working for free is it illegal

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Latest post 01-12-2011 11:06 PM by LG81. 12 replies.
  • 01-07-2011 9:01 PM

    • johnny567
      Consumer
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    • Joined on 01-08-2011
    • VA
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    working for free is it illegal

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    I work for a well-established company in Virginia.  The company makes annually 2.4 million in sales and has about 30-50 employees during the year.  The office employees are paid hourly or salary.  The tech's that go out to the customers’ homes are paid commission based on their sales of the day. Once a week all staff is made to attend a 3 hour meeting in the morning. Everyone is paid throughout except the techs.  They are to sit through the 3 hour meeting without pay.  They are unable to make money that day until the meeting is over.  The techs are assigned duties each week that can take over 2 hours each week to do with no pay.  As of last week the tech are to do research at home and log in their hours each week and if they do not reach over 7 hours a week they will be reprimanded.  Which for this company is to be fired.  I would understand if they were salary or hourly.  But the only way for a tech to make money is to go to a customer’s home and do work.  Everything else that is done the 3 hour meeting, 7 hours weekly research, 2 hour weekly duties, 20 min every morning meeting, and all after work clean up and restocking for free.  On an average these employee's work 10-15 hours each week for free and are forced to do this or they will be fired. Now that the business is in its slower time the owner ad’s more duties and meetings on for no pay.    IS THIS LEGAL?

     

    I chose not to name the company because i can’t afford to lose my job.  Forced to do something for free or you will be fired that has to be illegal and why i wrote this message.

     

  • 01-08-2011 6:19 AM In reply to

    Re: working for free is it illegal

    The law requires only that you be paid the average of minimum wage for all hours worked, and overtime pay at  1.5 times your regular rate of pay (gross pay for the workweek divided by  hours worked) when you work  over 40 hours per week.  Meetings, research, weekly duties, clean up and restocking--those are all "hours  worked" that must be considered in the calculation.

    If that is not happening , you can file a claim for  MW violation with the state Dept. of Labor.

  • 01-08-2011 7:28 AM In reply to

    Re: working for free is it illegal

    johnny567:
    But the only way for a tech to make money is to go to a customer’s home and do work.  Everything else that is done the 3 hour meeting, 7 hours weekly research, 2 hour weekly duties, 20 min every morning meeting, and all after work clean up and restocking for free.

    The thing is, you are not working for free. The company pays you for the job you do. Your salary is computed based on the sales you make, not the hours you work. Thus, to figure out how much you earned per hour in a given pay period, you'd divide the commission you got by the total number of hours you worked. I'll call that result the "effective houly rate." If that comes out to more than minimum wage requires for that number of hours then the employer hasn't violated the minimum pay laws. It is, of course, true that the more work you do that isn't time spent with customers will reduce your effective hourly rate because your commissions will be spread over more hours,  but it's not illegal as long as it doesn't dip below minimum wage. If you can find a job that will pay you a better effective houly rate, you can jump ship and join that other firm.

    By the way, this kind of thing is common in sales positions and other types of work, too. I'm a lawyer. My pay is based upon the fees I bring into the firm during the year, not the number of hours I actually work for the firm. There are various things I do in my work that don't result in fees coming into the firm, but are nonetheless necessary. That includes attending non-client meetings, performance reviews of staff, keeping current each day with the developments in my areas of practice, etc. I don't get paid an hourly wage for that stuff in addition to the pay I get for the fees I generate. But I'm not working for free — it's understood that doing the extra stuff is part of the job and thus covered by the pay I get. Sure, my effective hourly rate would be better if I spent all my time on billable activities, but the other stuff is necessary and part of the job. There is nothing illegal how I am paid and nothing illegal about how you are paid, either (unless it's low enough that it can't even meet minimum wage).

  • 01-08-2011 8:38 AM In reply to

    Re: working for free is it illegal

    And, in re-reading my  response on your  original post, I see I neglected to  ask what exactly you really do.  You talk about "commissions", but you also say you  are a "tech".

    What is your  primary responsbility,  sales or service?  My response applied to service personnel.  If you meet the criteria for the outside sales exemption, there is  no MW, OT, or minimum salary required by law at all.

    http://www.dol.gov/whd...

  • 01-12-2011 6:02 PM In reply to

    Re: working for free is it illegal

    I have run across a situation where "working for free" is in question. At my job we build all kinds of stuff.  Although we do our best to do the job right the first time. Somethings do get messed up and have to be rebuilt or fixed. This has happened a few times in the last week or so because we had poor drawings or we were told the wrong measurements from the boss. In any case.. ill get to the point. Today i received a letter in my locker at work stating : We will always have mistakes, but we need to minimize these as much as possible. As your employer i should not be the only one to have to stand for the costs of these errors. In the event, as an employee of (Company Name), you are required to clock out and work on your own time correcting mistakes on work assigned to you. Your time card should reflect this. 

     

    Is this legal? I know we're all human and we make mistakes. But really? 3 guys where i work have (combined time) around 20 hours fixing mistakes due to poor drawing or lack of communication from the boss or company.

     

    One more thing. Every Employee of where i work is under a Contract from the Company. In the contract its stated that the Company WILL pay 10 holidays a year. in 2010 NONE of the holidays were paid to any employee there. They said they could not afford to pay them. Isnt that a breach of contract?

     

    Thank you for your time and look forward to reading your response

  • 01-12-2011 6:03 PM In reply to

    Re: working for free is it illegal

    No, it is not legal. You must be paid for all the time you work.

    If your employer feels you are making too many errors and costing him too much money he can fire you but he cannot refuse to pay you.

  • 01-12-2011 6:33 PM In reply to

    Re: working for free is it illegal

    Thank you for your quick reply 

    As for the paid holidays that were never paid?

    If i present information to them saying they breached contract... Would they HAVE to pay us the Holidays that they didn't? Im not normally like this. But in the past year they have been getting away with a lot i don't feel they should be. Altering ppls pay. Deducting hours from paychecks because "they messed up the hours". 

    i can see a mistake or 2. Like i said- we're all human.But im afraid this company is taking things to far.

     

    I appreciate your time

    James

  • 01-12-2011 6:38 PM In reply to

    Re: working for free is it illegal

    If you have a union contract that requires paid holidays talk to your union rep.

    Absent such a contract there is no obligation to provide any paid holidays. 

  • 01-12-2011 6:42 PM In reply to

    Re: working for free is it illegal

    We are not part of any Union.

     

  • 01-12-2011 6:43 PM In reply to

    Re: working for free is it illegal

    Then I would be surprised if you have an actual employment contract.

  • 01-12-2011 10:46 PM In reply to

    • LG81
      Consumer
    • Top 25 Contributor
    • Joined on 01-03-2010
    • Posts 4,338

    Re: working for free is it illegal

    NebraskaWelder:
    Would they HAVE to pay us the Holidays that they didn't?

    Paid holidays are a benefit that don't have to be paid.  Other than protected benefits (like your rights to COBRA under prescribed conditions), benefits are generally retractable absent a CBA.

    NebraskaWelder:
    If i present information to them saying they breached contract...

    Many folks confuse an offer letter with a contract.  Are you sure you have a contract?

  • 01-12-2011 10:57 PM In reply to

    • Drew
      Consumer
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on 03-30-2000
    • PA
    • Posts 49,510

    Re: working for free is it illegal

    Many commissioned outside sales people which includes commission service workers might be exempt--but not all--check critria such as these from DOL:

    Commissioned sales employees of retail or service establishments if more than half of the employee's earnings come from commissions, and the employee averages at least one and one-half times the minimum wage for each hour worked;



  • 01-12-2011 11:06 PM In reply to

    • LG81
      Consumer
    • Top 25 Contributor
    • Joined on 01-03-2010
    • Posts 4,338

    Re: working for free is it illegal

    Drew:

    Commissioned sales employees of retail or service establishments if more than half of the employee's earnings come from commissions, and the employee averages at least one and one-half times the minimum wage for each hour worked;

    Whoa there Cowboy.  It's not necessarily what type of establishment it is that governs the 7(i) exemption.  What's more important is whether the person is properly classified as inside or outside sales.

     

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