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WORKPLACE Q&A

Boss is wrong on start of workday

December 23, 2007|From Newsday

We open our bagel shop at 7 a.m. and require our counter help to be ready to work at that time. But the employees believe that as long as they walk in the door at 7 a.m., they're on time.

I feel they don't really get here until they are dressed and ready for work. I plan to tell them that we pay only by the quarter-hour. If they can't get here on time, they won't be able to start until 7:15. If they have a problem getting here by 7:15, they won't be allowed to start until 8 a.m. Then they'll probably complain that I'm cutting their hours.

I'm sure they'll feel I'm horrible and coldhearted, when all they have to do is show up on time and be ready for work.

Although you have good reason to be angry with your employees, be careful: Your strategies to curb tardiness sound illegal.

For one thing: Your definition of work is too narrow. When a job requires employees to change into a uniform, or even put on an apron, the time spent doing that is considered part of the workday.

"If it's a required part of work, then the time spent donning the outfit or uniform constitutes compensable time worked," said Irv Miljoner of the U.S. Labor Department.

And if the employees are on premises because you require them to be there, that's considered work too.

"The workday should begin when they walk in the door, before they put on their uniform," Miljoner said.

Also: Your plan winds up punishing the latecomers for more than a quarter-hour after 7:15.

That brings up another issue: rounding. If your employees start at 7:01 and you round up their start time to 7:15, then you have to round up at the end of the day to make sure you aren't shorting them for time worked. In other words: If their quitting time is 3 p.m. and they work until 3:01, you should round to 3:15.

"If the workers are being shorted time worked, then that's a violation of the hours-worked provisions" of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Miljoner said.

Perhaps you should consider scheduling workers to start at 6:45 so they are at the counter and ready at 7 a.m.

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