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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Posts
    13

    Default Employer Claims I Owe Rent for Work-Provided Accommodation

    Basically, the title says it all. I'm trying to determine if I do fact a valid legal argument.

    For some time now, I have lived in a residence which is owned by my employer. The arrangement was mutually beneficial, allowing me to work off rent and saving my employer money by not paying overtime. This arrangement has worked well until recently. My employer is now trying to claim I owe him rent money which I know that I do not in an attempt to exploit free labor from me since his funds are growing tight. I have been feeling somewhat run-down with a cold and the physically demanding work conditions and simply wanted this past Saturday off and I took it. He is now threatening to fire me and kick me out of the house because I refused to work overtime for him. Granted, he is not threatening to fire me for not working overtime, but for just not coming to work.

    Now, I'm pretty sure that, legally, I am in the right for being denied overtime pay even though it was a mutual agreement. He has helped me quite a bit in the past and I would feel bad for pursuing legal action but considering the situation, I feel I have been more than reasonable to allow him to deny me overtime for as long as he has when I am only asking for a day of rest.

    I'm in my second year of college and simply cannot afford these distractions or I wouldn't even consider pursuing legal action. I would hate to do this to someone who has been good to me in the past, but I cannot allow myself to be exploited when it is convenient.

    So, now that you have the story, what would my legal options be?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Lake Chapala
    Posts
    3,003

    Default Re: Do I Have a 'Legal' Leg to Stand on

    He has the legal right to fire you for refusing to work overtime (or any time, for that matter). Refusing to work overtime just because you feel he won't pay you for it will get you fired, legally. The way to keep your job and get your overtime pay is to work all of the hours your employer asks you to, and if you're not paid for some of those hours, file an unpaid wages claim with the...oh! You've refused to provide the name of your state! Sorry, I need that to complete the above sentence.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    28,906

    Default Re: Employer Claims I Owe Rent for Work-Provided Accommodation

    As the laws governing employer-provided housing vary by state, you need to tell us your state.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Posts
    284

    Default Re: Employer Claims I Owe Rent for Work-Provided Accommodation

    Agreed. Also, there are two very different sets of federal laws in play, unrelated to state law.
    - Overtime is a function of hours worked in the work week and is controlled by a federal law called FLSA. While FLSA is pretty much Exceptions-R-Us, I am not familar with any FLSA exception related to employer provided housing. Now employer provided housing (called "facilities" in FLSA) may possibly count towards the FLSA minimum wage requirement, but as far as I know, not the overtime requirement.
    - Unrelated to FLSA, there is a very seperate law called IRC (Internal Revenue Code). That law says that EVERYTHING provided to the employee as a result of the employment relationship is fully taxable wages to the employee UNLESS the employer can hard support one of the very few exceptions. The obvious housing related exceptions are job-requirement or product-discount. An example of the first is a lighthouse keeper, who could not do his/her job unless they lived in the lighthouse. An example of the second is a maintence person at an apartment building who is not legally required to live there (hard to get by IRS), but who can legally be discounted something like 20%.

    IMO, the implied linkage in the orignial post between paid overtime and employer provided housing is not obvious.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Employer Claims I Owe Rent for Work-Provided Accommodation

    I live in Alabama, we have no laws governing overtime so it falls under the FLSA as I understand.

    EDIT:
    I think I should also mention that I put in 40 hours on the weekdays so the hours I work on the weekend would be overtime and would accumulate to an amount greater than the cost of my rent. I have not hassled him over this because the arrangement worked well for both of us until now. I have a lease agreement so the 'facilities' are not work-provided. He is my boss who also happens to be my landlord in this case. The arrangement is that I work the rent off instead of paying monthly to help him save money from having to pay me overtime which he will not do. Basically, I have been allowing him to work-around overtime regulations in exchange for considering rent paid each month, he has no legal right to deny me overtime for services rendered correct?


    As I can also see how this might seem confusing, i'll try to map it out.

    I work 40 hours Mon - Fri @ $9 an hour.
    I work between 8-16 hours Sat - Sun @ $9 supposedly for rent.

    I allow him to only consider hours on Sat - Sun as $9 off-the-books to help him save money. (However, the hours are all logged. He keeps a record of all hours worked by employees, on-the-books and off in a journal)

    He now claims I owe him money that I do not and is attempting to exploit free labor from me. His own records prove that I do not owe him rent.
    As a result, should he choose to fire and evict me, I plan to pursue legal action to get the back wages in which he owes me from overtime work.

    So, basically my question is if I can go after him for back wages on overtime despite the fact we both agreed to this method? Since he seems adamant about 'throwing me under the bus' (as he put it), I think it is only fair that I go after what I am entitled to.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    16,112

    Default Re: Employer Claims I Owe Rent for Work-Provided Accommodation

    Quote Quoting Kopesetic
    View Post
    I live in Alabama, we have no laws governing overtime so it falls under the FLSA as I understand.

    EDIT:
    I think I should also mention that I put in 40 hours on the weekdays so the hours I work on the weekend would be overtime and would accumulate to an amount greater than the cost of my rent. I have not hassled him over this because the arrangement worked well for both of us until now. I have a lease agreement so the 'facilities' are not work-provided. He is my boss who also happens to be my landlord in this case. The arrangement is that I work the rent off instead of paying monthly to help him save money from having to pay me overtime which he will not do. Basically, I have been allowing him to work-around overtime regulations in exchange for considering rent paid each month, he has no legal right to deny me overtime for services rendered correct?


    As I can also see how this might seem confusing, i'll try to map it out.

    I work 40 hours Mon - Fri @ $9 an hour.
    I work between 8-16 hours Sat - Sun @ $9 supposedly for rent.

    I allow him to only consider hours on Sat - Sun as $9 off-the-books to help him save money. (However, the hours are all logged. He keeps a record of all hours worked by employees, on-the-books and off in a journal)

    He now claims I owe him money that I do not and is attempting to exploit free labor from me. His own records prove that I do not owe him rent.
    As a result, should he choose to fire and evict me, I plan to pursue legal action to get the back wages in which he owes me from overtime work.

    So, basically my question is if I can go after him for back wages on overtime despite the fact we both agreed to this method? Since he seems adamant about 'throwing me under the bus' (as he put it), I think it is only fair that I go after what I am entitled to.
    You both kind of have a problem here. What you are doing is not legal on either side. You are both cheating on taxes doing it that way. He should have been paying you for all of the hours you worked, and you should have been paying him rent. Unless he is stupid he is not going to sue you, because then he will be publically acknowledging that he is doing fraudulent activity. You cannot defend yourself either without admitting that you participated in the fraud.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Employer Claims I Owe Rent for Work-Provided Accommodation

    This is true, however originally, I wanted the overtime and to pay the taxes on it. Would have made for a better return and more money in my pocket. He said he could not afford to do that and I could either just work the weekends for rent or find a second job and have his rent every month. I choose this method for lack of options. I doubt that would be a viable argument in court though.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    24,352

    Default Re: Employer Claims I Owe Rent for Work-Provided Accommodation

    Nope, they don't care why you broke the law; only that you did.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Employer Claims I Owe Rent for Work-Provided Accommodation

    If proceedings create such a situation where I could be criminally liable, would it be possible for me to advert any legal action taken towards me if I come to an arrangement with the IRS to pay the taxes owed on the overtime wages which I am more than capable of doing if necessary?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Behind a Desk
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    98,846

    Default Re: Employer Claims I Owe Rent for Work-Provided Accommodation

    How are your wages calculated? Is it assumed that you work 40 hours per week? Do you have a time card or time sheet, or any other formal record of your hours worked?

    You can pay the taxes you would owe on your labor, had it been properly reported by your employer, but it could be difficult to determine what the amount of untaxed wages should be.

    How long has this situation lasted?

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