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Pennsylvania employees stand up against low overtime rates

Pennsylvania employees are working to enforce their rights to overtime pay. The court system has sided with workers so far, ruling that many employees who have been subject to tricky pay schemes by their employers are eligible for better wages. The issue at hand in these cases is how employer may use what is known as the fluctuating work week model, which is used to lower overtime costs.

The fluctuating work week means that the employee's hourly rate is calculated by their base pay divided by the number of hours that they actually work. So instead of calculating overtime based on the regular hourly rate divided by 40 hours, the employer will calculate the hourly rate using the base pay divided by 50 or 60 hours. The overtime that employees make for the additional hours is then calculated at that lower rate.

The fluctuating work week calculation has been used by employers to lower overtime costs, leaving employees to do the extra work for very little extra pay.

One of the more significant lawsuits on this issue was brought by Frito-Lay drivers when they challenged the practice under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act. The judge in that case ruled that employees who are not paid by the job or by the day are covered by the state's minimum wage law and are therefore entitled to normal overtime pay calculations.

An attorney involved with that case told reporters that the irony of the fluctuating work week model is that "the longer you work, the less you are paid."

Kraft Foods also suffered a defeat in federal court, when they admitted to using fluctuating work weeks to calculate pay.

Pennsylvania employees have the right to be paid fairly and incompliance with state law for the work that they do. More information on these and other related issues can be found on our Pittsburgh wage, hour and overtime disputes page.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Rulings go against employers using 'fluctuating' workweeks to cut overtime costs," Ann Belser, Oct. 8, 2012.

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