Showing posts with label flsa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label flsa. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Anger over University of Georgia pay policy is creating an opening for organized labor at UGA


Resentment over how the University of Georgia has handled changes to its overtime policy has created an opening for United Campus Workers, an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America, who are helping UGA employees angered by the recent changes that slashed their take-home paychecks in December.

Problems began when UGA reclassified 3,000 of its employees from exempt to nonexempt to comply with changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was due to go into effect December 1.

Switching these employees from the university’s monthly payroll to a biweekly paycheck resulted in employees being paid for only half of month in November even though deductions such as health insurance premiums were taken for the full month leaving employees with very small paychecks prior to Christmas.

Employees have been quoted as complaining about struggling to cover their living expenses and needing to cash in vacation leave to make up for the shortfall. Many UGA staff have low salaries that make it difficult for them to save money for unexpected emergencies such as suddenly losing a half month’s pay.

While other Georgia public universities have needed to make similar classification changes, they have had a smoother transition. Georgia Tech has been repeatedly cited as an example on how the process should have been occurred.

The damage to morale at UGA, which was already low due to tight budgets, is creating an opportunity for a labor organizing effort.

Increasingly, labor unions are finding more success at organizing government workers than those in the private sector.

Nationally, public-sector workers have a union membership rate (35.2 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7 percent).

UCW-CWA has been focused on campuses in Tennessee, but according to the Athens, Ga., Flagpole, one of its organizers, Tom Smith, is helping the University of Georgia employees survey their fellow workers on their views towards the change where 3,000 UGA employees were switched from monthly to biweekly paychecks.

Not surprisingly, most of the comments in the survey were negative, and it is likely UCW-CWA will see this as an opening to begin an underground organizing effort at UGA.

Complicating the situation, the new FLSA rule has been put on hold by a federal judge in Texas, meaning it is unclear whether UGA needs to reclassify the 3,000 employees, which is adding to staff confusion and uncertainty.

No doubt, UGA President Jere Morehead hopes that staff unhappiness will fade in the new year, since most employees’ annual pay will remain unchanged, and they will receive three paychecks during two of the next twelve months.


While the pay policies will eventually sort themselves out, the bad feelings will remain and give UCW-CWA an opening to begin quietly organizing UGA staff under the radar.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Update: Federal court rules against Georgia but issues injunction barring implementation of Labor Department’s overtime rule

In September, I wrote that Georgia’s decision to join a 21-state lawsuit opposing the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed overtime rule was based on its concern that making more state employees eligible for overtime would have a significant effect on Georgia’s budget.

On November 22, 2016, Federal Judge Amos Mazzant issued an injunction preventing the December 1, 2016, implementation of the rule.

Interestingly, Judge Mazzant ruled against the argument put forward by Georgia that “FLSA’s overtime requirements violate the Constitution by regulating the States and coercing them to adopt wage policy choices that adversely affect the States’ priorities, budgets, and services.”

Instead he found that the Fair Labor Standards Act did apply to states.

The judge issued the nationwide injunction after finding that the “Department exceeds its delegated authority and ignores Congress’s intent by raising the minimum salary level such that it supplants the duties test.”

Under FLSA, employees who may be exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA must meet both a “duties test” to determine whether they perform duties of an executive, administrative, or professional manner, and a salary test.

In his decision, Judge Mazzant writes: “it is clear Congress intended the EAP exemption to apply to employees doing actual executive, administrative, and professional duties. In other words, Congress defined the EAP exemption with regard to duties, which does not include a minimum salary level.”

It is now up to the Labor Department to decide whether they wish to appeal the District Court’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals located in New Orleans.

Complicating this matter is the upcoming change in administrations. Given the time constraints, any appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals, and perhaps later to the Supreme Court, would have to be handled by the incoming administration; and it is unclear whether the new administration would be willing to undertake such an appeal.

In the meantime, Georgia is no longer required to reclassify state employees who would have become nonexempt under the proposed rule, and they do not have to raise their budget to cover the additional costs that might have been incurred with the rule change.




Monday, August 24, 2015

Georgia loses court decision on overtime and minimum wage protection for home care workers

The Associated Press is reporting that a federal appeals court on Friday ruled in favor of Obama administration regulations that guarantee overtime and minimum wage protection to nearly 2 million home care workers.

Nine states, including Georgia, had opposed the rules. Samuel Olens, Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General for the State of Georgia, had filed a brief arguing that the changes would increase state Medicaid costs and expose states to an unfunded liability.

The ruling was a victory for worker advocacy groups, labor unions, and the White House. The Labor Department had proposed the regulations after the Obama White House had been unable to persuade Congress to change the law that exempts home care workers from full coverage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The Labor Department issued a statement saying “Today's decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is vital to nearly two million home care workers, who will now qualify for minimum wage and overtime protections. The decision confirms this rule is legally sound. And just as important, the rule is the right thing to do — both for employees, whose demanding work merits these fundamental wage guarantees, and for recipients of services, who deserve a stable and professional workforce allowing them to remain in their homes and communities.”

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a lower court decision in the case and said the Labor Department has the power to interpret the law to change that exemption.

The AP story cites Judge Sri Srinivasan as saying that a "dramatic transformation" of the home care industry over the past four decades as a valid reason for the change. While most caregivers used to be directly employed by individual households, the vast majority of workers now work for staffing companies that service hundreds or thousands of customers, Srinivasan said.

He also noted a massive shift to providing care for the elderly in their own homes rather than in nursing homes, which requires workers to offer more advanced medical care and assistance to clients than the mere "companionship" services envisioned in 1974.

Implementation of the regulations will be delayed, as there is a 45-day window to allow the home care associations to seek a rehearing before the full court.

You can read the full decision here.