This Is How Lawsuits Begin…

I received a call from a friend the other day who asked me a question about the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). First I was surprised that he even knew what the FLSA was, most people don’t realize that the law that governs over time, independent contractors, etc is called FLSA. So my friend had a lot of questions about overtime and getting paid overtime on his commissions (all this is near and dear to my heart because I just finished an FLSA audit), after I recovered from the convulsions and ticks I started asking some questions.

The issue started with an email my friend received from his manager, telling him he was hourly and that meant he was expected to be here at 8:00 AM and therefore shouldn’t be clocking in any later than 8:00. The email rambled for a bit and then summed up the situation by saying that immediate action to correct this issue must take place or else he could face termination.

My friend admitted that sometimes he clocks in later then 8, such as at 8:04, or 8:03 or even (gasp!) 8:05! All joking aside, I asked if being a few minutes late adversely affected his fellow sales people.

He explained that the sales department doesn’t even start making calls until 9. From 8-9 they are expected to be writing up daily reports (from the day before).
It was the last line of the email that upset my friend. According to him, he has never been written up and no one has ever spoken to him about this. So what did my friend do? He decided to do some research into overtime pay…which led him to the FLSA. He has never received overtime pay and because his manager referred to him as hourly and he’s been clocking in, he now feels he is entitled to overtime.

So to recap the situation: A thoughtless email ticked one employee off a LOT, causing the employee to start poking around. It may result in a lawsuit or an investigation. I do not know all the details so I can’t say if his company is right or wrong on the overtime issue but I can say that an email is not the best place to give feedback. I think somebody didn’t want to deliver a tough message face to face so instead they sent a nasty email.

This is why you should train managers, not only on the law but also about how to give appropriate feedback. All you need is one mis-handled situation and now you have a pissed off employee with an ax to grind and an attorney for a brother-in-law. Doesn’t sound very appetizing huh? Maybe you want to take a second look at management training again…

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Melissa Fairman

Melissa Fairman is the author of the blog HR Remix and has five years experience working in HR. She's super awesome and has an MBA with an HR concentration from Baldwin Wallace College and a PHR certification from the HRCI institute. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter at @HRRemix.

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