Delphi Question #585
(received March 13): On Monday, March 10, some employees were
given memos stating that there was a reclassification
from exempt status to nonexempt status beginning
that same day. The only explanation in the
memo was that Human Resources had completed
a Federal Labor Standards Act audit and that
clarification to the changes resulted in
HR’s determination of our positions
being subject to FLSA wage and hour guidelines.
The audit and change were not discussed with
supervisors or lab associate directors before
the Thursday or Friday prior to the Monday
when affected employees were told.
This action raises the following questions:
Was this change mandatory and, if
Who decided the reclassification
was necessary and how was this decided?
was this not communicated earlier—at
least to supervisors and associate
Why was there no input
from supervisors or associate directors
regarding classifications and ranges?
were the ranges decided—especially
since some of the ranges are
lower than the original ranges
(thus having the appearance of a demotion)?
UCAR professes leadership, yet the way
HR handled the reclassification is a
poor example of that leadership and communication.
How can a company that is supposed to
be considered one of the “2007 best
companies to work for in Colorado” not
take into account the impact this could have
on the affected employees? We understand
that laws and policies may change, but we
would expect better communication from HR.
Better communication means less shock and
anger on an employee’s
Some employees are wondering what
else will change without notification—benefits,
March 19): I think I hear a couple of things in
this question. First, a request for additional
information concerning the change; second,
disappointment in the effects of the change
and the way it was communicated.
Regarding the change, it was made as
a result of external requirements over
which UCAR has no control. It was not made
because of any internal desire to change
the status of certain jobs. If it were up
to us, we would have left the jobs unchanged.
The Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prescribes
standards for the basic minimum wage and
overtime pay, and affects most private and
public employment. Following recent guidance
from the Department of Labor, many organizations
are changing the exempt status of certain
Human Resources reviewed several job
categories. Some of the positions we
reviewed remained exempt, while others
were changed to nonexempt. The affected jobs
are Software Engineer I, Systems Administrator
I, Network Engineer I, Executive Assistant
I, and Web Developer I and II. Other
Boulder employers have also recently changed
the status of jobs similar to ours.
making the changes, we had external attorneys
review the jobs to ensure we were required
to make these changes. Other than the
change in exempt status, there was no change
in the jobs, and the classification stayed
UCAR has a separate salary range
for nonexempt positions, so all of the
affected positions were moved to that salary
range. This means there were minor changes
in the midpoints for all of the affected
jobs, but these were less than $300. No employee’s
rate of pay was changed, and no one was demoted.
(We are aware of one major employer that
did reduce pay rates by 15% concurrent with
the change to nonexempt status, but UCAR
did not.) Those who moved to nonexempt positions
will be eligible for time-and-a-half pay
for all hours worked over 40 in a work week,
as required under the FLSA.
Concerning the disappointment in the
effects of the changes, I think the disappointment
is real. The FLSA is written to “protect” some
employees and ensure they receive overtime
pay, but its actual impact feels different.
These changes were not made based on employee performance,
value to the organization, or any other internal
motivation. Based on our internal and external
review of the jobs, and on the recent Department
of Labor guidance, we had no option but to
make the change.
Regarding the communication, senior management
was made aware of the issue prior to
the announcement. Some managers who had
multiple employees affected were briefed
on the changes from the Department of Labor
and the likelihood of UCAR changing the status
of some jobs to nonexempt. Because of the
sensitivity and uncertainty of the issue,
these discussions were confidential. Until
we were certain which jobs would be impacted,
we did not want to unnecessarily alarm employees
in jobs not affected by the changes.
You are correct that most supervisors
were unaware of the change until a few
days before it went into effect and that
employees in the affected jobs were given
no advance notice. Because the change was
legally required, we wanted to put it into
place as soon as practical. Meetings and
discussions were held with administrators,
supervisors, and/or directors, depending
on availability, the week of March 3. However,
in retrospect, we could have done better
in communicating the necessary changes to
affected employees and supervisors.
the future, there are likely to be other
legally required changes to some of our
policies and plans. Every year we have some
minor changes and they are included in our
communications to employees. Benefit plans
are reviewed every year, and we have seen
some changes. The last major change was the
implementation of the High Deductible (HSA)
Health Plan. This change was widely communicated
months in advance.
Director, Human Resources
Delphi Question #586
(received March 13): I heard in a meeting with the director of
a lab that there is a UCAR-wide hiring
freeze in place to help save UCAR money,
considering the impending budget shortfalls.
(It was the same meeting where we discussed
the four-month delay in raises recently set
by Rick Anthes.)
Yet I see many positions advertised and
being filled. I have no problem with
people being hired; some of them are my friends.
I’m glad for that. But I’d like
straight talk from the administration. If
there is a hiring freeze, enforce it. If
there is effectively no hiring freeze, don’t
say there is. It gives the appearance of
preferential treatment when you say there
is a hiring freeze, but some people are hired
anyway. It makes it look like those people
are special exceptions instead of qualified
applicants filling important positions. (I’m
not confusing hiring with promotions.)
So, is there a UCAR-wide hiring freeze
or not? Is it a limited hiring freeze?
Perhaps limited to certain labs, or classes
of positions, or to new positions but not
March 26): Thanks for
the question. It is an involved issue and
some clarification is needed.
The hiring freeze is actually an “NCAR
external hiring freeze” and applies
only to NCAR. It was initiated by the
NCAR director last August in response to
FY08 and FY09 budget pressures, the continuing
resolution, and the omnibus bill.
goal of the external hiring freeze is
to coordinate and optimize internal assignments
and redeployments of existing staff as
an important and proactive part of our
budget and program management. It covers
all NCAR external hires, but provides for
exceptions based on demonstration of the
insufficiency of the internal applicant pool
and the programmatic need to fill a position.
All exceptions are approved by the NCAR director
or the NCAR deputy director.
freeze went into effect, no position
has been opened for an external posting without
this review and approval. NCAR plans
to revisit this temporary policy after confirmation
of the FY08 Target by NSF and in light
of projections for funding for FY09 later
this calendar year.
UOP has no hiring
freeze in place and positions are filled
based on programmatic needs and the availability
of funding for the position.
While F&A does not have a hiring freeze
in effect, open positions may not be filled
without the specific approval of the F&A
vice president. This requirement went into
effect in January in response to the changes
in NCAR’s budget.