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Why doesn't my paycheck reflect the hours I spend at school?


I am a Teaching Assistant who spends 7 1/2 hours at school every weekday. But my paycheck shows I get paid for 35 hours a week. Is that legal?

Contrary to what some believe, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require meal or rest breaks, or put any limit on the number of hours an employee works in a day or week. If you do receive a lunch or other rest break, FLSA addresses whether you are paid for that time. Virginia does not have a state law or regulation requiring meals or rest breaks.

Teaching Assistants and other Educational Support Professionals do not perform managerial or discretionary office functions or have to be licensed. So they are "not exempt" from the Fair Labor Standards Act and must be paid at least the minimum wage for each hour worked.

The key is whether you have a designated time during which you are relieved of duties. This time does not count as working time and need not be paid. So a Teaching Assistant who spends 7 1/2 hours a day at school with a duty-free half-hour lunch break is properly paid for 35 hours in a five-day week.

What are the guidelines for teachers? Teachers are salaried, licensed professionals, exempt under FLSA from minimum wage and overtime requirements. Virginia does not guarantee teachers a duty-free lunch, although some local school boards may do so.

I encourage you and other VEA members to consult your VEA/NEA UniServ Director if you feel lunch or wage policies are not being followed properly. ESPs should keep a log of working time (when you arrive, if you are relieved of duties for breaks or meals, and when your work day ends) and compare it with your paycheck to make sure all hours worked are properly paid. And all VEA members can work together to make schools better places to work and learn.


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