Q. I work for a well-known local doctor. I don't want to lose my job, so I don't fight it when I'm paid less than I should be every week.
His wife, the office manager, corrects my time sheets weekly, saying I only work eight hours a day and deserve no overtime. When I initially protested, she pointed out that sometimes during the day we have few patients and I'm just waiting for the doctor or patients and not actively "working."
I sign my time sheets before she modifies them and so I have no independent record -- it would upset her if I asked for copies of them. I haven't worked less than 8.5 hours any day in the last six months. What can I do? Do I need to quit and find a new job?
A. The U.S. Department of Labor provides a free time sheet smartphone application that allows employees to track their work hours and calculate how much they're owed in straight wages and overtime. This app also allows them to keep track of bonuses, commissions, tips and holiday pay.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that employers keep accurate records of employees' hours. When organizations don't do this, the labor department presumes an employee's records may be accurate, particularly if the employee tracks her hours in real time on the department's smartphone app.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked during the workday, beginning the moment an employee engages in work tasks or activities "integral and indispensable" to work tasks. Because you need to remain available during the workday for your doctor and patients, you deserve payment for all your hours.
I suggest you start recording your real time, find a new job where the office manager pays fairly and present the labor department with your records.
Q. I just got fired for protesting my wages. Isn't this illegal? I called the company's personnel officer and told her I was being retaliated against. She said since I'd never bothered to put my issues in writing, I hadn't really complained and therefore no retaliation existed.
A. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an employee who orally complains that his employer's practices violate the Fair Labor Standards Act is protected from retaliatory firing.
In the case, Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation, Kasten claimed that he complained to his lead operator, the operations manager and human resources personnel that the location of the company's time clocks meant that employees weren't fairly paid for the time they spent putting on their gear at the beginning of their shifts and taking it off afterward.
Kasten alleged that he was disciplined and fired because he complained. His lawsuit made it to the Supreme Court. The company countered that it had fired Kasten because he refused to use company-provided time clocks. The company argued that Kasten couldn't claim retaliation, because the law protects only employees who "file" a written complaint.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kasten, stating that "filing" doesn't require a document. Their ruling explained that requiring employees to put complaints in writing might thwart the statute's protective purpose by discouraging complaints from less educated, illiterate or overworked employees. They added that an employee's complaint must be sufficiently clear and detailed for a reasonable employer to understand it.
Further, according to employment-attorney-turned-human resources-consultant-Richard Birdsall, spoken complaints about pay to either supervisors or co-workers are protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act as a "concerted activity" concerning workplace or conditions.
Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the Anchorage consulting firm The Growth Company. She can be reached at her company web site, www.thegrowthcompany.com.