After an outside arbitrator released a report two weeks ago about payroll disputes at Harvard, the University will begin to pay grant managers at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences for their overtime work. Grant managers are responsible for coordinating federal funding for research.
Managers at the Medical School have been eligible to receive overtime for several years, but FAS and SEAS grant managers, like other types of workers at the University, were previously exempt from being paid for overtime work.
“This position was considered overtime exempt as a result of the University's interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act,” Harvard’s Director of Labor Relations Bill Murphy said in an emailed statement.
According to the Harvard Union for Clerical and Technical Workers, the decision to classify these workers as eligible for overtime pay marks the culmination of four years of advocacy by the union, which has pushed to expand worker eligibility.
The union requires that prospective members be eligible to receive overtime pay and has spearheaded efforts to increase the number of Harvard employees eligible for membership. As a result of the recent change, 33 grant managers will now be eligible for both overtime pay and membership in the union.
“[Grant management] is a very deadline-driven job, so for the people who have to stay and make sure they get things done, this is absolutely a good thing,” said Tavita Gill, who is a grant manager at the Medical School. She said she does not plan to join HUCTW.
While the recent change will only make grant managers eligible to receive overtime, the director of HUCTW, Bill Jaeger, said he hopes it will catalyze future changes for other workers across the University who are now exempt from receiving overtime pay.
“It’s encouraging to finally have some progress or forward motion on this issue trying to get these exemptions right,” Jaeger said. “We’re hoping now that we’ve found the right formula and right approach.”
Jaeger added that HUCTW believes that there are 1,200 currently exempt Harvard workers who should be overtime eligible.
According to regulations instituted under the Fair Labor Standards Act, jobs must be determined exempt on a case-by-case basis because workers have different responsibilities that may disqualify them from receiving overtime pay.
“It seems extremely likely that most or all of the other jobs in question here would be found to be appropriately in the union and non-exempt [from overtime pay],” Jaeger said.
If an employer unjustifiably denies a worker overtime pay, it can face legal ramifications from the United States Department of Labor, which sets guidelines for which jobs are exempt from receiving overtime pay.
Some labor activists voiced concerns that Harvard has failed to properly interpret the guidelines instituted by the Department of Labor.
“The University has not been seen as working in good faith around this issue,” said Pam Mullaney, a HUCTW organizer who worked on the campaign to gain overtime eligibility for grant managers.
Murphy, however, maintained that the University has been receptive to working with HUCTW and would continue to tackle lingering questions about overtime eligibility.
“We are aware that questions have been raised about other positions and we are committed to resolving these questions,” Murphy said.
—Staff writer Mariel A. Klein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mariel_klein.
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