Irony alert: Employment enforcement agency broke employment law

posted at 1:35 pm on March 31, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

I’d put this one only slightly behind the SEIU striking itself last week, but only because we don’t have video of it.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has violated the same labor standards it enforces in the private sector, according to an arbitrator’s ruling:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, responsible for ensuring that the nation’s workers are treated fairly, has itself willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act on a nationwide basis with its own employees, an arbitrator has ruled.

The agency’s practice of offering compensatory time off to its employees rather than overtime pay amounted to “forced volunteering” and was a knowing violation of the law, according to the ruling.

“The case before me, in my view, demonstrates action that went beyond mere negligence,” arbitrator Steven M. Wolf wrote in a decision released last week.

You know whose fault this will be, don’t you?

EEOC and union officials have expressed hope that the agency will fare better under the Obama administration than it did during the eight years of George W. Bush’s tenure as president, when hiring was often at a standstill.

Speaking as someone who managed large staffs for more than fifteen years, I have to agree with the notion that “comp time” is largely an illusion.  I’ve never heard of anyone offering it to hourly employees, however.  The regulations regarding compensation for non-salaried individuals vary somewhat between states, but I don’t think any state allows hourly workers to work without direct compensation for their time, including especially overtime.

Unfortunately, the Washington Post report doesn’t specify whether the employees were salaried or hourly.  Salaried employees usually work OT on a fairly regular basis without compensation, as they are tasked with responsibilities that usually involve supervision or management.  In fact, salaried employees don’t get paid for overtime at all; to do so would require the employer to recast them as hourly employees.  If the EEOC employees were salaried, then I’m curious how they could demand overtime; if they’re hourly, as I assume they are, I’d wonder how management got away with it for as long as they did.

Maybe the EEOC needs less to do, and fewer regulations to enforce.  If management wanted to save money, they could start by suggesting that Congress start paring down the regulatory burden on employers, including the EEOC itself.


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Sacrifice for thee, but not for me.

UltimateBob on March 31, 2009 at 1:37 PM

Do As I Say Not As I Do
Still waiting for the latin version that we can hang around all the Dems in power.

Christian Conservative on March 31, 2009 at 1:39 PM

It’s pretty well known within the government that the EEOC has one of the worst relationships with its unions of any agency. I have to admit: That’s always made me chuckle.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on March 31, 2009 at 1:40 PM

Maybe the EEOC needs less to do

Maybe the EEOC should be burned at the stake for being the unconstitutional horror that it is.

LimeyGeek on March 31, 2009 at 1:40 PM

The agency’s practice of offering compensatory time off to its employees rather than overtime pay amounted to “forced volunteering” and was a knowing violation of the law, according to the ruling.

Absent a revolution, Americans better get used to this term.

OhEssYouCowboys on March 31, 2009 at 1:40 PM

In fact, salaried employees don’t get paid for overtime at all; to do so would require the employer to recast them as hourly employees.

I know of one Federal agency who pays overtime to some of their salaried employees – I don’t know if this is general Federal policy. Welcome to government work…

Realist on March 31, 2009 at 1:41 PM

EEOC and union officials have expressed hope that the agency will fare better under the Obama administration than it did during the eight years of George W. Bush’s tenure as president, when hiring was often at a standstill.

Because what we really need more of is government employees.

Morons.

Bishop on March 31, 2009 at 1:41 PM

They need more employees to make sure the current employees are doing their jobs properly?

That makes no sense.

Exactly.

lorien1973 on March 31, 2009 at 1:42 PM

Absent a revolution, Americans better get used to this term.

OhEssYouCowboys on March 31, 2009 at 1:40 PM

Ah, but given the way things appear to be going, will we be absent a revolution for much longer?

Rusty Bill on March 31, 2009 at 1:43 PM

Christian Conservative

Do as I say while I do as I want!–Obama

maverick muse on March 31, 2009 at 1:43 PM

Ah, but given the way things appear to be going, will we be absent a revolution for much longer?

Rusty Bill on March 31, 2009 at 1:43 PM

I fear that America will simply slide into the dark abyss. A good example is what happened in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. Police and National Guard forces confiscated guns from the homes of law-abiding citizens … and the law-abiding citizens relented.

OhEssYouCowboys on March 31, 2009 at 1:46 PM

Hey EEOC employees, don’t like it, get a different job.

WashJeff on March 31, 2009 at 1:46 PM

Americans better get used to this term.

That ain’t happening.

No jobs. Inflation. Depression. No rights.

Anyone saying that “we deserve this” deserves what they bring down onto themselves. Those of us working hard to find productive work, who’ve always kept our nose to the grind stone, paying our full taxes certainly don’t deserve Obama! It is by the sweat of OUR brows that he bloodies us at every turn while he’s riding high on his ass hog.

I hope to God that Obama fails at the G20 Summit to get what he’s asking for, more abuse of power!

maverick muse on March 31, 2009 at 1:50 PM

Some years back, the EEOC and the immigration offices in Santa Ana, Ca. were raided and dozens of illegal immigrants were rounded up.
This was after they were fining companies for not having the proper information on file concerning their employees.
There excuse? They said they took the information given to them and assumed it was correct, because to question it would have been racist…funny, that excuse didn’t work for the public workplace.

right2bright on March 31, 2009 at 1:51 PM

They seriously blamed this on Bush? What is wrong with these people? Are they brain damaged?

petunia on March 31, 2009 at 1:53 PM

I know of one Federal agency who pays overtime to some of their salaried employees – I don’t know if this is general Federal policy. Welcome to government work…

Realist on March 31, 2009 at 1:41 PM

Under labor laws, salaried can get overtime. They changed that many years ago. Too many companies were placing people on “salaries” then forcing them to work many more hours.
I think the standard is something like 45 hours in a week, anything more that is demanded is paid out in overtime, for all time over 40 hours, retro-active.

right2bright on March 31, 2009 at 1:54 PM

In fact, salaried employees don’t get paid for overtime at all; to do so would require the employer to recast them as hourly employees.

Better check the Regs. Ed, this was changed, as I had posted above, many years ago.

right2bright on March 31, 2009 at 1:55 PM

petunia on March 31, 2009 at 1:53 PM

Yes. Still, psychologically incapable of accepting responsibility hits the mark as well.

maverick muse on March 31, 2009 at 1:56 PM

However, Section 13(a)(1) of the FLSA provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay for employees employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees. Section 13(a)(1) and Section 13(a)(17) also exempt certain computer employees. To qualify for exemption, employees generally must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week. Job titles do not determine exempt status. In order for an exemption to apply, an employee’s specific job duties and salary must meet all the requirements of the Department’s regulations.

right2bright on March 31, 2009 at 2:01 PM

Maybe the EEOC needs less to do, and fewer regulations to enforce. If management wanted to save money, they could start by suggesting that Congress start paring down the regulatory burden on employers, including the EEOC itself.

Fat chance of this happening under an administration that now runs “Government Motors” and wants to have its hooks into everything from employee compensation to health care. This gives new impact from the fearful statement, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help you.” Yikes!!

College Prof on March 31, 2009 at 2:04 PM

Forced volunteering is a violation of the law!? Barry, you got some ‘splaining to do!

Grafted on March 31, 2009 at 2:06 PM

Anyone saying that “we deserve this” deserves what they bring down onto themselves. Those of us working hard to find productive work, who’ve always kept our nose to the grind stone, paying our full taxes certainly don’t deserve Obama! It is by the sweat of OUR brows that he bloodies us at every turn while he’s riding high on his ass hog.

I hope to God that Obama fails at the G20 Summit to get what he’s asking for, more abuse of power!

maverick muse on March 31, 2009 at 1:50 PM

What about those that didn’t vote for this bloke? You think they deserve it? What about those that were too young to vote? You think they deserve it? (and they are the most persecuted under this system. I pity the rising generations.)

There will be a revolution in at least 20 years, only because of the fact that the younger generation will have to fight to have any sort of inheritance for their own children.

Chaz706 on March 31, 2009 at 2:10 PM

There is an employment status of “Salaried, Non-Exempt” in which there is compensation for extra hours worked, though usually at the standard rate, not time and a half.

Wine_N_Dine on March 31, 2009 at 2:11 PM

Maybe the EEOC needs less to do

Maybe the EEOC should be burned at the stake for being the unconstitutional horror that it is.

LimeyGeek on March 31, 2009 at 1:40 PM

+ 1

warbaby on March 31, 2009 at 2:18 PM

Do As I Say Not As I Do
Still waiting for the latin version that we can hang around all the Dems in power.

“Fac quod dico, non quod facio”

Rocks on March 31, 2009 at 2:22 PM

“Comp time” is horse manure.

So is paid sick leave and personal days.

Open your own business and see exactly how much of any of that you get.

drjohn on March 31, 2009 at 2:25 PM

Forced Volunteering sounds a little bit like…”Slavery”.

PappaMac on March 31, 2009 at 2:33 PM

Under labor laws, salaried can get overtime. They changed that many years ago. Too many companies were placing people on “salaries” then forcing them to work many more hours.
I think the standard is something like 45 hours in a week, anything more that is demanded is paid out in overtime, for all time over 40 hours, retro-active.

right2bright on March 31, 2009 at 1:54 PM

You’re correct right, anything over 45 hours in a week according to EEOC regulations an employee is entitled to overtime pay regardless if they are hourly our salary. Each state varies like in California (of course) anyone working over 8-hours in a 24-hour period is entitled to time-and-a-half pay, Saturday’s all day is time-and-a-half, and Sunday’s are double-time pay.

However, as a salaried employee myself there are times when I have several projects due at one time and so it requires me to put in a couple of hours overtime per day or work on Saturday in order to meet my deadlines if other issues have come up that put me behind.

Regardless if I work more than 45 hours in a week I have never demanded overtime pay, the company pays me a nice salary to begin with and if I need to get in late or leave early from work one day for say a doctor’s appointments, etc I don’t have to use PTO as my extra hours make up the difference and I personally like that kind of flexibility.

However, as an interesting side note that goes to the salaried vs. hourly employee issue, when our company shut down our Colorado operation the VP/GM from that location re-located to our Arizona facility and him being a major micro-manager (he had a bad reputation among the Colorado employees) I was concerned about how he would deal with me sometimes getting in late or leaving early. Well about six months after his transfer I got my answer. Apparently he wasn’t pleased with the fact I would sometimes get in late or leave early, and I stress the word sometimes, it was only on occasion I would do so.

Anyway, he calls me into his office to accuse me of not putting in my minimum 40-hours per week, which I calmly explained to him I most certainly had been and there are times I stay late and come in on Saturday depending on my deadlines and workload. Previous to him coming to AZ the only thing corporate was interested in was if I was making my project deadlines, which I always have during my 10 years of employment with this company, it only became an issue when the new VP/GM arrived.

Apparently his beef with me didn’t have so much to do with my coming in late but instead leaving early, you see I eat my lunch at my desk 99% of the time and rarely go out to eat, when I do go out to eat I get something to go and eat at my desk. So since I ate at my desk and continued to do my work I would leave at 4:00 pm instead of 4:30, but the new VP/GM demanded I take lunch and stay until 4:30 and I responded that I would, but if I am being required to take a lunch then I will take a lunch undisturbed from any work or work requests. To him (and probably others) my insistence on not being disturbed during my mandatory lunch may seem petty, however in my opinion if I am being required to take a lunch that will require me to stay at work until 4:30 pm (and remember I’m a salaried employee, not an hourly employee) then in my opinion my lunch should be my time, and in fact it is a requirement in the Fair Labor Act that if an employee is required to take a lunch then they are not to be disturbed during that designated time.

His response was “well what kind of attitude is that to take” to which I told him it’s the exact same attitude he is taking with me. If he chooses to treat me as an hourly employee then I will act as one, however if he chose to treat me as the salaried employee that I am and as someone that has proven over the last 10 years to be responsible with my work time and I complete my assigned projects/assigned job duties diligently then why am I being required to take a 30 minute lunch and stay until 4:30 when I’m a salaried employee?

Bottom line is I told him he can’t have his cake and eat it too, either he doesn’t require me to take a lunch (which according to our employee handbook salaried employees are not required to) or I take my lunch undisturbed as is required by the Federal Fair Labor Act, then I threw a copy of the specific section of the Fair Labor Act as well as a copy of the section in our employee handbook, he has since not said a word when I leave at 4:00!

Liberty or Death on March 31, 2009 at 2:34 PM

Ed: I work for the University of California and am not salaried. We’re offered the option of paid overtime or comp time and have to sign an agreement stating which we prefer. We track comp time accrual and usage on our time sheets. Works fine for me: I’d rather use the comp time for doctor appointments, etc. than use my vacation.

Kalifornia Kafir on March 31, 2009 at 2:34 PM

nOT A SPIRIT OF VOLUNTEERISM AT THE eeoc? Are they going to audit the time clocks when the national “volunteering” kicks into overdrive?

seven on March 31, 2009 at 2:36 PM

In fact, salaried employees don’t get paid for overtime at all; to do so would require the employer to recast them as hourly employees.

That is incorrect. I don’t know legalities but when I worked I was salaried but because I supervised union employees working shift work I got paid overtime at time and half my pro-rated salary per hour. We were in a unique position so I’m not sure how the legal justification was made but we were definitely salaried and not hourly. As far as I know it’s still that way.

Oldnuke on March 31, 2009 at 2:45 PM

Yawn… this is NO surprise. Its the gubmint. I guarantee that putting govt in front of anything makes that thing the opposite.

Govt worker = Shovel/pencil holder
Govt protection = Loss of property/rights
Govt oversight = Buffet for crooks

It goes on for infinity. Lets extrapolate to the latest proposals:

Govt bailout = Buy into failure (and ride it on down)
Govt Health care = Neither healthy or caring
Govt Education = Useless crap that doesnt help anyone

bigskinny on March 31, 2009 at 2:50 PM

Congress is like the guy next door that screws your wife while you’re at work and then gets pissed off when he sees somebody kick your dog.

coldshot on March 31, 2009 at 3:00 PM

“Forced volunteering” reminds me of one day during Army training when we had “mandatory fun.”

Seriously, though, quit whining! I’m sorry your government job is so hard.

cackcon on March 31, 2009 at 3:02 PM

Please disregard my prior post. I somehow managed to place it in the wrong thread. I guess my multitasking skills are not very good.

coldshot on March 31, 2009 at 3:14 PM

The PO has long tried to get this written into the (frakkin’) labor contracts. I love the idea in theory, can’t comprehend how it’s illegal. However, in practice? When you stay permanently short-staffed, you’d never be able to take the time. Our proposals have always made it a choice (there’s that awful divisive word again). I’d LOVE to be able to do half and half. Still get a little OT pay, but get some time off too. Not gonna happen though.

bikermailman on March 31, 2009 at 3:24 PM

Oldnuke on March 31, 2009 at 2:45 PM

You may not have been in that unique a situation. Technically, as a full-time employee, I receive a salary, based on 40 hours per week, then the same time and a half based on the hourly.

bikermailman on March 31, 2009 at 3:26 PM

hmm….my last job did that. Made us take time off so we didnt get overtime.

becki51758 on March 31, 2009 at 3:26 PM

Ed,

I’m a software support engineer for , and am paid hourly. (Normal week = 40 hours.) My company often ‘strongly encourages’ comp time rather than OT. I’ve plenty of friends in the industry seeing the same. So it’s not as rare as you might think.

I don’t know what the laws are re your statement, “I don’t think any state allows hourly workers to work without direct compensation for their time, including especially overtime.” But I certainly know what the ‘strongly encouraged’ realities are.

Just sayin’.

chautauqua on March 31, 2009 at 3:50 PM

Oops – that ‘for’ was “for a great big company” – not sure why it vanished like that.

chautauqua on March 31, 2009 at 3:51 PM

Another irony story:

When I worked in court years ago I saw a case where a transgendered person was suing “her” employer for refusing to treat her like a woman and generally harassing her. She was very far along in the process and did look female.

The employer? The ACLU!!

PattyJ on March 31, 2009 at 3:58 PM

bikermailman on March 31, 2009 at 3:26 PM

Unique within our company. Other salaried employees even at the same location were not compensated for overtime.

Oldnuke on March 31, 2009 at 3:58 PM

As an hourly wage federal employee for twenty two years (Air National Guard full time), I earned one for one comp time for each hour worked overtime. No overtime pay, just comp. If I worked one hour late, I’d get one hour I got to use later but within the year earned.

Big John on March 31, 2009 at 4:06 PM

Maybe the EEOC should be burned at the stake for being the unconstitutional horror that it is.

LimeyGeek on March 31, 2009 at 1:40 PM

Could you elaborate on why this is? Anyone else can feel free to help.

Proud Rino on March 31, 2009 at 4:09 PM

Instead of ruminating and conjecture, look at the rules for Federal employees:

http://www.opm.gov/oca/pay/HTML/COMP.HTM

slp on March 31, 2009 at 5:03 PM

Employment enforcement agency broke employment law

Next you’ll be telling us that union employees are picketing the union.

jgapinoy on March 31, 2009 at 9:43 PM