ResLife hall coordinator work schedules to be affected by labor law change

MU first began planning for this transition in May, and the university legally has until December to implement the changes.
Maneater file photo

An update to the Fair Labor Standards Act is changing how employees are paid overtime, and residence hall coordinators are now facing restrictions on how and when they can do their job.

Hall coordinators are professional Department of Residential Life staff members who live in the residence halls, handle conduct and supervise student staff. Hall coordinators often work outside of a typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday. The nature of the job means that they often meet with student staff in evenings, respond to student staff and residents’ concerns as needed and attend hall events.

Because of the federal labor law change, hall coordinators’ job status has transitioned from exempt to nonexempt, which means they can no longer work more than 40 hours per week without being paid overtime. This means that only hall coordinators on duty after hours can respond to emergencies. In addition, time spent doing tasks like checking emails after their workday is completed is time that goes toward their hours for the week.

According to an internal information sheet on the change, overtime requests must be put in a week ahead of time. In an email sent to Department of Residential Life employees, Kristen Temple, the associate director of Residential Academic Programs, wrote that ResLife will no longer allow hall coordinators the flexibility of assisting students and student staffers even when not working because “it will be likely to result in overtime.” Temple said in the email that this is why hall coordinators on duty are to be contacted in case of emergencies.

Temple said despite the changes to hall coordinators’ schedules, this will have little impact on student staffers and residents.

“I don't anticipate that students are going to see to much change or impact because their hall coordinator is still going to be there for hall council meetings, they’re still going to have office hours and be in their office, and their hall coordinator is still going to meet with the student staff,” Temple said.

But in an email, a former student staffer who wishes to remain anonymous said they believe this change could have a negative impact for residents, student staff and hall coordinators.

“I think this could have a negative impact as it does not allow much time for the HCs to interact freely with residents and their staff in the way that they would have before,” the former staffer said. “Similarly, I think that by limiting the number of hours it could result in some aspects of the job being pushed aside, not out of the HC's willingness to complete them, but out of necessity because there are simply not enough hours in the 40 hour work week.”

Hall coordinator is just one of the jobs being affected by this labor law change; jobs from across the UM System that no longer meet exemption requirements have been reclassified as nonexempt to comply with federal law as of Oct. 23.

“As an employer, you can define certain jobs’ positions to be exempt, so salaried, or nonexempt, which uses hourly timekeeping,” Temple said.

Exempt employees do not get paid overtime, while nonexempt employees do. At MU, approximately 700 employees are transitioning from exempt to nonexempt status, MU spokesman Christian Basi said.

In accordance with the law, employees are paid an overtime amount of 1.5 times their hourly wage for each hour over 40 hours a week that they work, Basi said.

The Fair Labor Standards Act sets “the standard salary level equal to the 40th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time salaried workers nationally. Using salary data from 2013, the proposed methodology resulted in a standard salary level of $921 per week, or $47,892 annually.”

This means that any employee with a salary less than $47,892 must be classified as nonexempt and has to be paid overtime. Previously, the standard salary level was $455 per week, or $23,660 a year.

“Our hall coordinator position had a base salary that was well-above that [$23,660], but nowhere near that [$47,892],” Temple said.

Temple said ResLife, in conjunction with Human Resources, had to decide if hall coordinators fell into the category of exempt employees whose salaries needed an increase to be above the minimum $47,892 or if there were a way to restructure the position to meet the nonexempt requirements.

ResLife chose to reclassify the 16 residence hall coordinators as nonexempt.

“I would say we really started in earnest, other than general conversations, [working to reclassify the position] in early June or late May,” Temple said. “We were thinking about and talking about what are the elements of the hall coordinator job and how does that relate to timekeeping.”

Temple and the area coordinators began by brainstorming ways that the various tasks of the hall coordinator position could be done more efficiently without having a large impact on the student experience.

Next, they had the hall coordinators themselves do the same thing independently.

“We didn’t show them what we had come up with because we didn’t want to bias them,” Temple said. “Then, the area coordinators and myself brought together the information that we had brainstormed and the information that the hall coordinators had brainstormed and actually they were surprisingly close.”

The UM System does not expect actual job duties to change. The salaries of employees transitioning to nonexempt status will not change, but they will be changed into an hourly wage instead of a monthly wage, according to the UM System Human Resources website.

“The way that the Residential Life department at Mizzou works is that they really wanted their hall coordinators to be a presence within their hall during the daytime and during the night hours,” a former hall coordinator who wishes to remain anonymous said. “If you were around in the evenings and something came up, it was very much expected that you would be there as a hall coordinator to help address the situation.”

Now if a student approaches a hall coordinator when they aren’t working, they are expected to either ask the student to come back during office hours or call the on duty coordinator, as opposed to taking care of the situation themselves, Temple said.

When a hall coordinator is on duty, they carry a phone with them at all times and respond to issues after traditional work hours or when other hall coordinators are not available.

“You will still get a professional staff member if you need a professional staff member,” Temple said. “The hall coordinators are just going to have to be a little more structured about their days.”

The former student staffer said in the email that they believe this change will reduce the time hall coordinators have available to talk with staff and residents. Many residents, the staffer said, talk with hall coordinators about a variety of subjects and the hall coordinator can act as a mentor.

“In my time as a hall coordinator, I can think of maybe two Saturdays in the the entire semester that I did not work and a lot of that was not my own doing, but a lot of times I would go about my own business after hours and I would come across a situation and which you can't just avoid or ignore living in the residence halls,” the former hall coordinator said.

One reason that this change might have an especially hard impact on hall coordinators and student staff is that it is coming in the middle of the semester, the former hall coordinator said.

When a hall coordinator is on duty, they will receive standby and call-back pay. Employees only qualify for overtime pay for each additional hour worked over 40 hours a week.

The university is offering a Voluntary Payment Adjustment program to employees who are making the transition from salaried to hourly payroll due to the change in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act regulations, according to the UM System Human Resources website.

The adjustment is an interest-free payment for employees who may experience financial hardship as a result of the change to the FLSA mandate. The payment amount would be the difference in the employee’s net pay from September to October, rounded to the next whole dollar. Amounts less than $60 are eliminated. The payment will be dispersed in November and must be repaid by April 2017.

The changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act are meant to ensure overtime protections for workers, according to the Guidance for Higher Education Institutions on Paying Overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a document provided by the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor.

“I think in the long run it will have a positive effect because the nature of the job is to work long hours and when you are working and living in the same environment, that takes a toll on your body,” the former hall coordinator said. “I think that the fact that this change, this regulation, is trying to prevent that will be helpful. But I think in the short term, for this next year or the next two years, it’s going to be very hard on the current hall coordinators and the current staff as well.”

Edited by Claire Mitzel |

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