More Employer Dirty Tricks To Avoid Paying Overtime: Changed Workweek

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An AOL Job reader asks:

My schedule is 14 days straight and 1 week off. As you can imagine our living is made on overtime. At the moment our workweek starts and ends as the same time as the pay week which is Monday-Sunday and we are paid on a by weekly basis. I was now informed that as of March we are starting our working week as Wednesday-Tuesday but the pay period will remain Sun-Mon in an attempt to cut overtime cost. So basically our 14 consecutive working days will have a "reset" in hours knocking us out of overtime pay when the pay period ends even as we are working 14 consecutive days. I feel this is not in compliance with the Fair Labor Act.

What a nasty trick to avoid paying overtime. While it may not sound bad to our readers, let's do the math.
Here's the original schedule:

M T W Th F Sa Su
Week 1: 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 = 56 hrs worked = 16 hrs OT
Week 2: 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 = 56 hrs worked = 16 hrs OT
Week 3: No work, no OT

Total time and a half overtime pay in three weeks is 32 hours. This repeats every 3 week cycle.

Now the new schedule:

W Th F Sa Su M T
Week 1: 0 0 0 0 8 8 8 = 24 hrs worked = 0 hrs OT
Week 2: 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 = 56 hrs worked = 16 hrs OT
Week 3: 8 8 8 8 0 0 0 = 32 hrs worked = 0 hrs OT

Total time and a half overtime pay in the same three weeks is 16 hours.

Nasty, nasty, nasty. And, I might add, I believe it's illegal. The regulations regarding overtime (29 CFR § 778.105) say this about your workweek:

Once the beginning time of an employee's workweek is established, it remains fixed regardless of the schedule of hours worked by him. The beginning of the workweek may be changed if the change is intended to be permanent and is not designed to evade the overtime requirements of the [Fair Labor Standards] Act.

What you are describing looks like a quite blatant system designed very specifically to evade the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law governing overtime pay.

If you have a union, then march over to your union rep and raise heck. But I'm assuming you don't have a union. Maybe now is a good time to start thinking about forming one. Unions protect you from this kind of nonsense.

If you don't have a union, then you can contact the Department of Labor to file a complaint against your employer. However, because the Fair Labor Standards Act is complex and has lots of loopholes, and because your state might also have laws addressing overtime and changing your workweek, I suggest you contact an employment lawyer in your state about your rights. You might have a claim for overtime against your employer or even a class action you could bring with your coworkers.

For more on dirty tricks employers use to get out of paying overtime, check out my column 10 Tricks Employers Use To Cheat Employees Out Of Overtime.


If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs.

Please note: Anything you write to me may be featured in one of my columns. I won't be able to respond individually to questions.
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