Employer owes part-timer benefits earned while full time

Can They Do That?

Your Money

September 26, 2004|By Carrie Mason-Draffen

I work as an administrative assistant, and for several years I had stable hours and income. But last year, my company began to tamper with that stability.

First, my boss lengthened my hours without giving me extra pay. Now, for budgetary reasons, the company is reversing course and making me part time. I will now work from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

If I leave, can I file for unemployment because of the change in hours? I am an "at-will" employee, not covered by a contract.

I also have a question about vacation. Of the 10 vacation days I earned this year, I have eight days left, which I want to use later this year. But part-time employees aren't eligible for paid vacations. If I had received more advance notice of my status change, I would have used up my vacation days before now.

Does the company have to pay me for all or part of the unused vacation?

Whether you can apply for unemployment depends on whether you meet eligibility requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time under state law. You might be eligible since the company extensively altered the terms of your employment by cutting you back to part time and effectively slashing your salary. But before you make a move, call your state labor department's unemployment telephone claims center.

As for the vacation time, the company has to make good on all vacation time you earned when you worked full time. It can subject you to a new plan, but it can't take away what you have earned.

A note to readers: The U.S. Department of Labor's new overtime rules took effect Aug. 23. Labor experts are trying to sort out the impact on workers. Did you lose your eligibility for overtime because of the new regulations or are you newly qualified for premium pay? Write Carrie at the e-mail address below. Include details about your duties and your company's explanation for any change in your overtime status.

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

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