Budget changes affect wages

Sarah Lentz, Staff Writer

The Nebraska State College System’s budgets are set in two-year cycles, and the one Wayne State College is operating on this year was set in 2013.

Since then, the Affordable Care Act has come into effect, and on a state level, Nebraska raised its minimum wage in 2015. Both changes have affected bottom lines in all forms of campus business.

Add a pre-determined budget to those changes and spending becomes more of a focus.

Recently, WSC has made sure its employees are in compliance with both state guidelines and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), especially when it comes to receiving overtime.

Certain faculty and administrative staff members are covered by an overtime exemption under FLSA.

Those exemptions are agreed upon and implemented under the Nebraska Association of Public Employees (NAPE) agreement and the America Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (AFSCME) agreements.

FLSA ensures that employees get fair wages for the work they do. NAPE and AFSCME serve as labor unions for all full-time employees, those who work 0.75 full-time equivalent and up.

These employees can collectively bargain contractual agreements with the Nebraska State College System.

“The contract is actually an agreement between the colleges and the line staff; how do we allot overtime and vacation time,” Mike Steadman, contract administrator and lead negotiator for NAPE/AFSCME, said.

According to the Department of Labor website, an employee is considered full-time if he or she works 40 hours per week.

If an employee works more than that, “the covered nonexempt employees must receive overtime pay at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay.”

However, there are exceptions for both professional and administrative employees that some Wayne State employees fall under.

According to dol.gov, any administrative employee with a salary of $455 per week and whose primary duty is “performing administrative functions directly related to academic instruction or training in an educational establishment,” is exempted from traditional overtime pay.

Professional teachers also have similar exemption standards under the guidelines of FLSA.

NAPE states that NSCS employees are entitled to overtime pay unless given compensatory overtime.

“At the discretion of the Employer, compensatory time on a one- and-one-half basis may be given in lieu of overtime pay,” NAPE policy says, “provided, however, that an employee may not accrue more than 240 hours of compensatory time (160 hours of time worked). Unused compensatory time shall be paid at the end of employment.”

The purpose of FLSA and unions like NAPE/AFSCME is to protect employees. Regulating working hours not only helps the bottom line, but also helps ensure employees are getting fair compensation for the work they do.

“The idea of the agreement is, let both parties know what they can and can’t do,” Steadman said.

The NAPE agreement outlines rights and responsibilities of both staff and the college system.

“If both operate within the parameters of the contract, it gives freedom. It’s not a manifesto of do’s and don’ts,” Steadman said. “If labor knows what they can and can’t do and management knows what they can and can’t do, you retain staff and have more job satisfaction.”