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Religious Organization Overtime Connundrum California

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  • Religious Organization Overtime Connundrum California

    We are a non-profit Buddhist organization looking for a solution for how to legally compensate our staff in some of our unique work situations. Being a religious organization means, in our case, that the line between our personal and professional lives mix.

    Take for example, an event where a very famous Buddhist teacher in on site to give a multi-day program that sometimes goes long into the night. We have a work position who's job is to coordinate such events and take care of the teachers needs. To do the job well, they would need to attend the majority of the event. This has, and could mean more than 8 hours in a day, which would incur overtime pay. We cannot afford overtime pay generally, so we actually do not require our staff to work more than 7 hours a day (35 a week).

    Now, due to the nature of our staff, many of us would be very willing, even excited to volunteer any extra time over 8 hours to be able to participate in this event and fulfill their "official" duties at the same.

    As an employer and religious peer, we want to support them in their devotion and personal religious practice, but we also don't want to deny them pay or exhaust them. Without legally being able to offer "comp time" in CA we are in a bind.

    The difficulty here is we would like to allow them to rest following such a "volunteered" event, in which they may have done many things for our organization.

    So if they would like to only officially claim 40 work hours for that week, and we offer to let them rest, working 20 hours the next, then they do not get compensated fairly for their work. They are missing 10 hours that we, in a normal pay period, would be paying them for. (35 hours in a normal work week, 70 in a pay period).

    One possible solution we've come up with is to offer "bonuses" to make up these short falls in these rare cases. To this employee we would offer them the equivalent of 10hrs of pay as an earned bonus.

    Would this be legal to do considering the situation I outlined above? And, could you suggest other solutions to such a problem?

    Thank you so much for your consideration again!

  • #2
    You need to look at both federal and CA law. Federal law has some fairly clear guidance in this area. To loosely paraphrase some of the federal guidance, Bob is an accountant at a non-profit museum. Bob can legally volunteer his time as a docent (for example) since it is not his normal job, but cannot legally under federal law waive his hours worked as an accountant.

    I have not heard what CA's opinion on this is, but I do know that CA (or all other states) have no authority over FLSA or other federal law requirements. At most CA can waive CA law.

    Past that, what rules I have heard in this general area use non-religious institutions in their examples. I know of some clergy specific exceptions, but none related to overtime per se.

    That is about as far as I can take you.
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
    Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


    • #3
      Hi Daw,

      Thank you again for your help. Its surprising that anyone can operate a fully legal business at all even with the best of intentions. The codes are so complex!

      I am hearing that an employee can't legally waive hours performing duties that are in their normal job description even if they wanted to. That pretty much dissolves my scheme doesn't it?

      At this point the only thing I can see that might work is something I read in the CA HR handbook about "make-up time". It would appear that while "comp-time" is not legal, meaning I cannot give extra time off later for extra work now, but that make up time is, meaning I can give time off now in exchange for extra work later, under the right circumstances.

      If documented as the HR guide shows, do you think this would work if the employee and management planned ahead to give extra time off before and event? Then they could have pre-agree'd to extra hours, and already been given their off time.

      It's messy, but it seems to comply with the letter of the law. What do you think?


      • #4
        CA law effects CA rules only. I am familar with the CA "make up" time rules, and it effects CA daily overtime only, and only then if the related rules are followed. The CA "make up" time rule has no effect what-so-ever on the federal overtime rule (hours past 40 in the work week).

        Overtime Pay May Not Be Waived: The overtime requirement may not be waived by agreement between the employer and employees. An agreement that only 8 hours a day or only 40 hours a week will be counted as working time also fails the test of FLSA compliance. An announcement by the employer that no overtime work will be permitted, or that overtime work will not be paid for unless authorized in advance, also will not impair the employee's right to compensation for compensable overtime hours that are worked.
        "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
        Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


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