Employers not paying overtime

Art Perlo’s article on “Getting paid for overtime” (PWW, 5/1-6) was great.

I’ve been working as a driver/helper in Pittsburgh’s retail floral industry for the past 10 years or so. Flower shops are mostly family-owned and controlled by owners who inherit the business from their parents. Paying workers overtime pay is the one thing they seem to dislike more than anything else in this tough business.

These folks seem willing to do almost anything to get around paying OT. They’ll hire a Saturday driver, not so much to provide a new job, but to prevent the weekday driver from getting overtime hours. They’ll send a driver home early just before a big flower holiday to keep his or her OT hours down for that week.

One company got an exemption from paying OT to their drivers, supposedly because the floral products come from South America. Another owner was caught using a bimonthly pay calculation to subtract OT hours from workers who were getting paid every two weeks, instead of on the 15th and 30th of each month.

I was once verbally offered a pay raise in exchange for agreeing to accept regular pay for hours worked over 40 per week. At another company, I worked 13.5 hours on Thanksgiving Eve, only to be denied holiday pay for Thanksgiving Day in a move to keep me from getting over 40 hours that week. Of course, the boss could have still paid me five-and-a-half hours OT that day, but he didn’t because the federal FSLA provides that he only has to pay OT for work over 40 hours per week, and not for over 8 hours per day.

On a big flower holiday like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, the boss seems to have no other purpose more important than running around making sure that the workers get as little OT hours as possible!

Obviously, I and my co-workers make less than $23,660 per year [the figure below which a worker is entitled to get overtime pay regardless of their job classification, according to the new Labor Department rules]. I believe this entire floral industry is nonunion throughout the country. Very few, if any, retail floral workers make that much money per year.

– Dale Adams, Pittsburgh



The author replies: The implementation date for the new regulation denying overtime pay to millions of workers was pushed back to August, and then on May 4 the Senate voted 52-47 to approve the Harkin amendment, blocking the new rules. But they will still go into effect, unless the House also approves the Harkin amendment, and the president signs the bill.