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As the title says: A coworker and I had recently made a mistake at work. In response to this, our manager decides we have to work for two extra hours on our next shifts unpaid. Is this legal? I work in the State of Georgia in the US, by the way.

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    Are you a salaried worker? Are you a "manager" in title? Is your salary significantly above minimum wage? (these can all matter both legally and practically)
    – Yakk
    Jun 22, 2023 at 15:05
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    How did they phrase this? Did they say, "We are docking your pay the amount of the loss," and this has the effect of making two hours of your work free, or did they explicitly say "We want you to work two hours for free"?
    – tbrookside
    Jun 22, 2023 at 15:22
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    Full-time Engineering workers are "exempt" from overtime pay requirements under US law (although sometimes employers will throw them a little something to encourage extra work). And of course engineers are rather overrepresented in the userbase of StackExchange sites, due to the technical sites. So this is really a crucial missing piece of information from this question at the moment.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 22, 2023 at 15:26
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    @T.E.D. Full-time Engineering workers are not exempt unless they are true managers or they are salaried AND make above the field-specific minimum. (E.g., in California, for computer software employees, it's $112,065.20 annually.) Georgia seems to follow the lower federal standard of the FLSA, however, and the employee must be salaried and earn a minimum of $35,568.
    – David
    Jun 22, 2023 at 19:00
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    @David - There are a lot of nitty technical rules for what allows an employer to classify an employee as exempt. What you gave is also an simplification, but I suppose I was being naïve in posting my own simplification and hoping I wouldn't touch off a "well actually..." war. Suffice to say my comment was not intended as a complete specification of the law, yours isn't either, and doing so here in the comments would be off-topic. The OP probably knows the answer, but if they don't their HR department certainly can tell them. We need that updated into the question in order to be able to answer.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 22, 2023 at 19:03

2 Answers 2

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This is illegal, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, assuming you are not an "exempt" employee, which is primarily a salaried employee (your pay isn't based on how many hours you work). There are details about the complaint process here. It is useful to know that retaliation against an employee filing a legal complaint is also illegal.

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    The retaliation might be illegal, but the work climate definitely won't improve if you complain.
    – arne
    Jun 22, 2023 at 7:27
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    @phoog That ends up in the question whether the employer can make an employee pay for an error he makes. And I'm pretty sure the answer is also No.
    – PMF
    Jun 22, 2023 at 7:40
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    @jwenting I suppose you've never been employed in the US. in Georgia, like every US jurisdiction other than Montana, employment is "at will" by default, and exceptions to this default are rare outside of unionized jobs. Either party can terminate the terms of employment at any time for any reason (apart from certain statutory prohibitions such as certain forms of discrimination) or for no reason. If the employee signed a contract, which is unlikely, there is likely a clause covering changes in the wage that allows it to be lowered as well as raised.
    – phoog
    Jun 22, 2023 at 7:58
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    @phoog Thanks for that link. I guess if I ever work in the US, I'd have to carefuly consider the state...
    – PMF
    Jun 22, 2023 at 8:15
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    Retroactive reductions in pay are not. But I suspect that if your salary is above min wage, they could reduce it to min wage until the extra time you work "off the clock" is "paid off", then bump it back up again. Not doing this will run into federal law problems.
    – Yakk
    Jun 22, 2023 at 15:04
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Per the article "Overtime Rules for Exempt and Non-Exempt Employees":

The Department of Labor (DOL) has rules for when employers must pay overtime to employees. The DOL assumes every worker must receive overtime pay if they work over 40 hours in a week, at a rate equal to 1.5 times their hourly rate (at a minimum).1 But some employees, because of the nature of their work, are considered to be "exempt" from overtime pay.

It used to be that the terms "exempt" and "non-exempt" were clearly defined. But the DOL has more rules to protect lower-paid exempt employees from falling below the minimum wage, by requiring that they must be paid overtime."

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