Last month, a federal judge in New York granted preliminary approval for a settlement in which Hofstra University agreed to pay up to $485,000 to a class of 256 undergraduate and graduate students who allegedly were not paid minimum wage and overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The plaintiff class included both students who the University classified as hourly employees and others who received stipends as undergraduate and graduate assistants. Because the case was settled, the court never reached a judgement as to whether the students who received stipends were "employees" entitled to minimum wage and overtime under the FLSA. That begs the question, when must a student be considered an "employee" for purposes of minimum wage and overtime?
Last Wednesday, my partner Ed Druck and I hosted a webinar on wage and hour law for colleges and universities. (For those who missed it, you can check out the recording.) We had a great turnout and a wonderfully responsive audience. We were thrilled to receive nearly 50 questions, but could only get to a handful of them during the webinar. Over the next several weeks, we will try to answer a number of them here on the blog. If we don't get to yours, please feel free to contact me or Ed.
For those of you outside the realm of higher education, worry not: this will be worthwhile reading for you too, as the issues raised by our webinar audience apply to a wide range of employers.
To kick off the Q&A, let's start with a question we got from several of you about on-call time:
Q. Our Resident Advisors are treated as employees and paid through the payroll. During certain hours they are required to be accessible by phone, but not necessarily in their rooms. From midnight to 8:00 a.m., they are required to be in the dorm and available to maintain order or respond to calls from students. However, most of this time is spent on personal activities or sleeping. Do we have to pay for this time? If so, can we pay a lower "on call" rate of say $1 per hour?