Ask Donna: Answers to AOL Jobs Reader Questions On Wages and Overtime

Focused businesswoman eating lunch as she is working at the office

AOL Jobs readers have LOTS of questions on wages and overtime. I thought I'd answer a couple questions today.

One reader asked:

I have a question pertaining to time. At my current employer, we are technically salaried but we clock in and out for time. Although our boss states it's to be able to calculate PTO, he takes minute for minute once we clock out if under 40 hours. If we are over 40 hours, we get PTO and not over-time. The PTO is minute for minute. Also, if we work through lunch, he will take the hour away stating he "has to". so basically our time card won't be a true reflection of our time worked because he always takes an hour for lunch whether you take it or not. Is this illegal? Should i contact the DOL?

Yes, you should probably contact the Department of Labor or an employment lawyer in your state because it sounds like your employer is blatantly violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. If you work through lunch, you should be paid for your work. If he is deducting for lunches whether or not you take them, you are probably owed some money.

On the PTO issue, if you take time off and are entitled to PTO, it doesn't count as time worked so he doesn't have to count it toward overtime. However, if you work over 40 hours in a week he can't pay it as PTO and avoid paying time and a half.

Your employer sounds like he's deliberately breaking the law (or maybe he's just an idiot). If he's found to be deliberately breaking the law, there are additional penalties for that. Go get him!

Another reader asked:

I am an LPN and I work for a ministry in Tennessee. They have demanded that we clock out at our designated time even tho we are not finished with our work. They want us to finish our work "off the clock". I would like to know if this is legal, and what can be done about it.

You don't say what you do for the ministry, so I have to say a big, "it depends." Religious organizations are usually not exempt from the law, but they might be. If you work for a religious school, residential care facility or hospital, it's almost certainly not exempt. Otherwise, the question will be whether the organization is covered as a whole, which means figuring out if they have an annual dollar volume of sales or receipts in the amount of $500,000 or more. Then there is the question of whether the organization or you are involved in "interstate commerce." It's complicated. You can go through the Department of Labor's checklist here.

If they have you on a time clock, I'm betting you're covered. They can't make you finish work off the clock. Period. They have to pay you for all hours worked, and overtime for all hours worked over 40 in any week.

For more on salary, overtime and wage issues, take a look at my columns on salaried workers and why they may be entitled to overtime, and working off the books.

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.