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No Claim for Extra Pay if Commute Is Lengthened

March 22, 1998

Q. I work for a large medical clinic that recently expanded. My employer has determined that there is no longer enough parking for employees and patients. Employees must park off-site and be shuttled to the clinic.

The employer has suggested that we arrive 30 minutes before our shifts begin. I assume we will also need 30 minutes to get back to our cars after work.

We are hourly employees who punch time clocks. Our attendance policy is very strict.

I feel I am being requested to be at work an extra hour a day without pay. Can my employer do this?

--C.S., Fountain Valley

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A. Even though the employer's action has made your commute more difficult, you probably do not have a claim for extra compensation.

There is not much difference between the situation you described and your employer moving the facility 10 miles farther from your home, increasing your commuting time.

When employers offer a company van for employees who commute from great distances, this is usually considered to be a benefit of working at the company. It doesn't justify additional compensation or an earlier clock-in time.

The employer would argue that you could have a friend or spouse drop you off at the front door without losing any time.

Instead of waiting for the shuttle, consider having employees take turns driving the others to the front door of the facility. At least that would save time for some employees.

You might consider doing some work while you're waiting for the shuttle and while you are on it. Perhaps you have literature or files to work on during that time. Explain to your boss that you would like to clock in earlier or clock out later than usual because of this extra work. The employer is required to pay you for work you perform.

In any event, it never hurts to ask. Your boss might be receptive to either increasing your salary or giving you some other consideration, especially if you are performing work while you're waiting or shuttling.

--Don D. Sessions

Employee rights attorney

Mission Viejo

New Manager Needs to Delegate

Q. I am a new department manager in a printing production facility. Since I began about six months ago, I have been putting in long days and coming in on weekends trying to keep up with the backlog of work. My boss knows about all the time I put in, and whenever he asks me to do something, I always say "yes" and add it to my "to do" list.

During my probationary performance review, my boss told me that the department's performance was below par and that I needed to get more output from my team. I told him how hard I was working, and he told me to delegate.

But some of the work I do seems too difficult for my team members. Most aren't very dedicated, and they avoid overtime work like the plague. Do you have any suggestions about what I should do?

--C.K., Riverside

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A. It sounds as if you are trying to carry too much of the load yourself.

Your supervisor believes that you need to give more of the workload and responsibility to your team members, and I tend to agree. You must allow your team members to take on greater responsibilities and share the load.

Research indicates that effective delegation of tasks and responsibilities can energize workers. It can also help in building greater commitment to the work group and the organization.

If you are unsure about how to effectively delegate the work, you might consult your supervisor or another seasoned manager whom you respect.

--Ron Riggio, director

Kravis Leadership Institute

Claremont McKenna College

Regulating Exempt Workers' Absences

Q. My job requires me to keep attendance records of exempt employees. I was instructed not to record anything when these employees take a half day of sick leave.

Does this mean that exempt employees can take as many half days of sick leave with pay as they like?

--S.W., Commerce

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A. By law, exempt employees are not to be docked for absences of less than a day for sickness or other reasons. For absences of a day or more, exempt employees may be required to use sick leave they have accrued.

Although exempt employees cannot be docked for half-day absences, this does not necessarily mean that they can take as many as they like. An employer still has a right to require regular attendance on the part of all employees--exempt as well as nonexempt.

If an employee is frequently absent and the absences are not part of a medical or other leave protected by law, the employee may be disciplined or terminated for erratic attendance.

--James J. McDonald Jr.

Attorney, Fisher & Phillips

Labor law instructor, UC Irvine

If you have a question about an on-the-job situation, please mail it to Shop Talk, Los Angeles Times, P.O. Box 2008, Costa Mesa, CA 92626; dictate it to (714) 966-7873; or e-mail it to shoptalk@latimes.com. Include your initials and hometown. The Shop Talk column is designed to answer questions of general interest. It should not be construed as legal advice.

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