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November 29, 2004
Employees participate in FLSA review process
BY Katherine Hinson
Uncertainty and hurt characterized the initial period following the late-summer announcement to employees affected by the changes in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). While federal law required these changes be made, it didn’t make it any easier for people to understand or accept it.
“It is definitely going to be a shift in processes and our culture in the college,” said Berky Abreu, office manager for women’s studies. “We are used to doing things one way, and now we are going to have to do them in a different way. Change brings challenges but also opportunities—if you just look for them.”
Changes in FLSA affected which employees can be paid on a salary basis and thus be considered exempt from overtime eligibility, and which must be paid hourly and made eligible for overtime.
The University committed to reviewing its compliance with FLSA by looking at every position affected by the changes. Additionally, a legal consultant, Boyd and Greene, was engaged to advise on the data collection and review the recommendations from each unit. The consultant also conducted training for approximately 70 Emory employees from all units who were involved in the review process.
“I first thought that [the process] was just a way for [Human Resources] to pacify us,” said Connie Copeland, office manager for physics. “But after the training, I was pleased with it.”
“The training was good—distilling the regulations down to understandable ideas, looking at the criteria and regulations,” said Denise Brubaker, office manager for political science. “After the training, I had confidence that they were on the right track to get an accurate assessment of the [affected] positions.”
Once the training was complete, online questionnaires were sent out to the affected employees to gather job-specific information. Abreu was not only a participant in the review process but also a recipient of the questionnaire.
“As an impacted employee and a participant, the process increased my sense of trust with the college administration,” she said.
Once the questionnaires were completed by both employees and their supervisors, each unit had the chance to look at the results, along with HR.
“Meeting with the committees, and [working] with HR and colleagues as they tried to apply the law to each position, I was impressed with the effort put forth to get positions classified correctly,” Copeland said.
Brubaker agreed. “I have been encouraged by the way it worked,” she said. “I think a lot of good will come of it, and I have been pleased with the way the groups—HR, affected employees and administrators—have worked together.”
When asked for her take on the process, Abreu replied, “The process has been enlightening and objective. Our voices have been heard. People will understand that it has been looked at objectively and the law was applied the way it was meant. We evaluated who we are, how we do things, our accountabilities, and responsibilities.”
Still, not all reviews of HR’s work were completely positive. Copeland said she wished the review could have been done in April. “HR just didn’t have a full grasp of what people actually do, and departments did not really understand the law,” she said.
Abreu said HR was committed to being fair and to understanding the unique balance of faculty, staff and students. However, she said the use of the Time and Attendance System (TAS) may be an issue for some affected employees. At the end of the day, she said using TAS “will change the way they work but not their value or their contribution.”
Brubaker said it’s important that every employee knows “that the review was fair and every effort was made to look fairly at each position and help it be exempt—if it was legally possible.”
She said she hopes HR learns from this and will “rely more on the academic units before they roll out policies and programs, [and] that this will lead to some way to continuously review positions, maybe at the time of the performance review or when the incumbent changes out.”
The review process is now wrapping up with administrators and/or committees in each unit reviewing the information collected and, based on the criteria presented in the training, recommending exempt or non-exempt status for each position. Recommendations are being reviewed by Boyd and Greene, and any revised job titles will be assigned.
Results will be discussed with senior management in early December and then will be communicated (in a manner determined by the individual units) to affected individuals and supervisors by mid-December.
Additional communications will go out to the Emory community with the overall results of the process.