“I dove into my new job head-first,” Lily continued. “I thought I knew everything I needed to know. Boy, was I wrong. I knew I would have a ton of new responsibilities, but I never expected the ones I got. And the employees knew more about them than I did!”
“What do you mean?”
“First of all, I thought paying everyone would be really easy. The salaried employees got salaries and everyone else was paid by the hour. But no, it’s so much more complicated than that. Some people can get overtime pay but some people can’t. Some people have to get overtime even if they’re not recording their hours correctly. Some people have to be paid even when they’re not working. It doesn’t make any sense!
“Then there are all the things I’d never had to think about before. Like the fact that we sometimes hire independent contractors to help us with store promotions. I was paying them completely wrong. It turns out some of them are contractors and some aren’t – but I have no idea how to figure out the difference.”
“No one explained all the rules to you?” I asked.
“It went right over my head,” she said. “There are so many rules, it’s impossible to keep them all straight. I can’t figure out who’s exempt from overtime pay and who isn’t. Or when a break is really a break. Or why I have to pay someone overtime when I didn’t authorize those hours.
“Take my coworker Jay. He’s a manager and he receives a salary. Last week there was a power outage and we had to close for a day. Jay was supposed to work that day, and even though he didn’t come in, I have to pay him!
“And one of my salespeople, Katie, is upset because I didn’t pay her while she was on break. I told her it’s because she wasn’t working. But she says since she still had to answer the phone, she was working. That means I have to pay her.
“And Will, another manager, stayed late the other night to help with a last-minute order. He thinks he should get overtime, even though he was supposed to be off the clock. The next day, he came in on time but there was nothing for him to do for two hours. He wants to be paid for that, too!
“If that all weren’t enough, Beth, my best troubleshooter, is talking about quitting. She’s upset because I wouldn’t pay her for the time it took her to go to a training session last week. Why should I pay her when she’s in her car, not working? Plus, she wants comp time instead of overtime for some extra hours she worked recently, but she doesn’t want to take the comp time until next month. How am I supposed to keep track of things like that?
“Now everyone’s going through old time sheets and paychecks to make sure I’ve paid them all correctly. And the people who didn’t get the money they think they should get are threatening to sue! I think my boss is ready to show me the door. He told me to figure out how to fix everything, but I have no idea how.
“I just don’t get all of these rules. Why should I have to pay people who aren’t working? Do I really have to pay all that overtime? Even when I didn’t authorize someone to work those extra hours?” Lily pushed her food away. “Maybe I should just let them fire me. I don’t know what I’m doing anyway. I’ll just run off to Tahiti and pretend this never happened.”
“I think I know how I can help you,” I told her, pulling a copy of the FLSA Compliance Guide out of my briefcase. “Don’t lose hope just yet.”