Is my employer breaking the law?

Long story short, I work for an auto dealership in Tennessee as a technician. We have one tech who has been making a lot of mistakes lately. Instead of firing him or reprimanding him, the boss has made a new rule which is as follows.

Anytime a mistake is made on a car, and the customer comes back, the tech won’t be paid for any work done on the car, including unrelated work.

For example, a different coworker performed two seperate recalls on a car yesterday. One for a steering column lock, one for the airbags. Well the steering column one involved programming the keys to the car. He programed the ignition key, but not the remote.

The customer came back, he programmed the remote for her in 5 min. The boss told him he will not be paid for EITHER recall, including the airbag one that was performed perfectly. In this case, the manufacturer pays the labor on the recall. The tech didn’t get paid, so were did the money go?

Surely we have to be paid for all work performed, and if the dealership becomes unhappy with it, we should be fired. My question is, is this illegal, or just bad management? Anyone ever had a shop do this?

It’s breaking the law. Employees must be paid for their time regardless of performance. It’s possible to sign away your rights to compensation via contract but it doesn’t sound like you or the other techs signed anything.

You can talk to a your states office of employment if you have issues and want to do something about it.

Whatever you do document everything. Even if in the short term you are willing to take an occasional hit to your paycheck, if you leave or are fired you can make a solid case to be paid for any wages they thought they could get away with not paying you.

Just FTR, assuming the employer is breaking the law (it get’s fuzzy with this kind of stuff) this is one of the situations where you would be able to get unemployment for quitting (at least in Wisconsin).

ISTM, a better system would be to make the employee fix the car again on their own time.

Relevant from the Tennessee Department of labor

This was the old system until this new rule came into effect actually.

California labor laws prohibit off-the-clock work.

Techs are paid by the job, not by the hour, so the job is not complete until it is fixed correctly. That’s why we wouldn’t get paid for the second repair, but we would be paid for the original repair.

The new rule is we wouldn’t be paid for the original repair at all if it wasn’t fixed right the first time.

edit to add: we also wouldn’t be paid for any unrelated repairs on the same car, even if performed correctly. Jeeze, the more I think about it, the angrier I get.

Since the OP is asking about a real-life situation, the answers will probably involve opinions. Let’s move from General Questions to IMHO.

samclem, Moderator

I have no doubt that this is illegal as hell. Your friendly government wage and hour office would be happy to ream them a well-deserved new one over this. Frankly, I’m surprised they’re stupid enough to think they can get away with it. [ETA: Upon reflection, this may be wishful thinking on my part. The law may be that as long as you make minimum wage for the hours worked, there is no violation. Couldn’t hurt to ask, though.]

I must say, what you’ve shared is hands down the most asinine, stupid, shit-for-brains, useless, counterproductive pay policy I’ve ever heard of in a 40-year career in auto repair. It doesn’t affect me directly but it still pisses me off. I bet the jacklegs you work for wonder why it’s hard to find and keep good techs, too.

P.S. – I’d say it’s time to oil the wheels on your toolbox.

Dealership service manager here.
Technician’s legal status can vary with locale. Here in California they are considered hourly employees even though they may be paid via flat rate. Your state’s mileage may (and probably does) vary.
You should do the following:

  1. Lube the wheels on your tool box
  2. Check to see who is hiring in the area
  3. Get a helmet
  4. Contact the state labor board
  5. Prepare for a major league shit storm
  6. Put on the damn helmet

The reasons for #s 1,2,3,5 and 6 are is that petty tyrants don’t like being called on their shit. This could get very very ugly at work. So before you do #4 are you ready for the outcome? (good or bad)
BTW if you have good CSI and fix it right the first times scores I’m hiring here in So Cal. :slight_smile:
Good luck!
PS Runner Pat on his own time means the technician is at work punched on the tine clock but will not be paid again for the repair. Not illegal here in California.

I took on his own time meaning off-the-clock.

Well, the auto repair experts have weighed in, so I’ll just pile on by agreeing that this is a fine example of piss poor management. I always wonder how much thought went into these kinds of policies and what the heck happened that management thought this was the way to solve whatever problems existed. And did they even *think *to ask the legal department?

The legal what?

This canNOT be legal.

I can see the “fix on your own time” especially since people are paid by the job. But the employer is flat out STEALING from the employees especially in the case of a recall, where he doesn’t even have to eat the cost of the repair.

The one you mentioned, where the customer had to come back, the customer was probably pissed (and rightly so)… were I that customer I’d be happy with an apology or a free oil change or something. From other posters, it’s probably not even legal to dock the employee for the cost of the oil change.