This isn't me but my girlfriend, let's call her Karen.

Karen was recently hired as a pharmacist by big chain pharmacy as a floater, in Florida, USA. A floating pharmacist is an employee (not contractor) who is scheduled and/or called to work at whatever location needs a pharmacist for one-off shifts and rarely goes to the same store. She is paid hourly but they pay based on the scheduled hours not actual hours. This means that if the pharmacy's stated closing time is 9:00 then that is when her shift "officially" ends. Despite this, if customers need service at 8:55 then she's going to be working until 9:30 between serving the customer and performing the closing duties.

She's contacted the scheduler about this to ask that her schedule be updated to reflect the extra half hour but was told she's expected to manage her own time. The scheduler gave, as an example that if Karen works a half hour late one day then she might come in a half hour late the next day to make up for it. This doesn't make any sense though because it's always different stores and each time she needs to be at a store it's so another pharmacist can go home or to open the store itself. There's almost never a situation when coming in late or leaving early is a realistic proposition because the law says a pharmacy can't be open unless there's a pharmacist there and she's always scheduled to cover the time that the pharmacy is open.

I'm assuming that if they've made the decision to hire her as an hourly employee that the law says they have to pay her for all the hours that she works. If that's the case, what's the best way to tactfully escalate this to the district manager without hurting her career development? Is this even possible to rock the boat and simultaneously not be viewed as a trouble maker?

Just to add clarity, I'm not looking for a legal opinion. I'm asking if it's particularly unlikely that she could escalate the issue without also painting herself as a troublemaker or whiner. Further if people think that tight rope walk is navigable what would be the best approach to make sure she gets paid for all her time. For example, I would assume an approach where she tells her boss "I'm going to turn away all customers that show up within 15 minutes of closing time unless you agree to pay me for my extra time" would be a bad tact as would "I'm going to the state to make an official complaint if you don't pay me for all my extra time". One thought that might be good would be for her to go to the district manager and recount the conversation with the scheduler and casually ask for an opinion as to how she could manage her time as the scheduler's example suggested.

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    @TheWanderingDevManager This isn't company specific, it's outlined very clearly in US employment law that non-exempt workers need to be paid for every hour they work or are required to be at work. Heavy fines apply and OP's GF (I'm just calling her Karen from now on) should approach management from that angle: "We're violating some clear employment laws here and that could get us in trouble, I'm assuming you're not aware of this but X clearly states that ...". Whether Karen is officially registered as non-exempt is important as misrepresenting employees is another legal minefield. – Lilienthal Aug 18 '15 at 14:43
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    Voting to close, as this deals with labor law questions (getting paid for time spent working) and the OP should seek assistance from their state's department of labor. – Adam V Aug 18 '15 at 14:58
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    @TheWanderingDevManager I don't think it is company specific. Generically the question could be about any company that has a policy of using the work schedule to pay people instead of using actual hours worked. – anon Aug 18 '15 at 15:32
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    @Lilienthal She just became Karen. – anon Aug 18 '15 at 15:33
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    @AdamV according to this meta question questions that pertain to law that any HR manager would know are on topic for this site. I'd take a gander that any decent HR manager should know the right answer for this question. – Conor Aug 18 '15 at 18:15

Paint it as a problem that together she and the company shares. So talk to them saying something like this:

You know, (insert applicable labor law here) requires that hourly employees be paid for all hours worked. How can we fix this so that we're in compliance with the law?

That way, she wants to be part of the solution, she isn't whining nor running to the labor department, just letting them know that at some point they can get in trouble, and fixing it now is better than fixing it later (and thus getting in more trouble).

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    She should also keep a written record of her actual hours worked, so that she knows what to claim if and when they decide to fix the problem. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 18 '15 at 16:04
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    I agree with the spirit of this answer, but I think everyone I've ever worked for would hear the example given here as a threat of legal action. I wouldn't mention the law unless I mean to use it. – MackM Aug 18 '15 at 17:49
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    @MackM. I kind of agree, and yet this is consistently the advice from www.askamanager.org. You need to frame it as not wanting the company to get in trouble, obviously from someone else in the same situation, perhaps in the future. But yes, if that doesn't work, a next step could be to act on that threat that you're trying to make sound like not a threat. – thursdaysgeek Aug 18 '15 at 18:04

If she’s contacted her scheduler and their response is she has to manage her own time, that’s a fair answer.

But realistically she is often in different locations, that's impractical. So the only real choice is to go to human resources and discuss the situation. When approaching human resources, lay it out plain and clear; the law is the law.

That said, simply requesting to go to human resources might be seen as a count against the employee and could lead to a bad performance review down the line or something worse.

My practical advice for right now is to see if their are other employees in a similar situation that she can talk to or work with. At least that could give her a sense of how the company deals with staff and might give a hint as to what the best and most realistic course of action might be. At the most, discussing with a larger group might even open the door to a class action lawsuit on behalf of all employees if there is a clear pattern of unpaid hours with other workers. Heck if this is a major chain, then there might be online staff discussion groups out there as well.

The point being my instinct would be to try and gauge what the overall company culture is if you want to play it safe before acting.

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I know it does not seem fair and it is not fair. But it is not uncommon as it is hours the company would have trouble monitoring. What if an employee reported 4 extra hours. Is what she is paid for posted hours worth the pay? This is a battle she could lose. Not saying it is fair. Don't just go at it for the principle alone.

One option is to report it to the labor agency anonymously. I worked as a contractor and the company I worked for had a policy we did not get paid until the customer paid the invoice. Someone (not me as I did not even think of it) reported them the state labor commission and they immediately started paying us.

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  • Would a pharmacist be the person closing the whole store for the night? If not, they could set up a simple procedure of the pharmacist notifying the manager on duty when the pharmacy close is completed and the pharmacist is about to leave. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 18 '15 at 16:52
  • @PatriciaShanahan You voted me down for that? Yes there are lot of ways to do but it adds a layer control they don't want to deal with (right or wrong). Some times you just take it as a package deal. – paparazzo Aug 18 '15 at 17:06
  • No, I did not vote on your answer. Whoever downvoted your answer did not choose to leave a comment. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 18 '15 at 17:11
  • @PatriciaShanahan Cool - I looked and you have no down votes. Down votes happen. – paparazzo Aug 18 '15 at 17:14