I have a hourly employee in Texas who has taken to milking the time clock: the employee will stay a few minutes late to complete a document that came in towards the end of their workday, or they were taking their lunch at their desk and if someone interrupted them, counting that as overtime (OT). We had a period of several months where the workload was increased, and there was legitimate overtime, and I think they got used to the extra money in their check.

Since then we have back filled, and there is no need for the OT anymore - in fact, no reason whatsoever for there to be unauthorized OT. They have stated every week during our touch point that they are not overwhelmed or too busy, yet I see OT getting clocked on every pay period, and their teammate has extra capacity to take on more, so there's no excuse/reason. Our company has a policy related to authorized OT, but laws around it still overrule.

This employee is taking a hard-line stance on their hours (recording every minute worked), while still enjoying all the flexi-benefits that are NOT part of their contract (such as telecommuting and working non-typical business hours). We all signed an employment contract when we were hired. Telecommuting is NOT a benefit of that contract, just the office environment.

I've taken the stance that they cannot work more than their 40 hours unless authorized, and that if they cannot complete their work in that 40 hours, then we will need to adjust their telecommute and business hours worked. I've also engaged our HR group to be on the safe side.

This employee has other issues as well (attitude related to the client and coworkers, not performance of tasks). I am attempting to coach the communication issues, but the client is not a fan of this employee, therefore, any excuse they have, they are starting to press my company. Not overtly yet, but I'm trying to head that off as I do not have the capacity to also do this person's job.

This is otherwise a good worker, but they feel they have been "shorted" and taken advantage of by the company (they are at the very top end of the pay scale for their position, but feel they are owed more due to work). While I don't entirely disagree with the fact that their compensation is low for the tasks, on the other hand, there's nothing I can do about it other than request a bigger raise (which I have tried, and got shot down).

In the meantime, reality is, the company does not want to be paying overtime. Our financial group and client are being strict about OT, and do not allow it with other employees. Most hourly employees in our group are fine with booking their 40 hours and enjoying the flexi-benefits that come with the roles we have. This employee is not okay with that (and legally they have the right to operate this way) so I've had to return their hard-line stance with my own.

Do you have suggestions, besides formal discipline, to help mediate situations such as these?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S May 19 '19 at 0:13
  • Your question seems to be about unauthorized overtime, but then you talk about performance, client pressure, communication skills, work from home, pay rate, and other issues. You need to divide and conquer - focus on one thing at a time - or you're going to end up with everyone involved confused and hurt. – dwizum May 20 '19 at 13:00
  • @dwizum The communication and client issues came from the comments. I included them in my edits because I intended to reference them in the answer I'm working on and I felt it was relevant that this employee's standing was shakey. If it blurs the issue being asked about, I'm OK with it being removed. (Performance, telecommuting, and pay rate were already mentioned in the original question.) – BSMP May 20 '19 at 13:17

This employee is taking a hard-line stance on their hours (recording every minute worked), while still enjoying all the flexi-benefits that are NOT part of their contract (such as telecommuting and working non-typical business hours).

I'm sorry, but what do these "flexi-benefits" have to do with getting paid for time worked? An employee should be paid for all time worked. If you perceive that there's some financial benefit to the employee for these flexi-benefits, then adjust their hourly rate accordingly... and then pay them for every minute they work. Offering flexi-benefits doesn't negate your responsibility to pay the employee for every minute worked... at whatever hourly rate they're at.

As for the overtime, if you don't want employees to work overtime unless it has been expressly authorized then state that clearly and unequivocally in a written policy document and then consult your legal team on what recourse you have if employees disregard this policy.

Also, you mention that this is an employee but then you also mention their contract. Are they an employee in the legal sense or are they in fact an independent contractor? If the latter, you'd do well to research what local and federal laws govern employee/contractor classification so as to not put the company at potential legal and financial risk due to classifying your workers incorrectly.

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    An employee should be paid for all time worked. While that is correct, this does not extend to "An employee should be paid for all the overtime they decide to do without anyone asking them to do so". An employee cannot just force their employer's hand like that. This would be easily exploitable. A contract which stipulates a precise amount of hours, stipulates this "no more, no less, unless mutually agreed upon". From OP's question, the overtime is not mutually agreed upon, and the employee cannot just decide that they should do and get paid for overtime. – Flater May 20 '19 at 10:48
  • @Flater In the US, both Federal and State laws mandate that employers must pay employees for any overtime hours they "suffer or permit" the employees to work, whether the overtime is authorized or not. If the employer does not want to pay the overtime then they must establish a precedent by disciplining the employee for the non-authorized overtime. The employer cannot just decide not to pay it because it was unauthorized. – joeqwerty May 20 '19 at 13:17
  • "Suffer or permit to work" means that if an employer requires or allows employees to work they are employed and the time spent is probably hours worked ... Hours worked include all time during which an employee is required or allowed to perform any work for an employer As the employer did not permit overtime (which is the entire premise of this question - OP's stance on no overtime unless authorized), no overtime can be worked. You'd be correct only if there had been no communcation on no unauthorized overtime. – Flater May 20 '19 at 13:23
  • It is the duty of management to exercise control and see that work is not performed if the employer does not want it to be performed. An employer cannot sit back and accept the benefits of an employee’s work without considering the time spent to be hours worked. Merely making a rule against such work is not enough. The employer has the power to enforce the rule and must make every effort to do so. Employees generally may not volunteer to perform work without the employer having to count the time hours worked. – joeqwerty May 20 '19 at 14:00
  • From my perspective, the burden is on the employer to show proof that they've met the requirements for not paying for this unauthorized overtime. From what's been stated in the question and comments it doesn't look like they have... at least not from my reading of it. – joeqwerty May 20 '19 at 14:03

If the employee works overtime, you have to pay them, regardless of whether you approved the additional hours or not. It sounds like informal requests that he stop working overtime have not worked, so your only option left is formal discipline. If you don't want to do that, the employee will likely just keep ignoring your stipulation that overtime must be approved, since there will be zero consequences for working unapproved overtime. You are currently allowing this person to ignore you, so this is a disciplinary issue at this point.

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  • Agreed, was just hoping to see if people has success in coaching these issues before going the formal discipline route. – Honey Badger 302 May 17 '19 at 19:36
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    AFAIK, an employer DOES have the right to discipline an employee for working unauthorized overtime, but I'd make darned sure you're in compliance with whatever local and federal laws are applicable before going the discipline route. – joeqwerty May 17 '19 at 19:53

Do you have suggestions, besides formal discipline, to help mediate situations such as these?

This really depends on what you want the outcome to be. This sounds like you have a good employee who is underpaid, knows it and is unhappy about it. The overtime discussion is just a symptom, you need to attack the root problem.

There are three different option:

  1. Get the employee's pay up to market rate.
  2. Make the employee somehow satisfied with the low pay. You could try to discuss whether there are any fringe benefits that would offset lower compensation. But it's a long shot.
  3. Put your foot down and hope he doesn't quit. Even if he doesn't leave, he will be unhappy

So if your desired outcome is "I want people to accept low pay and be happy about it", you have a tall mountain to climb. That's very unlikely to happen.

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  • I'm not quite sure I agree with the underlying tone of the answer which suggests that any employee who wishes to be paid more (and is willing to put in extra hours if necessary) is able to force the hand of the company to get some sort of payrise or compensation for it. Consider the situation of a small shop owner who can only afford one additional employee's wage: would it be fair for that employee to strongarm their employer into paying more (even if they work more hours for it)? – Flater May 20 '19 at 14:09
  • Additionally, offering compensation or a payrise is the opposite of what OP's company wants. A company that does not permit overtime is doing so because they want to limit wage costs. Increasing a worker's wage is doing the opposite. This also will lead to a snowballing effect. If Bob gets a payrise or compensation for their desire to work overtime, then other too will start claiming they wish to work overtime, and everyone will expect to get compensation for it even if they don't end up working more hours. – Flater May 20 '19 at 14:11
  • I understand that the company wants to pay low. There are free to do so. However, employees are equally free to want market rate. There is no ethical obligation for employee to accept lower pay simply because the company can't afford it. By definition, other companies are willing to pay this rate. – Hilmar May 20 '19 at 20:49
  • I have looked up area payrates - this employee is actually being compensated extremely well for the area. They would be very hard pressed to find higher pay even at a higher level. The issue they have is their responsibilities have increased, but their pay was not beyond "normal" increases. Judging by what I see in their area, they probably don't actually want to leave as I think they would struggle even with a higher-level position to meet their current rate (which is why the company is unwilling to paying more as well). – Honey Badger 302 May 21 '19 at 18:07

They CHOSE to sit at their desk - I have instructed them to leave the work area during break. If they are at their desk, they are perceived as being available

I used to have a rule that I cannot book continiously time, for example, from 9:00 to 15:00, I must leave out half an hour for lunch, regardless of where I am. It is related to some regulations (Finland).

Since your contract does not include flexi time anyway, you could try to negotiate a rule like that. Say that you care about their relaxation and instruct to ignore incoming work calls during that time, even if they are at their desk.

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