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View Diary: Eric Cantor will propose Federal Law that Ends Overtime Pay for hourly workers (236 comments)

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  •  My Overtime Pay Story (4+ / 0-)

    Many years ago, in the 1970's, during the building of the Alaska oil pipeline, I worked as the sole employee for the Eastman Kodak Company in Alaska as a salesman and an equipment service man.

    One of the "perks" of going to Alaska consisted of a 30% Cost of Living Allowance (COLA).  At that time an hourly employee (In Kodak they called that Salary Schedule I). As I was the only Kodak employee in Alaska, and Salary Schedule I, I got paid not only for my work time but also my travel time.  I had to keep track of my daily hours hours referenced from the starting time zone where I woke up in the morning (typically Alaska Standard Time in Anchorage).  After all, Alaska, at those days, spanned five times zones (Pacific, Yukon, Alaska, Bering, and Aleutian). More recently they've consolidated into two time zones.

    Frequently I'd leave home in Anchorage with a packed suitcase, just in case I got a call to go to Juneau (the capitol on Pacific Standard Time), or to Fairbanks, or to Adak (Hawaiian/Aleutian Time). Often, during the work day, I'd call the wife and tell her I wouldn't be home because I was going to Juneau or Fairbanks overnight.

    As you might imagine, I got quite a bit of overtime, what with work and travel.  I didn't pay to much notice of it, but about a year and a half after I started in Alaska I got confused about my pay.  It seemed to me that the longer I worked in a given week, the less money I made per hour.  So I got a lot of pay stubs together and tried to figure it out, and I couldn't really see how I was being paid a constant hourly wage. The more I worked, the less I made per hour.  So I wrote my boss (in Seattle) and said I couldn't figure out my pay check and asked him to have Payroll look into my concerns.

    Payroll responded that when I worked 40 hours per week I got my 40 hours of straight time pay + 30% COLA on top that.  Then for all hours over 40 hours per week, I got time and a half pay, but no COLA allowance on the overtime hours.

    So I thought to myself, that's not right.  If I were working for an Alaskan company, I'd not be getting COLA, but I'd be getting a higher hourly wage because it's more expensive to live in Alaska.  And if I'd been working for an Alaskan company, they would have to pay me time and a half from my base pay for overtime hours.  So I presented this logic to my boss.  He disagreed with the logic, but agreed to pass my argument on to Payroll.  In a week or so he responded that there would be no change to my pay, because my pay complaint had been evaluated at the district and regional levels, and at Payroll at the corporate office in Rochester, NY, "and approved by them all".

    So I went to the law library, and I looked up Alaska state law and Federal law on overtime pay.  And there it was in black and white.  Alaska state law deferred to the Federal law which was the 1938 FLSA law.  In that law it clearly spells out what compensation you receive can and cannot be used in the calculation of overtime pay.  One of the things that cannot be excluded from one's base pay for the purposes of overtime calculation is a cost of living allowance.

    So this time, I wrote another letter to my boss in which I politely thanked him for work he had done in investigating my pay question and for the answers that he and Payroll had provided.  Then I dropped the bomb.  I told him that Kodak's pay policy appeared to violate not only Kodak's own pay policies, which was to pay equal to or better than the prevailing wage in the community for the same work, but also Alaska state and Federal law.  I then quoted the relevant passages in the Kodak Employee's Handbook, and in the Federal law and sent copies of that with my letter. When he received my letter, he still felt that my pay had been figured correctly, but forwarded my rebuttal to the Kodak Payroll department.

    I few weeks later I received a letter in which I was told that I was indeed correct, and that my pay had been incorrectly calculated for the entire time I had worked in Alaska.  I would get a large adjustment to my pay for the arrears and that my future overtime payments would include COLA.

    My boss later told me that my inquiry and followup had caused corrections for all Kodak Schedule I employees who were working in areas where they were paid COLA.

    I spent three years in Alaska, and then went on to other jobs in Kodak, both in Rochester and Mobile, Alabama, but by then, I had progressed to Salary Schedule II. But in the year and a half I worked in Alaska after I questioned my pay, whenever my boss and I had a disagreement over anything where he thought he was right, I would say "Well, may to have to look into that issue like I looked into my pay."

    I've been retired for about a year, and I never thought I'd be repeating that story again, but this was the perfect place to do it.

    •  mad60, thanks for sharing that story (1+ / 0-)
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      MPociask

      It's amazing how a corporation as large as Kodak, who has employment lawyers out the wazoo "missed" that part of Federal Employment law that says workers who get COLA are to get COLA included in their overtime pay.

      Amazing ...

      Kudos to you for being so tenacious - and again, thanks for sharing your story in my Diary.

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