Can They Do That? / Workplace Advice


September 14, 2005|By CARRIE MASON-DRAFFEN

Firm must pay overtime for hours in excess of 40

Q: Some of my co-workers and I have questions about the new federal overtime laws. We work for a midsize company. We are hourly workers, but whether we get paid for overtime depends on how healthy the company is. When business is good, we earn overtime. Currently, business is bad, so we don't get paid for the extra hours. The managers don't tell us we have to stay late, but the work requires us to do so. Shouldn't we be paid for overtime?

A: That depends on your definition of overtime.

If you mean more than your usual hours but fewer than 40 hours a week, then federal labor laws don't require your company to pay you an overtime rate, unless an employment contract requires the premium pay. The company has to pay you for every hour you work, though.

On the other hand, when your weekly hours exceed 40, you have to be paid at least 1 1/2 times your regular hourly rate for those extra hours. That's the law, and it has nothing to do with your company's health.

Q: I work as an independent contractor for a company that provides entertainment at children's birthday parties. They often take place in restaurants or catering halls. Would I be liable if a child is injured while I am entertaining the group? Also, I sometimes drive a car the company rents. If I get into an accident, would I be liable?

A: First, whether you would be liable for a child's injury would depend on where the child was hurt, according to an insurance industry expert. If the child fell in the bathroom, "it would be doubtful that any connection could be made to the entertainer," the expert said.

On the other hand, if one kid stuck another during pin the tail on the donkey, the entertainer might be responsible if his or her actions contributed to the injury, the expert said.

As for the rental car, you could be liable and sued after an accident. But you should be covered by the company insuring the car and by the insurance on your own vehicle.

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

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