates to night differential in pay.

                Most of the hours I work are between 3 and 9 p.m. The school pays a night differential to their "admin/staff" people who work those hours and later, according to the scales I have referenced in previous posts.

                No night differential is listed for any of the hourly positions, though.

                Sigh.

                Ginger

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                • #9
                  Elle,

                  It's a community college.

                  Thanks,

                  Ginger

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                  • #10
                    That is entirely legal. In many cases it is a recruiting and retention tool as it is harder to find professional staff willing to work second shift than it is to find hourly staff seeking those hours.
                    I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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                    • #11
                      Elle,

                      Thanks!

                      This is really a terrific site. Is it okay to ask, are you ladies lawyers? The information you have provided so far has really increased my understanding of the situation and of which questions to ask, and how. Thank you, thank you.


                      Ginger

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                      • #12
                        Not a lawyer but I work in HR handling legal compliance issues for a public employer in the education sector. So I'm familiar with the regs (or may of them in any case).
                        I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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                        • #13
                          Well, that's fortuitious, I must say, Elle.

                          From your standpoint, then, based on all or part of what I've said, do you see any point in our pursuing the question of retroactive wages?

                          I'm kind of inferring that the school is in the clear, but I just want to make absolutely certain I've understood everything that you all have told me.

                          Ginger

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                          • #14
                            I'm not a lawyer, either, but I have been in payroll management and related wage and hour compliance for more years than I care to admit.

                            I also managed the payroll operation for a large city in Maryland for a while.
                            I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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                            • #15
                              OK, so for Community Colleges there aren't specific state regulations that govern pay, however, each college has a Board of Trustees which sets salaries and tenure, as well as adopts rules, regulations and bylaws. These are binding and each Board is going to be different. There should be guidelines that govern these things as well as procedures in place to challenge, grieve and appeal decisions.
                              I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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