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Blustery Guys Need Some Rules of Order

ALSO: * Who's On Overtime, Who Isn't?

August 06, 2000

Q I am working on a project where most of the decision makers are male. I've noticed that during a meeting, the women don't really speak up about anything other than trivial issues.

Recently, I've had to speak up and be assertive on issues involving my department. The men speak with a loud voice and fight for talk time.

When I have been assertive and raised my voice to work out an issue, I've been told to "calm down." My boss has told me that some people have felt I've been too aggressive and to tone it down.

I am not a feminist, but how can my assertiveness be different from a man's when I stick to the facts? Why is it OK for a group of men to raise their voices to have a "healthy" conversation but I am "too aggressive"?

I seem to have two options: keep my mouth shut and let the men make the decisions for a department I am responsible for, or continue to be assertive and risk being saddled with a reputation for being difficult to work with. Is there an option C?

--A.C., Burbank


A There is an obvious (and sexist) double standard operating in these meetings.

It is important that you voice your concerns to your boss. It also is important that you continue to assert your views and opinions in these meetings. But these sessions are not being run very effectively if participants are trying to shout down one another and fighting for speaking time.

I suggest that you try to implement some procedural guidelines for conducting these meetings.

Your most immediate concern is being heard, so the guidelines should include having only one person speak at a time. There also should be some system for determining speaking order and for ensuring that everyone gets heard.

The group probably would benefit from looking at all aspects of running a meeting. There are dozens of books on the subject, many offering step-by-step guidelines and suggestions for running meetings, including topics such as advance preparation, rules of order, decision-making procedures and follow-up.

I believe that you, and the entire group, would benefit by learning how to run these meetings more fairly, more efficiently and more productively.

--Ron Riggio, director

Kravis Leadership Institute

Claremont McKenna College

Who Gets Overtime, and Who Doesn't?

Q I work as a designer in an architectural firm with eight employees. We are not paid overtime and have been told that our work week is 45 hours, not 40 hours.

If we work more than 45 hours in a week we are granted comp time. Is this legal under the new California overtime laws?

--S.M., Los Angeles


A The answer to your question depends on whether your work as a designer makes you an executive, administrative or professional employee who would therefore be exempt from state and federal overtime requirements.

Your job duties are the critical factor. In general, exempt employees perform nonmanual office work that regularly requires them to exercise independent judgment and discretion. Under California law, employees must spend more than half their working hours on exempt activities. If not, the employees should be paid hourly wages, and they are entitled to overtime premiums after eight hours in a workday and after 40 hours in a workweek.

If you were correctly classified as exempt, you can be required to work more than 40 hours in a workweek without extra compensation. Your employer can also give exempt employees compensatory time off after 40 hours as an additional benefit without violating the law.

If you were misclassified as exempt, your employer's overtime policies would be illegal, and you would be entitled to overtime premiums after eight hours of work in a day or 40 hours of work in a week.

--Joseph L. Paller Jr.

Union, employee attorney

Gilbert & Sackman

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 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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