Q. I know I can’t refuse to pay an hourly employee who works overtime even though I never authorized it. What I don’t understand is what kind of discipline should I implement? Can I, for example, deny a cost-of-living increase? — W.J., Washington
A. Yes. You are correct that even though you never authorized the overtime to the hourly employee, you still are required to pay it. You may, however, discipline or even terminate the employee who continues to work unauthorized overtime, including denying the employee a cost-of-living increase.
Keep in mind, however, that disciplinary action is not intended to be punitive, but rather corrective. The goal should be to administer the appropriate discipline that corrects the employee’s behavior. Denying a cost-of-living adjustment may not further that goal.
Instead, try explaining why you don’t want the employee to work extra hours. You may also want to look at how much work she is doing. Does she truly have too much work to successfully complete in a regular workday? If so, maybe you can reassign some of her duties. If she simply isn’t working efficiently, she may benefit from some coaching.
Of course, it is possible that the employee simply wants extra money and tries to work extra hours. You will have to judge what is really happening and act accordingly.