Salary and timesheet question



  • Hello WTFers,

    I have a question for you about a policy my employer has to see if it's (a) legal and (b) common. I'm a salaried employee- my initial offer letter stated as much and I work and am paid like your average salaried employee. My company accounts for every hour worked using timesheets, which is pretty standard. The setup for my question is this: when an employee has to bill time to the "Non-Billable" timesheet option (that is, they weren't working on a billable project and had to come up with some work for themselves- like research, self-education or what-have-you) then that time is deducted from earned Paid Time Off. So if I work 36 hours on a billable project for a week but for 4 hours can't find work amongst our various projects and have to read a .NET book or do research on SQL Server 2008 then my HR rep and/or accounting dept rep points this out to me and then deducts those 4 hours from my vacation time.

    So do other companies do this? Is it even legal? I was shocked the first time it happened and just wanted to gather some info from others who might know.'

    Thanks much,
    Bill



  • Is this turning into 'ask slashdot' now?

    (a) depends on which country you're in, and thus, it's a lawyer you should be asking

    (b) I wouldn't have thought so, since I'm sure most of us who work, don't have any 'free time.'



  • It's not legal in Belgium. Here, work time is defined as the time that you are available to your employer. So if I'm sitting at my desk without a task, reading a .NET book, I'm still available for my employer and get paid. He can come to my desk anytime to give me something to do.

     



  • Bigger question is: howcome you don't have anything to do?



  • Where do you live?  Did you sign a contract?  Did you have to sign something that you had reviewed the leave policy, which contained something to this effect?

    Assuming this is in the US, the basic rule for salary is that if you report to work as required, they have to pay you, whether they have work for you or not, but there's usually very little law in place regarding how companies handle leave.  The primary rule in most jurisdictions is pretty much any leave policy is acceptable so long as it was clearly defined and presented to you in writing.



  • @PJH said:

    it's a lawyer you should be asking
    Not in the US: contact your state's labor department first.  They should be able to advise you as to the specifics of your state's laws and whether your employer is within them.



  • In the UK I think this is illegal. You are paid for the time that you attend the office (plus sickness, paid leave etc.), no matter what you are or are not working on. The fact that they cannot bill a client for what you are doing at a given moment is irrelevant. Speak to a lawyer.



  • My company does not do this.  I work for a consulting company.

    If we're "idle" aka not billing to a project, that affects our chance to get a bonus and affects our chance for a raise, but we still get paid for "idle" time.  If I were idle for too long, I would probably be let go, and that's understandable.



  • @dhromed said:

    Bigger question is: howcome you don't have anything to do?

    That's an easy one- terrible management of resources. It leads to a pretty crappy cycle- I'm assigned to a project with work items. Once those work items go to testing (our wonderful QA department of two) and if no items have come BACK from testing, I'm in the limbo I spoke of. Sure, I can bill to the project while not actually DOING anything on the project, but that seems fraudulent. Going to our department manager almost always results in an understanding nod but no more work assigned. I promise I'm not, as it might seem from the initial post and subsequent replies to my post, a lazy person. I much prefer to be working, but sometimes you just have idle time. I thought I was doing well by filling it with research and not by watching Hulu. Thanks for the tips to contact the dept. of labor- I think there's some interesting reading to be had there.

    Thanks all



  •  It is not done at my place of work.  Actually, I am allowed to charge up to 20% of my time to things such as self development, research ect.  It doesn't sound very legal at all, but as previously mentioned you should a.) read your employee handbook and the documents that you signed when coming on and b.) check with your local labor department.



  • @ueberbill said:

    Sure, I can bill to the project while not actually DOING anything on the project, but that seems fraudulent.
    Ask that project leader, or whoever's budget will be charged for your time.  That's the first thing I would have done.



  • This HAS to be illegal. If they are going to charge you PTO, you might as well just go home.



  • NOTE: If you aren't in the US ignore everything below.

    why in the name of fuck would this be illegal?  It's not that you came to work and they aren't paying you for it (they are paying you).  It's that they are taking away your time off.  Since there are no laws requiring time off/max hours for employees who are exempt from overtime then so long as they gave you information about this when you signed on (hint:  you probably signed a piece of paper saying that you read it).  



  • @tster said:

    NOTE: If you aren't in the US ignore everything below.

    why in the name of fuck would this be illegal?  It's not that you came to work and they aren't paying you for it (they are paying you).  It's that they are taking away your time off.  Since there are no laws requiring time off/max hours for employees who are exempt from overtime then so long as they gave you information about this when you signed on (hint:  you probably signed a piece of paper saying that you read it).  

    Right, pretty much like pstorer said: if they require you to be in the office, they have to pay you, even if they aren't utilizing you.  However, it's up to the employer if they want to send you home and not pay you.  It's not like you're doing any work for them, so why should they pay you?  Most likely, you were presented the policy in writing during the hiring process.  You can seek out the state labor dept. but really, what's the point?  Forcing your employer to pay you for non-work isn't going to endear you to the employer, nor any of the other employees, since their pay will be reduced as an effect.  This doesn't seem like a situation to involve lawyers -- your employer isn't violating a contract or doing anything unsavory.  If you are concerned about the work load and how it will affect your pay, your best bet is to air those concerns with your manager.

     

    Your employer would probably love to have more work for you to do, since that means more profit for them, but they simply don't have it.  It's not like they're trying to get something free out of them -- in fact, it seems you are trying to get paid for not doing any work at all, which is pretty lame.  Your best bet is just talking to the employer about work load and trying to come up with a plan, whether that be you look for more part-time work or a whole new full-time job.  Your employer is generally going to understand if the work load is insufficient for you and if you have to move on, then so be it.  Clearly they would prefer to have work for you to do, but evidently that is not a possibility, so maybe they just need to hire someone who does part-time contract work specifically.



  • I fear I gave the impression I'm a lazy roustabout who wants his employer to pay him to do no coding. I've been a developer for years at several shops and this is the first one I've worked at that counted non-billable time against vacation, a practice that is apparently pretty rare (judging by replies). Reading at the US Dept of Labor site has verified that it is illegal to count such time against pay (they use the lovely term "engaged to wait"- your employer can't hire you, require you to be present for 40 hours a week, give you no work and then not pay you for it) but it does not appear to be illegal to subtract such time against vacation. Indeed- the Dept of Labor appears to say that an employer can do whatever the hell they want with your vacation time, which makes sense- they giveth, they can taketh away. The manual that I signed makes no claims about non-billable time and vacation and the offer letter that I signed (those being the only two documents I've signed) is silent on that front as well. My next step is to clarify with HR what our official policy is in this regard and if it's actually written down anywhere. My questioning of the policy's legality wasn't so I could throw some tantrum about the policy, I was mostly just curious.

    Thanks for all your replies- I've got to get back to work :)



  • @ueberbill said:

    I fear I gave the impression I'm a lazy roustabout who wants his employer to pay him to do no coding.

    Not at all, it's simply that no company should be expected to pay you for not working.  It's unfortunate that they don't have work for you, but I see no reason why this should involve the law: there's nothing the Dept. of Labor can do to create more work for you to do. 



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    there's nothing the Dept. of Labor can do to create more work for you to do. 
    What if the dept of Labor started investigating and ueberbill was called on to represent the company in the investigation?



  • @belgariontheking said:

    @morbiuswilters said:

    there's nothing the Dept. of Labor can do to create more work for you to do. 
    What if the dept of Labor started investigating and ueberbill was called on to represent the company in the investigation?

    How likely is it that the company would call on a non-lawyer to represent them in a case filed by the man himself? 



  • @ueberbill said:

    The manual that I signed makes no claims about non-billable time and vacation and the offer letter that I signed (those being the only two documents I've signed) is silent on that front as well. My next step is to clarify with HR what our official policy is in this regard and if it's actually written down anywhere.
    If it isn't clearly presented to you, the policy is probably unenforcable legally, but it's up to you to decide whether or not it's worth it.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    @belgariontheking said:

    @morbiuswilters said:

    there's nothing the Dept. of Labor can do to create more work for you to do. 
    What if the dept of Labor started investigating and ueberbill was called on to represent the company in the investigation?
    How likely is it that the company would call on a non-lawyer to represent them in a case filed by the man himself?
    Not likely, but the lawyers are all terribly busy using their vacation days for their intended purpose, instead of having them deducted for coming into work.  This guy's doing nothing.  Better get him to work.



  • @belgariontheking said:

    Not likely, but the lawyers are all terribly busy using their vacation days for their intended purpose, instead of having them deducted for coming into work.  This guy's doing nothing.  Better get him to work.
    Plus, he's already pretty familiar with the case.



  • I think I'm in the same situation as the OP, so let me add some examples from my experience.  Even though my group does commercial software, we're part of a U.S. defense contractor, so we have to abide by DOD contractor rules - charging our time accurately to projects aka contracts.  It's all well and good except for one detail:  they refuse to give us any overhead (the OP calls it non-billable) charge numbers to put on our time cards.  So what do we do when:

    *  there is an elevator fire and we get evacuated to stand in the parking lot for two hours.  I am NOT charging that to PTO, sorry.  (This happened in 2005)

    *  Even though I'm actively working on 4 projects, I get into the quandary of waiting for phone calls from 3 customers and 2 coworkers.  So I catch up on filing, cleaning junk off my hard drive, researching new technology I plan to use in a future project, etc.  No, I'm not charging PTO for those either. 

    Just because a particular task can't be honestly applied to any of the currently-assigned projects doesn't mean it should be yanked out of the employee's vacation time.  That's utter BS. These contracting companies need to get real.

     



  • Assuming this is the US we're now talking about, (and this question is based on a, probably biased, comment from a (UK based) friend)...

    @jetcitywoman said:

    Just because a particular task can't be honestly applied to any of the currently-assigned projects doesn't mean it should be yanked out of the employee's vacation time. 

    How much 'vacation' is (the general IT) person entitled to (assume vacation to mean 'no *voluntary* contact with work, if necessary)

    Ass-u-m-ing more than 5 (working days,) are fortnights allowed?

    Yes, this is off-topic. Why do you ask?



  • Obviously, such a policy encourages fraudulent behaviour. Most likely, the company thinks: Surely our employees will lie, but that's ok, because this way we can bill the time to the clients and technically it's individual misbehaviour, not an official policy, to defraud the clients.
    Here in Austria, though such a policy is not legally possible, but some companies I know have found an easy workaround: There simply is no possibility to bill non-billable time in the timesheets. You are in the office for (say) 8 hours, so you have to bill 8 hours to billable projects. The timesheet system simply doesn't offer an "unproductive" account to the common workforce.



  • @ammoQ said:

    Here in Austria, though such a policy is not legally possible, but some companies I know have found an easy workaround: There simply is no possibility to bill non-billable time in the timesheets. You are in the office for (say) 8 hours, so you have to bill 8 hours to billable projects. The timesheet system simply doesn't offer an "unproductive" account to the common workforce.
    I'd like to see an honest description in that system...

    - Fixed SQL injection bug in clientContact module.

    - Finished implementing email auto-notification.

    - Went to the bathroom (number 2).

    - Made some GUI changes in email type form.

    - Answered coworker questions on latest developments on American Idol.

    - Picked my nose.

    - Posted reply on TDWTF.



  •  My wife has to clock out if she is stepping away from her desk for more than 5 minutes (they clock out with some program on the computer).  I understand she is an hourly employee and I am exempt, but good god, she has to clock out to take a shit?  What is this world coming to.



  • @ammoQ said:

    There simply is no possibility to bill non-billable time in the timesheets.
    If I really hadn't enough tasks for a day, I would just multiply my hours to get to a total of 8 hours. If I worked 1 hour on project X and 3 hours on project Y, then I would book 2 hours on X and 6 hours on Y. We were only allowed to book 1 hour a week on "general administration".

    But must of the time I would be assigned to one main project. Even if I didn't have a task I could just charge all my time on that project and the project lead had to accept it. Resources were assigned in advance on one project and usually booked for many weeks.

     



  • @DOA said:

    [...]

    - Made some GUI changes in email type form.

    - Answered coworker questions on latest developments on American Idol.

    - Picked my nose.

    - Posted reply on TDWTF.

    - Spent 8 hours filling out an overly obtuse timesheet.

    ... what do you mean there isn't a timecode for that?



  •  At work we just changed our timesheet software.  No one really care what times we put on there since we aren't contracting to clients, so the old system was great.  It was just a simple website with text boxes arranged for each type of hour (work, vacation, sick, etc.) and each day.    Every two weeks we would click a link, it would fill out the 8 hour/day and we would hit submit.  Took about 5 seconds. 

    The new system is a website that launches a Java applet.  The applet takes about 5-10 minutes to download the first time.  Then it doesn't work in any browser except IE6.  Then it won't log you in.  Then you have to call IT to reset the password for the timesheet system.  BTW, we have a password management system that keeps all our passwords (domain, unix, profile, etc.) in sync.  However, the timesheet system doesn't work with it, so we have a different password for that only.   Then the real problem, we have to change our corporate password every 90 days (which BTW, is aweful if what you want is ACTUAL security), but we have to change our timesheet password every 60 days!  So far I've done it twice, I've had to call IT once, and had to have another co-worker show me how to put in a personal day since the interface sucks.



  • @tster said:

    At work we just changed our timesheet software. [it sucks in numerous ways.]

    I hate to be all spam-like and perform and unauthorized plug, but I see an opportunity to relieve suffering, and replace it with, er, less suffering.

    We use this Web Timesheet thingy by Replicon that does not have any of the problems you mention. It has its own share of problems of course, feeling fairly klunky and being a litte sloppy as a web app (Broke FFX compatibility two versions ago, popups galore, custom DHTML selectboxes), but it works really well for both the fillers, the admins and the people who want numbers and graphs. It also allows you to fill in your stuff (almost) as easy as you describe with the old system.

     

    ) not a rape joke



  • @dhromed said:

    @tster said:

    At work we just changed our timesheet software. [it sucks in numerous ways.]

    I hate to be all spam-like and perform and unauthorized plug, but I see an opportunity to relieve suffering, and replace it with, er, less suffering.

    We use this Web Timesheet thingy by Replicon that does not have any of the problems you mention. It has its own share of problems of course, feeling fairly klunky and being a litte sloppy as a web app (Broke FFX compatibility two versions ago, popups galore, custom DHTML selectboxes), but it works really well for both the fillers, the admins and the people who want numbers and graphs. It also allows you to fill in your stuff (almost) as easy as you describe with the old system.

     

    ) not a rape joke

     

    My company has like 35,000 employees.  I don't even know who is in charge of the timesheet system, much less have any sway with them.



  • After reading through some of the items posted here, I'm starting to have a bit more appreciation for my situation:

    • We don't charge time to particular work codes, but we keep track of what project(s) we are working on for any period of time for tracking.
    • If I am not working on a particular project, I am not getting time deducted by looking up more information or working on a side project or some other tasks.
    • I only get 10 PTO days a year, but if I run out of PTO (or just don't feel like using one) I can take off as long as I make up the hours at another time (working late, weekends, etc.)



  • @ammoQ said:

    individual misbehaviour, not an official policy, to defraud the clients. Here in Austria, though such a policy is not legally possible, but some companies I know have found an easy workaround: There simply is no possibility to bill non-billable time in the timesheets. You are in the office for (say) 8 hours, so you have to bill 8 hours to billable projects. The timesheet system simply doesn't offer an "unproductive" account to the common workforce

    That is exactly how I would do things if I had to make such a decision. It reminds me of a time a few years ago when I had a bunch of credit cards I wanted to pay off. I took the idiot-proof approach of cutting them all up and using only cash. Numerous people said things like "but what if you need to rent a car or a hotel room?" I didn't think about this- my sarcastic answer was always "I won't need to; that stuff is too expensive anyway."

    This strategy worked out pretty well. I am sure there must have been some awkwardness at some point about paying for a room or a car, but somehow this all got handled without the need for me to incur any sort of debt.

    I remember reading once that the Austrians have a particular approach to work which is to find the quickest shortcut to a desired outcome and to take it. I think there is a single word for it; the closest thing I have seen in English is the term "lateral thinking," which for me has many positive connotations. Maybe this timesheet thing is an example. 



  • @bridget99 said:

    This strategy worked out pretty well. I am sure there must have been some awkwardness at some point about paying for a room or a car, but somehow this all got handled without the need for me to incur any sort of debt.
    I would use a debit card.  They work like credit cards, but deduct from your checking account.  Do you have those in Austria?



  • <QUOTE>@ueberbill said:

    I'm a salaried employee- my initial offer letter stated as much and I work and am paid like your average salaried employee.

    Research the labor laws in your country/state. Find out their definition of 'salaried' and what's allowed.

    If you find that your company is not complying with your country/state's legal definition of 'salaried' then send a copy of your offer letter and a well written memo explaining how their policy violates the law. Include the statement that you expect any vacation time that has been deducted to be replaced and a reply in writing stating either: they will no longer apply this company policy to you or that they do not consider you exempt from the policy. Make sure you put a reasonable deadline for their response. Lack of a response is as much of an answer as a reply.

    If you get your vacation time back and the 'good' reply then file it away and be done.

    If you don't get your vacation time back and the 'bad' reply OR if you get your past vacation time back and notified that all future events will result in deduction of your vacation time then take the entire packet to an employment lawyer. And start looking for another job and hope that company doesn't ignore labor laws.



  • @pelbarionthekinb said:

    I would use a debit card.  They work like credit cards, but deduct from your checking account.  Do you have those in Austria?
     

    lol, Austria is not exactly a 3rd-world country. Do you have any reason to believe they don't have debit cards in Austria?



  • @sootzoo said:

    Austria is not exactly a 3rd-world country. Do you have any reason to believe they don't have debit cards in Austria?
    No, I have no such reason, which is why I was confused and asked the question.



  • @MrsPost said:

    Research the labor laws in your country/state.
    Or for our viewers who don't work in the north half of the americas (exepting Canada, and possibly Hawaii)......



  • @belgariontheking said:

    @bridget99 said:

    This strategy worked out pretty well. I am sure there must have been some awkwardness at some point about paying for a room or a car, but somehow this all got handled without the need for me to incur any sort of debt.
    I would use a debit card.  They work like credit cards, but deduct from your checking account.  Do you have those in Austria?

    Bah.  Credit cards are fantastic if you are responsible enough to actually manage money.  I average something like a 3% cash-back discount on everything I buy by using credit cards and don't pay any interest or fees.  What's more, it builds up excellent credit. 



  • @PJH said:

    @MrsPost said:

    Research the labor laws in your country/state.
    Or for our viewers who don't work in the north half of the americas (exepting Canada, and possibly Hawaii)......

    I'm not even sure what this is supposed to mean, but you basically just excluded over half of the "north half of the Americas".  Perhaps you could have phrased it in a way that would be comprehensible? 


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