Residence Life will replace hall director salaries with an hourly wage for a tracked 40 hour work week following the U.S. Department of Labor’s new salary level requirements which took effect Jan.1.
The news of the salary threshold being raised came out in September 2019. All employers were then notified they had to do a salary test for the people they employed.
Residence Life Director Jamie Van Boxel said under the new Fair Labor Standard Act salaried professionals can be exempt from having to be paid overtime if they meet the minimum salary level of $35,680. Van Boxel said if they don’t make that amount of money or more, however, they are considered not exempt from having to earn overtime. This includes any time spent working over 40 hours in a seven day work week, Van Boxel said.
In terms of higher education, Van Boxel said professors, assistants and student employees are exempt from this regulation unlike hall directors and other Truman State University staff within student and academic affairs. Van Boxel said Truman decided not to raise hall director salaries to fit the FLSA’s new guidelines, so their pay amount is still the same.
Typically, salary increase decisions are decided by the Board of Governors. Sally Herleth, executive director of human resources, said since this was a change in federal law, it was a decision decided internally by an administrative team and approved by University President Sue Thomas. Herleth said there was general agreement about the decision and not much opposition.
Truman has to be careful with how it distributes money, Herleth said, especially with employee positions like hall director.
“The reality is that we’re dealing with budgets all the time,” Herleth said. “The University is trying to treat employees as fairly as possible within the constraints that we’re working within, including the budget.”
Hall directors are supposed to track their hours on their own and they have undergone training by Residence Life to understand the impact of the FLSA. Van Boxel said hall directors understand that under the law they can’t volunteer to work more than 40 hours but can request time to work more hours. Additionally, he said work that pushes hall directors past 40 hours can be a part of departmental protocols. Each hall director also has a supervisor they can go to. Van Boxel said the assistant director or coordinator for Residence Life can assist them if they have concerns about fitting all their work into 40 hours.
Van Boxel said hall directors are also not traditional employees because they do not use timecards.
“They’re not punching in or punching out,” Van Boxel said. “In many ways, because they’re professional staff with advanced degrees, they are entrusted with the responsibility to manage their time and document the time that they work so they can say they worked 40 hours.”
For tracking, Van Boxel said hall directors will use an online time clock system to record when they work more than 40 hours weekly.
Herleth said she recommends hall directors lay out a calendar for the week with all their duties on it. Tracking everything in their week, however, might be a challenge for them, Herleth said, since they have on-call time during weekends and expectations of meetings. She said having hall directors punch in didn’t work as a system because they have different hours than other employees and aren’t always sitting at a desk.
Van Boxel said supervisors will approve their tracking, which is checked on a monthly basis. If a staff member does falsify the information they put in the time clock, Van Boxel said there would be varying consequences from a supervisor. Mistakes such as under or over reporting can happen. All a hall director needs to do in that case, Van Boxel said, is come forward and then they will be compensated for the time they worked or take vacation time to account for if they didn’t work as much.
Dave Rector, vice president for administration, finance and planning, said on a full year basis, hall directors earn $26,180 and receive free room and board, which Truman doesn’t count toward their compensation. There is, however, another way public universities can compensate hall directors and other 40 hour employees. Rector said compensatory time or “comp time” can be used by those employees to get more time off. Rector said for every eight hours of overtime worked a person gets 1 1/2 hours off. This can be helpful, Rector said, for hall directors or other employees who have a second job.
Van Boxel said housing rates also impact how much hall directors and other Residence Life staff are paid. He said there are no tax dollars or state funding that support Residence Life. All money generated is made from the amount of students who decide to live on campus, Van Boxel said.
Although hall director’s duties haven’t changed, Van Boxel said their work input could be different or more focused because of their time limits.
“It’s not accurate to say that a hall director who is salaried and can work as many hours as they’d like is going to do more work,” Van Boxel said. “The hall director who is limited to 40 hours realizes that when they walk out of their apartment and they enter the Residence Hall, for a seven day period they have 40 hours to do all the things they need to do. So they’re going to be efficient and engaged with their work for those 40 hours.”
Van Boxel said it’s up to hall directors to make individual decisions about whether the job and its parameters are a good fit for them. He said he has no reason to believe that a hall director being hourly might change how satisfied they are with the job.
Last year, Van Boxel wrote a dissertation where he conducted interviews with hall directors in Minnesota who were being paid hourly for 40 hours. He said his research found only 20% of hall directors preferred being exempt from overtime after one semester. Van Boxel said those hall director’s described their hourly status as being a job satisfier because they could better balance their work and personal life.
Rector said he doesn’t know if the 40 hour work week will impact people’s willingness to apply for hall director positions at Truman.
“If you look at that position nationwide then almost everyone is going to be facing the same issues,” Rector said. “So whether you’re going to be hall director here or at the University of Missouri or Minnesota State University, [the 40 hour work week] is going to be an issue. The only way around that is to either pay them the $35,000 and so forth. But the value of food, room and board is over $12,000 a year, but you can’t count that.”