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Employment Law: Negotiating Overtime, Engagement & Criminal Issues

I have been teaching for the American Management Association (AMA) for 27 years. One of my key courses is Employment Law, along with Negotiation. On the surface, one might think of employment law as boring, but in actuality employment law is exciting and dynamic. I do my best to bring this dynamism to the teaching of this course.

Negotiation plays a major role in all aspects of employment laws. One finds negotiation in creating employment laws, regulations, hiring practices, conflicts, and departures.

For example, during the last teaching of this course, we had an animated discussion of employers mandating COVID-19 vaccinations. The overall conclusion was “yes” with certain exceptions. Most folks had forgotten that public schools have been requiring up to 12 times of vaccinations before entering. These vaccinations even included mumps and measles, let alone polio and diphtheria.

Of course there are vaccination exceptions such as health conditions or religious concerns.

I used skill practices, roleplays, pictures, court cases, examples and quizzes to make the course exciting.

This blog entry will focus on several employment law questions that are posed in a quiz to participants. Often there is no set answer to these questions but instead the questions provoke an animated discussion.

Question #1: What percentage of American workers are not engaged or interested in their jobs?

Response: Participants usually guess a high number from 60-80%.

Some say that the US is in “an engagement crisis.” Research demonstrates clearly that engagement impacts the company’s bottom line and drives higher customer satisfaction. Workers desire a job that they love and is stimulating. If a job uses an employee’s strengths, they are six times more likely to be engaged.

It is estimated that only 13% feel “engaged” at work.

Tip #1: Focus on employee’s strengths. 71% of employees become disengaged if they have a manager who focuses on what they did not do well. If managers focus on strengths, 61% of employees will feel engaged and possibly only 1%, disengaged.

Tip #2: Be an inclusive manager. So often companies will ask for ideas and suggestions but the policy has already been set. Employees feel discouraged and begin to distrust the company. Companies should constantly give feedback.

Tip#3: Create a clarity of the company’s purpose, vision, and goals. Research shows that if companies include employees in creating and achieving performance goals then 69% feel engaged. If the company does not do this, 53% feel disengaged.

Question #2: The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires overtime pay for workers for more than 40 hours. But, is there a salary exception? What is the salary threshold?

Response: Most workshop participants guessed much higher than the federal established minimum. Their guesses ranged from $60-80,000.

“The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 29 U.S.C. § 203 is a United States labor law that creates the right to a minimum wage, and "time-and-a-half" overtime pay when people work over forty hours a week. It also prohibits employment of minors in "oppressive child labor."

“The FLSA overtime rule determines whether employees are eligible or exempt for overtime pay. Exempt employees, because of their rate of pay and type of work that they do, are not eligible for overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Nonexempt employees must be paid time and a half for any hours worked more than 40 in a workweek.”

“Effective January 1, 2021 under the WMWA, the minimum actual gross salary a position can be paid and still remain overtime exempt will increase from $684 per week to $958.38 per week ($49,836 per year or $4,153 per month). As a result, professional staff, contract covered staff, and classified non-union overtime positions that do not meet the new, higher weekly salary threshold must be changed to overtime eligible.”

Question #3: CEO pay is how many times the average worker pay?

Response: Most participants guess that the CEO pay is about 10x as much as the average.

“Chief executives of big companies now make, on average, 320 times as much as their typical worker, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In 1989, that ratio was 61 to 1. From 1978 to 2019, compensation grew 14 percent for typical workers. It rose 1,167 percent for C.E.O.s.”

- Boeing Corporation had a bad past year with plans to lay off 30,000 workers, yet they paid their CEO $21.1 million.

- Norwegian Cruise Lines also faced a bad year but paid their CEO $36 million.

- Hilton also suffered badly during the pandemic, losing an estimated $720 million, and yet paid their CEO $60 million.

How is this explained, since most people believe the US is gripped by a CEO compensation surge? The stock market is up and CEO compensation is often related to it.

The impact is great income inequality. Americans lose more trust in the US economic system.

Question #4: Could Roland’s Home Services hire only people with the name of “Roland?”

Response: The initial reaction of participants is an emphatic "Yes!"

This initial reaction makes sense. Americans generally value small businesses and the independence of small businesses.

Further examination reveals that this is not the easy question that it appears to be.

First, the name “Roland” is generally associated with males. So, the result might be discriminatory hiring.

Second, the name Roland is more associated with African Americans than others so again discriminatory hiring might be occurring.

The need for this requirement is also illusive and unnecessary.

Question #5: How many states/counties/cities have passed the “ban the box” legislation?

Response: Most training participants had actually not heard of the “ban the box” movement.

The basic idea is that those who have been arrested or convicted of crimes need to be given

an employment opportunity. If one knows the criminal justice system, one knows how easy it is to get arrested. The number of actions listed as crimes keeps rising, including many social issues like today, marijuana.* Of course, an arrest does not mean conviction. In a completely fair employment process, the arrest should not have to be revealed. Often the applicant is rejected immediately upon the awareness of a conviction and even an arrest. The “ban the box” concept is to eliminate the arrest revelation box until later in the process.

(*According to best estimates—and estimates are all we have—there are about 4,500 federal crimes in the United States Code, and more than 300,000 federal crimes dispersed throughout federal regulations. And these are only federal crimes, let alone state and local crimes.)

Thirteen states plus the District of Columbia have some sort of “Ban the Box” law. These states include VA, MD, MN, HI, NJ, WA, NM, CO, CT, IL, VT.

California's ban the box law prohibits employers from inquiring into an applicant's criminal history before making a conditional offer of employment. Even after making an offer of employment, an employer cannot deny the applicant because of a conviction without making an individualized assessment.”


Employment law is dynamic. Federal, state, and local governments are constantly changing their laws and often are not updating their old laws. One of the best ways to keep up to date is using the website of SHRM (Society of Human Resources Management).


American Management Association

Develop Skills in the Critical Subject Areas Needed for Success. Join an Online Seminar. Tailored Training Solutions for Individuals and Organizations

Now is a pivotal time for the workplace and workforce as critical issues affecting society impact work. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).


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