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Thread: Mandatory overtime and pay cut Missouri

  1. #1
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    Default Mandatory overtime and pay cut Missouri

    My employer enacted a down-sizing scheme last year, and I'm not sure if it's legal.

    Previously, all full-time employees were scheduled for a 40-hr week and were paid overtime as usual under extraordinary circumstances, such as filling in for a sick employee or finishing a task that ran over the end of a shift.

    In order to cut back by 4 employees, the employer has re-structured the work week so that every full-time employee works 48 hours per week for 4 weeks and then 72 hours per week for 2 weeks in a 6 week cycle. The problem is, the employer has cut everyone's hourly rate by about 25% to compensate for all the overtime pay, so each employee ostensibly earns about the same amount yearly.

    This seems to me like an attempt to completely undermine the spirit of the overtime law without violating the letter of it. That is, one reason for the implementation of the 40-hr work week was to discourage employers from over-working employees and failing to hire more employees when needed to meet workloads.

    The employees here are being fed a line about how they are actually making more money than they did the previous year, but they are being told they must work 400 extra hours per year. This is less time they get to spend with their families with no real compensation.
    Since Missouri is a fire-at-will state and the employees have no collective bargaining capability, they are stuck with this situation.

    Do employees in this situation have any recourse other than finding a new employer? Do they have standing to sue the employer? Or has the employer committed a crime? I have no idea how to find the answers to these questions myself, so I would appreciate any kind of guidance.

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    No crime...Employers have the right to analyze their pay structure and change it to meet their needs. Employers have the right to change pay and hours going forward at any time. Employees have the right to find another job if they don't like the new system. That's pretty much at will. Or they can try to change the location to be under a union/contract to override the at will provision. But that's not easy or guaranteed either.

    Are you getting the OT rate for the extra 8 hours in the 48 week?
    Last edited by hr for me; 03-12-2017 at 08:01 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hr for me View Post
    No crime...Employers have the right to analyze their pay structure and change it to meet their needs. Employers have the right to change pay and hours going forward at any time. Employees have the right to find another job if they don't like the new system. That's pretty much at will. Or they can try to change the location to be under a union/contract to override the at will provision. But that's not easy or guaranteed either.

    Are you getting the OT rate for the extra 8 hours in the 48 week?
    Yes, they are paying overtime every week. 8-8-8-8-32-32

    I can understand your explanation that it is not illegal, but I have to consider it unethical. When an employee is forced to work OT every week, then there really isn't any compensation for the extra hours. Moreover, if an employee is sick for all or part of a week, they can only claim enough hours of PTO to make 40 hours, so they take a pay cut every time they take time off.

    Thanks for your answer. Are you a lawyer?

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    I agree with hr for me. And while I'm not a lawyer, I do have 30+ years' professional experience and training in employment law issues. So what hr for me has said to you is legally accurate.

    I understand that you feel your employer is behaving unethically. However, there is no legal recourse for unethical behaviour.

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    No not a licensed attorney but have been in the HR business for a good 20 years now.

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    I am also not an attorney, have done this sort of work for 40 years and agree with the other posters. For something to be illegal, an actual law has to be violated. And there is no "unethical" rule in labor law. Legal ethics are pretty much an oxymoron. Very specifically, the phrase "labor law" starts with the federal FLSA law (1938), includes Title VII, ERISA, IRC, COBRA, FMLA, ADA, ADEA, a few other federal laws, and their state equivalents (if any). None of those laws mention ethics as a consideration.

    Are you an attorney? And why would you think that ethics means something under labor law?
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
    Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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    Quote Originally Posted by DAW View Post
    Are you an attorney? And why would you think that ethics means something under labor law?
    No, I'm in the medical field. I didn't think ethics applied to criminal law, but I thought maybe established ethical standards could possibly give a group of employees standing in a civil suit.

    I was wondering if there were any kind of precedent for something like that. This is clearly an attempt by management to evade the overtime law. That is, the overtime law intends that if an employer is going to overwork employees, then he needs to pay them time-and-half to compensate for that burden. This gives the employer an incentive to hire more personnel, which is generally good for the economy. However, when everyone works overtime every week and rate per hour has been decreased to compensate, then effectively the employer is requiring workers to work overtime without paying them time-and-a-half.

    I'm sure no employee union worth its salt would allow such a travesty, but since we don't have a union I guess we're out of luck. I only asked about possibilities because I have heard of cases in other areas, not HR, for example fire services, in which non-adherence to some kind of national standard could be used to show negligence in a civil suit even though no law had been broken.

    Sorry if this explanation is over long, but I guess the intent of my OP was not clear.

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    the national standard then is minimum wage-- and yes, there is something you can do if the employer drops your wages below that rate (or the related state rate). Anything between that and your actual rate is up to your employer. Market forces will also come into play if they can't get the amount or quality of employees that they need. There's nothing unethical about setting pay rates for where it works for the employer -- otherwise, some would go out of business. Just google some of the articles on both sides of raising the federal minimum wage -- Just google articles on what the DOL tried to do at the end of the last year with exempt minimum weekly wage.

    Employers ARE going to study compensation and do what works for their business, especially if they are losing money overal. Obviously when downsizing, one reason is to reduce employee costs. With benefits added in, a little more overtime might not cost as much as hiring a whole 'nother employee.

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    In employment law, things are pretty cut and dried. Employers are only legally required to comply with the letter of the law, not the intent of the law.

    In addition, if what your employer is doing did violate the letter of the law, your recourse would not be a civil suit but rather a wage claim filed with one of employment law's regulatory agencies - either your state or the federal DOL. And these entities definitely do not look at intent, they follow the law by the letter.

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    Also, if you are trying to ignore statutory laws, such as the ones I mentioned, you are left with Common Law, basically 1,000 years of court decisions. The key Common Law principal is Employment-At-Will. Meaning, if you do not like the working conditions, walk away. That is actually a pretty progressive principal, because it is what replaced Indentured Servitude and Chattel Slavery, which is what 80% of the US workforce was subject to in 1775.

    Now lets say you win a million dollars and hire an attorney to handle your class action suit. There is no mention of ethics in either statutory labor law or the preceding Common Law. So you no doubt can find an attorney to take your money, but with a complete absence of actual law or legal precedent, you will of course lose.

    At the risk of stating the obvious, labor law has been around a long time. Legally, EVERYTHING has been tried already. A lot. You need a new law to come up with a new argument. TrumpCare for example
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
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    Good discussion, all of you guys, thank you.

    In fact "market forces" have already come into play. They lost several long-term full-time employees after enacting this scheme, and now they are offering part-time employees "crisis pay" to try to fill the holes in the schedule!

    I only asked about this because I am one of those part-time guys, and every time I work a shift I get to hear all the full-time people complaining about what a raw deal they got. I just wondered if they had any recourse other than "quit and find another job" but I guess they don't.

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