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Must Employee Be Paid to Attend Meetings?

September 29, 1996

Q My son has worked for a retail chain for about nine months, about 20 hours per week. Every two or three weeks, he is required to attend a meeting, hosted by the regional sales manager or some other high-position manager, that usually lasts about an hour. He dresses as if he were working. He is not paid for these meetings, which are required, nor is he allowed any compensation time.

Can a company require employees to attend these meetings without paying?

--P.L.R., Costa Mesa


A It is difficult to answer your question without having information concerning your son's position and the manner in which he is compensated by his employer.

If your son is commissioned or salaried, it may be that his employer believes his commissions or salary are adequate compensation for attending mandatory meetings. In that case, there is nothing with the employer requiring him to attend meetings without giving him additional compensation, unless he would receive less than the minimum wage for all hours worked during the weeks in which a meeting occurs.

However, if your son is compensated on an hourly basis, he should he paid his hourly wage for any meetings his employer requires him to attend.

--Michael A. Hood

Employment law attorney

Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker

Vacation Pay and a Firing for Cause Q Is a 17-year employee who was fired after failing a urine test entitled to unused vacation pay?

--R.J., Los Angeles


A Yes, assuming the employee was eligible for vacation pay to begin with. Some companies limit benefits such as vacation pay to regular full-time employees. Temporary, part-time or seasonal employees may be excluded from eligibility for such benefits.

The age of the employee and the reason for termination are irrelevant. If the employee was eligible for vacation pay under company policy and had accrued unused vacation time at the time of termination, he or she must be paid the cash value of the unused vacation time.

--James J. McDonald Jr.

Attorney, Fisher & Phillips

Labor law instructor, UC Irvine

Compensation for Exempt Workers Q I understand that an employer is not required to pay overtime or compensatory time off to an exempt employee if an emergency arises that requires extra hours of work or even a full day's work on a weekend. But if an employer plans overtime work for salaried, exempt employees over a period of several weeks or even more than a month, would he be required to either pay the people or give them compensatory time off? If he is required to pay them, at what rate would they be paid--their regular straight-time hourly rate or something more or less?

--A.B., Anaheim


A Personnel who qualify as "exempt" are usually paid a salary for all hours worked, however few or many, in a workweek, and are ineligible for overtime compensation. Compensatory time off for an exempt employee can be determined by contract or policy and generally creates no problems for employees who are not covered under overtime pay requirements of state or federal wage laws.

These employees may be expected to work extra hours without additional compensation, but it also is not unusual for employers to informally provide exempt employees time off without loss of pay for personal reasons or emergencies.

--Elizabeth Winfree-Lydon

Senior staff consultant

Employers Group

'Stigma' of Being Laid Off Lessens Q I was recently laid off after working for a company for almost 16 years. I was in a management position and an officer of the company. I chose that option instead of relocating to the same position outside the Los Angeles area. It would have been a much longer commute, and I wasn't really happy with my assignment.

How are employers responding to applicants who have been laid off? Are they perceiving them, rightly or wrongly, as those individuals the company wanted to get rid of anyway? Or are they accepting it as a frequent reality in today's corporate environment and not considering it a negative factor?

When asked why I left my job, would it be OK to respond that I chose not to relocate when my office was closed down? Or should I say I was laid off and then explain the circumstances? How do employers look at an applicant who currently does not have a job?

--S.B., Los Angeles


A Because layoffs have become so common with corporate downsizing, restructuring and the closing of many plants and businesses, it is likely that employers are getting used to seeing many job applicants who have recently been laid off. Being laid off does not carry the stigma it used to, although some employers might still hold negative stereotypes about these people.

My advice is to be honest and open about your circumstances. One would hope that any potential employer would judge you on your work history, skills and accomplishments and not make a snap judgment based simply on the fact that you were recently laid off and are out of a job.

--Ron Riggio

Director, Kravis Leadership Institute

Claremont McKenna College

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