One of my favorite blogs that I highly recommend is Alison Green’s “Ask A Manager.” I read it and I laugh and laugh. Then, I check my own inbox and cry–because the questions aren’t nearly as funny when I’m the one that has to answer them.
I’m going to share some common questions I’ve been asked that keep appearing in my inbox. You’re invited to submit questions of your own if you’d like.
1.) “What is minimum wage?”
Minimum wage is the minimum hourly wage amount an employer must pay an American employee. The federal amount is currently $7.25 an hour. State amounts vary and some municipalities have also instituted their own. In any jurisdiction, the “prevailing” wage is what you’re owed. For example, if you’re in a state with a $10 minimum wage, that wage prevails over the federal minimum.
Salon owners will try to exempt themselves from minimum wage and overtime obligations by requiring their staff to be “independent contractors.” Unless you are a booth renter, operating your own business independent of ANY employer control–you are not independent.
2.) “How do I tell my owner that she’s doing something wrong?”
The best approach is an informed and diplomatic one. Never assume the wrongdoing was intentional. It’s highly likely that your employer didn’t know better.
3.) “Can the owner refuse to pay me my last check because I quit without notice?”
I get asked this question a lot in varying forms: “Can the owner give me an IOU if the salon doesn’t have the money to pay me this week?” “Can the owner withhold my check as punishment?” “Can the owner change my pay rate after the pay period?”
The answer to all of these is “No.” Your employer MUST pay you the amount they promised you. Some states even have wage payment laws that outline when your payment is due by.
4.) “The salon owner fired me unjustly. What can I do about it?”
In the absence of an employment contracts that prohibits or restricts termination under specific terms–unless the termination was clearly discriminatory, there’s nothing you can do about it legally (unless you live in Wyoming, which remains–for whatever reason–the only state that is not an at-will employment state). Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects American workers from wrongful discharge based on race, religion, sex, age, and national origin. Some states have legislation protecting workers from unjust and retaliatory termination, specifically where the termination conflicts with public policy, but you’ll have to check your state’s laws regarding that.
5.) “What’s the difference between ’employment-at-will’ and ‘right-to-work?'”
Employment-at-will indicates that employment is terminable at any time for any reason (or for no reason). The employee or employer can terminate the employment arrangement “at will.” It is employment without obligation–meaning that neither you nor the employer are contractually or otherwise legally obligated to one another.
The right-to-work law prohibits union security agreements between unions and employers that require employee participation as a condition of employment. As an example, let’s say we had a Professional Beauty Workers Union of Awesome. We want more members. So, we decide to approach Regis Corp. Right-to-work legislation would not allow our Union of Awesome to approach businesses and strike a deal, requiring their workers to become union members as a condition of working there. Currently, 24 states have right-to-work provisions. This has absolutely nothing to do with our industry. Generally, when I’m asked questions about “right-to-work,” what you’re really asking me about is “employment-at-will.”
6.) “My salon owner wants me to walk their dog/do their grocery shopping/scrub toilets/herd rabid cats. Is that legal?”
If it’s not criminal activity and you’re getting paid in accordance with the FLSA (or your employment contract), then yes. Not only is it legal, but you, as a W-2 employee, have an obligation to comply–or resign.
I have several more that I’d like to address in individual posts since the responses are considerably longer. Wait for it….