Carolyn W. is an exempt, salaried therapist at a San Francisco-based social service agency. She typically works 50 to 55 hours weeks including evening and weekend hours to meet the needs of her patients.
Last week, Carolyn (whose name has been changed to protect her identity) says she left work nearly two hours early after completing more than a days’ worth of charting and patient visits. Not to mention, it was the eve of the Fourth of July holiday and she wanted to get a head start on the I-80, pre-holiday traffic. Plus she’d worked 46 hours between Monday and Wednesday. She figured leaving a couple of hours early was harmless. But to her dismay, her boss docked her pay for the two hours she didn’t work.
Carolyn was livid.
“I am an exempt employee. How is it acceptable that I work beyond my eight-hour shift and not get compensated, but the moment I work less than eight hours in a given day and my pay gets docked?” Carolyn said.
“It’s especially frustrating since I have completely forfeited the idea of work-life balance with this job. I love what I do, but hate to feel as though I work for such an inflexible employer,” she said.
Silicon Valley attorney LaKeisha Poole, Owner of LKP Legal Services shared her legal perspective on this matter.
“Based on what the employee is saying, assuming she is exempt from overtime, the employer’s actions are unlawful. The employer must be consistent in its classification of employees. If an employee is exempt the employer can’t treat them hourly when they start to leave more desired, yet treat them as though they’re salaried while they’re working on projects. They can’t have it both ways,” Poole said.
Poole posed the following questions for Carolyn and workers who’ve had similar experiences.
“Does she work with others who’ve had the same experience? Is this a practice affecting more people than her?” she asked.
Poole cautions against litigating this particular matter as the damages are negligible. Instead, she recommends filing a complaint with the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division.
“It’s her right to file. The paperwork is a bit of a pain, but the result is quicker and it’s free. DOL will have the opportunity to decide how they want to settle the claim and if there’s a win she can collect on the judgement which would likely be reimbursement for docked wages,” Poole said.
Has your employer ever unlawfully docked your pay? How did you respond? Email your work experiences to email@example.com.