CED on your side: Account clerks win $10,000 back pay

CED On Your Side
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CED Newsletter, May 2013 (PDF)

Treasurer-Tax Collector refused to settle grievance with members

Work Without Pay
When Account Clerks at the Monterey County Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office complained they were being required to work without pay before the start of their shifts, county managers did not try to hide it. In fact, they admitted the requirement had been in place for at least four years!

521 Contract Enforcement Takes Action
Our Contract Enforcement Department immediately filed a group grievance. When we met with Treasurer-Tax Collector Mary Zeeb, she argued that the few minutes employees must work before their shifts is offset by other time they spend on non-work activities during the day, such as using the restroom. Zeeb therefore refused to pay any retroactive wages to settle our grievance.

Workers Should Be Paid for Prep Time
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law that sets forth overtime requirements. Court decisions in recent years have supported the fact that time spent by employees performing preliminary tasks necessary to perform their jobs is compensable under the law. For example, if employees turn on computers at the beginning of the workday, and then spend time getting coffee or visiting with co-workers while the computers boot up, the FLSA requires that employees be compensated for that time.

Workers Take Their Case to the Department of Labor
The Department of Labor (DOL) is the federal agency that enforces the FLSA. Last September, SEIU took a caravan of workers to the DOL office in San Jose to file a formal complaint against Monterey County. SEIU and the county agreed to postpone arbitrating our grievance until the DOL completed its investigation. The DOL ultimately ordered Zeeb to pay $10,345 in back wages to 12 employees who were unlawfully required to work without pay.

McWilliams“This is why it’s important that members are aware of their rights, so they are not taken advantage of.”
— Gregg McWilliams, Shop Steward for the Monterey County Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office

Know Your Rights
Our Contract Enforcement Department can file grievances for unpaid wages through our contracts with employers. However, the period of time that we can grieve a violation is usually very short. The Department of Labor (DOL), however, has a two-year statute of limitations in the recovery of back pay, and a three-year statute of limitations for willful violations. The Fair Labor Standards Act applies to individuals and, generally, SEIU cannot represent you in a Department of Labor claim. The closest DOL office is in San Jose, and their number is (408) 291-7730.

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