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change of pay rate/"pay docking" upon termination (Nebraska)

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  • change of pay rate/"pay docking" upon termination (Nebraska)

    Hello. I was employed by a staffing agency in Omaha, Nebraska, and before my first pay period I made a mistake and missed a morning training, and it was decided that I would be fired. I got my check, and it's wrong both in hourly pay (I was told the amount per hour before selecting the assignment, and that amount is what everyone else was making) and hours worked (there was a 1 hour orientation, plus several 4.5 hour shifts... but that cannot add up to the amount of hours they are claiming).

    I called the staffing agency and I told them about these problems, and I was flabbergasted. They told me that the new hire orientation, which was long after hiring interviews and a scheduled orientation, wherein they discuss the company policies, read the company employee handbook, go over how to fill out timecards, etc, is not paid. I asked the person how they could explain that job standards training for a specific hired position would be unpaid, and she replied that she's the owner and she's essentially an attorney and she just knows that because it was at the staffing agency and not at the place of work assignment that it doesn't need to be paid for. It's just an hour, but this doesn't seem right. I'm following up with them later today to get a copy of the timecards to ensure that part of the problem wasn't also incorrect recording, but she steadfastly refused that orientation training was paid.

    Then we discussed the payrate, and she told me that because of the attendance violation, there was a pay rate docking down to minimum wage, $5.15. I told her I knew nothing about that, and she said that it was stated as "pay docking" in the employee handbook, which I had agreed to abide by. I've requested another copy of this handbook and I'll be picking it up later, but even if they have some provision about docking pay in the handbook, can an employee agree to any rule that violates Nebraska labor law? From what I read, wages are considered labor/services rendered, and that would seem like it can't be reneged because at the time when I earned those hours, I was under the guarantee and expectation of making $10/hour.

    Do I have a legal basis here? I doubt I would even go to small claims court, let alone hire a lawyer, over this relatively small amount of labor that seems like it was stolen from me, but then again I guess I could at least bother them for a while to see if they'll understand they're doing wrong, and maybe report it to the DOL. Thanks for your help in advance.

  • #2
    The training/orientation time is compensable and you can file a claim with the state Dept. of Labor for those unpaid wages.

    Regarding the rate of pay, if in fact, you were notified of the conditions under which your hourly rate would/could be lowered, even if state law required that you receive advance notice of a pay decrease (and I'm not even sure that it does), that would be notification enough; so I'm not at all convinced at this point, that there IS a violation of law, at least regarding your rate of pay.
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    • #3
      Thank you! I thought that was wrong to not pay orientation training.

      I will transcribe the employee handbook once I get it, and maybe you could tell me what you think at that point--sorry for the half-baked question there.


      • #4
        Well, I got a copy of this "Acknowledgement Agreement" [sic] that I did initial and sign at the bottom. Most of them are standard things like you understand the staffing agency is your employer and you must work a minimum of 90 days for the staffing agency before taking a position with the employer, etc.

        There is an excerpt in the middle that I initialed without fully digesting, and I think that if it's legal, it defends them paying me minimum wage, less than half of what I thought I was working for:

        "I agree that if I fail to show up at an assignment which I have accepted and don't call my Remedy Supervisor at least one hour before my shift is to begin, or if I end an assignment without the required 48 hour (2 working days) notice, I am forfeiting my eligibility to be compensated at my quoted rate for the assignment in question. Therefore, I understand I will be compensated at minimum wage or $5.15 per hour for all time worked for which I have not yet been paid."

        Pretty rotten, but I did initial it without comprehending how it could affect me later, and now it has. Does anyone know if this can be legal?


        • #5
          It can and is. Minimum wage is all any employee is due under the law.

          Such an acknowlegement fulfills any state requirement that may exist requiring that you be notified in advance of any decrease in wage.
          The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.


          • #6
            I had a sinking feeling about that. Still, given the variable, it just doesn't seem ethical even if legal ($12.50/hour times full time for a week and a half between paydays, and then a short time before that payday having an attendance violation and getting docked... that could potentially be a lot of money they're still getting paid from their client for the assignment but shorting the temp in the end as a punishment).

            It's my fault for not digesting what I agreed to and not understanding how questionably ethical temp/staffing agencies can be in reality. I had friends who recommended against them, and in the future I think I'll do the same.

            Thank you all for your help... I wouldn't have known who/where else to turn to about this. Have a happy holiday, all.


            • #7
              Don't tar all staffing/temp agencies with the same brush. Some are quite ethical and reputable. Just because one proved less than trustworthy, don't write them all off. There's good and bad in every industry.
              The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.