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  • Texas-Several issues with institution Texas Texas Tennessee Texas Texas

    Good day.

    I suppose this would be the best forum to ask this question, since I don’t know where else to direct my inquiry. A little bit of background information. I work for a medical center in North Texas, and just to protect my privacy, I won’t divulge much more than that in regards to location or profession. What I can say is the following:
    I work full time, with benefits, forty hours per/week.
    I am non-exempt with regards to employee status. This is confirmed by my superior.
    Our payment cycles work on a biweekly schedule, like is common across many institutions.
    With regards to overtime and federal labor laws, I am considered non exempt since I make salary per hour.

    The institute I work for implements a paid time off (PTO) system, with a point-merit system for offenses. Basically, all sick days, vacation days and the like have been eliminated and replaced with a system where employees accumulate PTO per two weeks of work. For example, a first year employee earns six hours of paid time off for every two weeks of solid work done. Different levels of seniority accumulate different amounts of PTO time. This system is intended to replace sick days and vacations days, supposedly allowing employees to use PTO in a flexible form, for whatever need, when the need arises.

    The point-merit system comes into play when an employee does not report for work for whatever reasons. This also includes several workplace violations. For example, if you are sick and call in ill, you are given a penalty point; if you ask for a particular day off and are denied and then call in “unavailable” you are given a higher level of penalty points; if you clock in too early or too late, or do not clock out for lunch, you are penalized with points. Some departments have different rules governing smaller violations, but generally, this system is observed throughout the entire institution. Different levels of accumulated points lead to different forms of corrective measures, including letters of reprimand and consoling. At ten points accumulated, you are terminated from the post. Points last for one year, and after a year’s time, those points disappear. For example, of you call in sick in August, the point you get for that violation stays in existence until August of the following year.

    To use PTO, you are expected to advise your supervisor at least two weeks beforehand. This is to allow the department a chance to see if you may or may not use the requested time off. In a sense, it permits them to see if other employees are available to cover your absence and depending on that or other factors they authorize or reject the requested time off.

    The following are my observations from personal experience and events that I know have happened to coworkers (things I have seen firsthand). I do not know just how…fair…some of these things truly are. They may be completely within the law, they may be straddling the fence it or just outright breaking some rule somewhere. I do not know which is why I am asking. So please excuse my ignorance.

    First, PTO is designed to cover for vacation time and sick days. It is a substitute. And the administration must approve time off use, generally with two-weeks prior notice. I understand this. But yet, when people call in sick, something that most people do not program in anticipation, they not only lose PTO for the day they are out, they are also penalized a certain amount on the point merit system. Isn’t this a double penalty for being ill? I can understand losing a day of PTO, that is what it is there for acting as sick days to use when needed, but also being given a point that puts you a bit closer to job termination seems a bit unfair to me. Granted supervisors can, and many times, they do work with workers to help salvage a situation, but this situation is the basic ground rule.

    Second, I know this is being done since it occurred to me and a fellow employee. I was told a few months ago that that for an upcoming federal holiday, I would have to cover that holiday because I did not have enough accumulated PTO to cover my taking the day off, and if I did not cover that day I would lose a day of pay. I did not argue the point at the time. My supervisor then informed me that if I had accumulated enough PTO for the next federal holiday after that, I would have the day off. It left me thinking what having accumulated PTO had to do with having a federally mandated holiday off? Afterwards, I was a bit confused and began looking into. Apparently, and I do say apparently because this is what it seems to be, when an employee is taking a mandated federal holiday off, they are docked a sick day. That day is taken from their PTO pool. This is the reason I was not given the day off, and it is the reason given to me by my supervisor. Now, I found out afterwards that if you do not work on a federal holiday and have no PTO, you are docked a day’s pay. I can understand being docked a day’s pay on regular, non-federal holidays if you don’t have any accumulated PTO, but on a federally mandated holiday? I could be speaking out of ignorance, but I thought on those days you were paid AND had the day off. At the very least, I didn’t think you would be docked a sick day for being out on a federal holiday, even if you were not paid.

    Third, if you do work on a holiday, you do not accumulate hours towards your PTO. I am currently looking into this, and I just mention it in passing. I may be wrong on this, so I am not writing this point down as a certainty. I do not even know if this would be a violation even if true.

    Finally, in my line of work overtime can be a sudden necessity, but over time is highly restricted. Our department has a zero tolerance policy for overtime. In cases when workers do go over, they are either required to burn PTO in the amount of time they went over for the day or week, and in some cases, corrections to the time are made the following week. If PTO is not available, then the employee takes penalty points. Now, I could be mistaken, but I thought all corrections to overtime had to be made in the week the occurrence happened, not the following week, correct? And, I do not even know if it is possible, but should employees be made to use their PTO to cover over time just to avoid being penalized? It can take even a senior staff member over a week to accumulate one day’s worth of PTO, and you can just lose it like that for a little bit of overtime.

    Anyway, I am probably worrying about nothing. But, I am ignorant when it comes to the law and I am concerned since some of these rules are of such a design that I have never seen anything similar anywhere else before. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

  • #2
    Is there a question in there?

    That's a lovely story, and you tell it so well!

    We can deal with legal here, but not necessarily fair. That's why it's called Labor LAW talk.

    What you have described is a very elaborate scenario to institute a paid time off plan, I believe. Since the federal government has no rules about paid time off, and the State of Texas requires employers to only follow their written policies, I think there is no hunt in which you can put a dog.

    If I'm missing something, please let me know.


    • #3
      FYI, unless you work for the Federal government, there is no such thing as a Federally mandated holiday. There are NO holidays which a private employer is required to give you off, and there are only two, possibly three (the state website is contradictory) states, none of them Texas, where the law requires that you be paid any kind of premium for working on the holiday. (And even in the exception states, the requirement is only for certain holidays and certain industries.) As far as the Federal government is concerned, and 47 states including Texas, a holiday, Federal or not, is just another work day to the general work force. If the employer chooses to provide it off, paid or unpaid, that's entirely up to them, but the law is not going to dictate to the employer how they pay the employee or what policies they may and may not have, beyond the same laws that apply to any other day of the year.
      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.


      • #4
        It is legal for an employer not to pay a non-exempt employee for being away from work on a federally mandated holiday. If an employee wants payment for those days, it is legal for an employer to require the use of PTO to cover that day.

        It is illegal for an employer to convert worked hours to PTO in order to avoid the payment of overtime. An employer is allowed to set a zero tolerance policy for overtime, and discipline/suspend/terminate anyone who violates the policy. But if the time is worked, it must be paid. Any employee who feels that his paycheck is wrong and has attempted to get it corrected with no success can file a wage claim with the DOL.


        • #5
          Thank you

          These answers describe what I needed to know. Thank you! Have a great day!


          • #6
            Paid time off is how you are paid when you are off (either scheduled or unscheduled). Payment of time has nothing to do with attendance issues.

            What your company has instituted is fairly common, both the paid time off bank (encompassing sick, vacation and holidays) and points for attendance infractions.

            As a non-exempt employee you only have to be paid for time actually worked. The company can legally set whatever requirements it likes for accrual of and use of paid time off.


            • #7
              Agree - the employer sets the rules re the use of PTO & attendance infractions.
              Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

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              • #8
                While your employer can not convert OT into PTO, they can adjust your schedule so that you don't actual earn OT or if you do, your paycheck stays the same. Say you are paid biweekly. During week one, you work 2 hours late one night. Your employer can send you home 2 hours early so other day that week so your total hours for the week do not exceed 40. OR the following week they could schedule you for 3 fewer hours so that in effect, the time and a half from the previous week "makes up" for the 3 shorted hours the following. It is also legal to require the use of PTO to offset the OT as PTO does not count as hours worked for OT purposes.
                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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