I overheard an interesting conversation this morning, or at least it was to an HR geek. I was in a medical office and heard several nurses talking about when they clock-in. The conversation went something like this:
Nurse 1 “Did you find out why I got in trouble?”
Nurse 2 “Yes, you did not leave early enough on Friday”
Nurse 1 “What?”
Nurse 2 “Yeah, apparently you clocked in too early several days and then did not clock out early enough on Friday to offset that extra time. So you got paid overtime and you are not supposed to. So don’t clock in before 7 am from now on.”
Nurse 1 “But I get here at 6:45.”
Nurse 2 “Well sit around and don’t do anything.”
Nurse 1 “That is just stupid.”
Some time passes and Nurse 3 starts talking to Nurse 1
Nurse 3 “Did she tell you what happened?”
Nurse 1 “Yes. I am not supposed to clock in when I get here. And if I do I am supposed to leave early on Friday.”
Nurse 3 “Well I would be happy to leave early on Friday.”
Nurse 1 “Yeah but now I am in trouble for 1 hour of overtime. What kind of doctor can’t afford 1 hour of overtime?”
Nurse 3 “Talk to HR. That is what we have an HR rep for, supposedly.”
Nurse 2 comes back into the mix. Says something I could not hear.
Nurse 1 says “Just tell her to take the time off. I don’t want it. I don’t want to be in trouble. Just have her scratch it out.”
They move out of earshot. I was tempted to follow them and hear more, but my time to leave had arrived.
Points on the discussion
What was wrong about this scenario? Here is my analysis:
- The administration had not made it clear what the rules were.
- They were punishing someone for breaking a rule they did not know.
- They had not explained the necessity of having overtime rules.
- If they had accepted Nurse 1’s appeal to remove the time from her timecard they would have broken the law by not compensating her for time actually worked.
The FLSA says employees have to be compensated for time actually worked whether or not that time was approved. As long as they were “suffered” to work they are do the money. The extra time worked can be offset by letting the employee leave earlier in order to keep their workweek under or right at 40 hours. But if an employer is going to make the workplace available to employees coming in before their actual shift works I would recommend a place where they can sit and relax before actually clocking in. I sincerely hope this office does not wipe out that time worked as the employee requested.
They do need to explain the economic reasons for controlling overtime. They need to explain to Nurse 1 why the doctor cannot afford 1 hour of overtime. Now not only do they have a possible wage and hour problem but also an employee relations problem.
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