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October 25 , 2004
Employees upset, unsure about new FLSA regulations
BY Paige Parvin
Concern, confusion and frustration set the tone of an informal group discussion about the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Oct. 20. A dozen Emory employees came to the first of three brown bag lunches hosted by the staff concerns committee of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), which planned the gatherings as a forum for employees to air their concerns.
About 850 jobs at Emory are affected by recent changes to the FLSA, a federal regulation that mandates which kinds of jobs must be eligible for overtime pay. Of these positions, 86 percent are held by women.
Although the FLSA is intended to promote fairness by making sure employees are paid for all hours worked and paid overtime for work in excess of 40 hours per week, most of those at the lunch meeting were upset by the prospect of moving from a salaried position to being paid hourly. Many had received a survey from HR asking them to describe their work—part of the process of determining which jobs will remain exempt, or salaried, and which will become nonexempt.
Nonexempt positions will be required to report their hours through timesheets and electronic methods. HR is working with an outside consultant to help with its compliance efforts.
Several employees at the lunch expressed confusion about the classification process and how vacation and sick time will facto
cer into work hours.
“It’s demeaning,” said Loretta Anderson, administrative assistant in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies. “You can go through all the ‘D’ words—demeaning, demoralizing, degrading and depressing.”
“It just seems like a really inexact science to try and quantify what we do in such a short time,” added Joy Wasson, administrative assistant in the religion department.
Many said they are accustomed to working more than 40 hours a week when their jobs require it. But they also appreciate the flexibility and sense of professionalism afforded by a salaried position.
Stacey Paschal, administrative assistant in the Office of Governmental and Community Affairs, said, “I work overtime sometimes. I do it because it’s my job. I don’t complain and I don’t mind. But my hours are very flexible—I’ve never just worked exactly 8 to 5. I hate filling out a time sheet.”
Stuart Turner, production manager for University Publications and the only male employee at the lunch, was one of several attendees who said he is concerned that positions will be misunderstood, possibly undervalued and therefore compensated less because of time restrictions. As a staff member with a high level of responsibility who sometimes has to work unusual hours due to print schedules, he said, “I can’t say, on a Friday morning, I only have one hour to work today and then I have to go home.”
Susan Carini, executive director of University Publications and chair of PCSW’s staff concerns committee, said that to her knowledge no provision has been made for departments to receive additional funds so they can pay overtime.
Two more open brown bag lunches to discuss the FLSA will be held Nov. 10 and Dec. 8 in the Center for Women on the third floor of Cox Hall.