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Prescription for overtime?

Q. I work as a pharmacist, and am required to take part in a group conference call meeting that occurs once or twice a month. These calls last from 30 to 60 minutes. If I am working, filling prescriptions and dealing with customers, I am required to take the call while continuing to multitask. If the calls occur on my days off, I am still required to attend. Should I be compensated for these mandatory meetings when they occur on my day off?

A. Time is money as the saying goes, but not always. Many people question when they should be compensated, and it is okay to ask a human resources representative at your company to answer that question, and to explain the logic, or laws behind that answer. How you ask the question - really any questions about compensation - matters. It shouldn't be threatening, just ask for a clarification so everybody understands how things work. Human resources people and managers can't be aggravated by people trying to understand how they are paid. It is a reasonable question - regardless of the answer.

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Looking for legal information about overtime, I consulted with Josh Black, at Bello, Black and Walsh in Boston. As with much of employment law, "it depends" on whether you are exempt from the overtime requirements of state and federal law. If you are an exempt employee, you are paid a salary that is intended to cover all the hours you work, regardless of the days on which that work occurs, or the total number of hours you work in any given work week.

In general, it is customary for an exempt professional to have to attend to certain responsibilities on a day off. There is no legal reason that an employer cannot require an employee who is taking a day off to participate in a call. If the employee is exempt, there is no obligation to pay him or her extra for the time spent working on a day off. If the employee is non-exempt (not exempt from the overtime requirements of state and federal law), then the employer will have to pay you at your regular hourly rate, and you may be entitled to overtime if the total hours worked in that week exceed 40.

So your question may be: Am I exempt or non-exempt? "It depends" on many things, including the scope of your authority and your duties. If you are unsure of your status, you should ask your human resources person how your position is classified, and why.

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