`Neanderthal' boss is within his rights on 38-hour week

But manager needs help with people skills

Can They Do That?

Your Money

April 18, 2004|By Carrie Mason-Draffen

The retailer I work for holds a mandatory meeting one Sunday a month, even though the timing inconveniences a number of employees. The meeting takes place either at 6 a.m., before the store opens, or at 6:30 p.m., after closing. Employees like me who work Monday through Friday wind up commuting to work on our day off.

The company also expects us to cut two hours from our 40-hour workweek to avoid qualifying for overtime because of the two-hour meeting. The worst part is that sometimes we arrive for the meeting only to find out it has been canceled. When that happens, all we end up with is a 38-hour pay week because of the two-hour cut in anticipation of the meeting. The company posts notices of canceled meetings on the employee bulletin board the day before. But people like me who don't work on Saturdays have no way of knowing about the cancellation. Do we have legal recourse for any of this?

This blatant disregard points to a supervisor who is either clueless or heartless. Either way, your manager needs help. "This employer is a Neanderthal as far as human relations are concerned," said Allen Breslow, an attorney in Commack, N.Y. If he keeps it up, "he is going to find himself with a union at his doorstep."

On the other hand, he said, your employer might legally refuse to pay for your commuting expenses. And the company can ask you to come in two hours late during the week, for example, to avoid paying overtime, which kicks in after 40 hours.

Your boss needs a communications upgrade, according to Barbara Frankel, an executive coach with the Strickland Group in Manhattan. Rather than the bulletin board, she suggests high-tech postings such as e-mail or voice mail that everyone has access to. The current policy will backfire eventually, she said.

"The employer has to be reasonable and sensitive to the lives of employees to develop a motivated, committed and loyal work force," Frankel said. Otherwise, the company will face "higher turnover and a lower retention rate."

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. E-mail her at yourmoney@tribune.com.

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