An anonymous reader writes: I have a question on labor law for the Slashdot crowd. My circumstances should be similar enough to others that I'd like to hear how others handle it. I work for a small, privately held company. My employment contract states that I am a full-time employee, non-exempt, hourly. My company leases equipment to smaller companies where it does not make financial sense for them to outright buy their own. My division provides field service on this equipment, as well as on equipment owned by other companies. My division is small, with a couple dozen of us spread geographically across the U.S. Essentially, the job is to await a service call that the equipment is broken, get to the site as fast as possible (some close enough for driving, some require flying to, even by the same primary) and fix it. We each have our own geographical area of responsibility (the secondary is not called unless the primary is otherwise engaged). We have "normal" business hours, M-F, 8am-4:30pm. We work after hours and on weekends as required.
I have worked in this industry for almost 20 years, though not long at this company. In every other instance, I've been paid for 8 hours per day, plus overtime is paid if I go over 40 hours for the week (or over 8 in the day for companies that adhere to CA policies). This company does not. We have been instructed to leave our time sheets blank until a service event occurs, then fill it out. At the end of the week, we are to then go back and fill "non-service hours" so that we reach 40 hours for the week, which is what they now claim is all that they guarantee. If I do not receive a single service call for the week (unfortunately, this happens), I am paid the 40 hours.
The issue is what then happens when I do have a service event. My closest site is a 3-hour drive each direction. Coupled with 5 hours of labor (very common), the day ends up being 11 hours (not counting breaks or meals). So a week with just one service event would, elsewhere, show 43 hours (40 regular + 3 OT). This company counts it as 40 regular hours. The 3 extra hours are deducted from the "non-service hours" that they have us record to get up to 40. It's even more of an issue when I work 15-hr days W-F and they go back and deduct the 16hrs from M & T.
Effectively, they're making the determination on whether or not to pay after the fact. When I talked with the VP of HR about it, they claimed that I'm an "on-call employee" (contrary to what my employment contract states, and contrary to any written policy) and they don't have to pay me unless I'm actually at a job site. I asked if I called the home office at 8am, would they tell me that I was on duty that day. They said yes. I asked if I called back at 4:30pm and asked if I was on duty that day. They said yes. So you have to pay me for those hours worked. Depends on whether or not I did "productive" work (which they define as being on-site or traveling to/from). Can I drink? No. Can I go to the lake? No. Can I go see a movie? No. Can I work a second job? No. Do I have to keep a Go Bag so I can jump on a plane at a moment's notice? Yes.
Has anyone else run into this situation? This is the first time in 20 years that I've been in this situation, and all the other jobs were just like this one (right down to immediate supervisor being over 1000 miles away), but there's never been a dispute over pay. Am I just completely misunderstanding Federal labor law?
And, yes, I am seeing an attorney who specializes in this field. I'm just curious if anyone else here has ever run into this.