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Business news solutions — March 2

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ELECTRONICS

Google helps reduce emails

Unsubscribing from annoying marketing emails is now easier for users of Google’s Gmail service. Gmail has added an “unsubscribe” button that users will see at the top of promotional messages they receive. If they click the button, Gmail will try to ensure they no longer receive such material from that sender, Google said.

The tech giant said it implemented the feature as a way to benefit both recipients and senders of marketing emails. Without the new “unsubscribe” button, users typically have had to delve through tiny text at the bottom of unwanted messages looking for links to “unsubscribe” pages on companies’ websites. Once on these sites, users must often fill out forms indicating which email address they want to unsubscribe as well as give a reason.

— By Salvador Rodriguez

Los Angeles Times

WORKPLACE

Online training raises issue

Q: I work for a major airline that requires its employees to complete online training programs monthly. It’s a way to keep us up to date on company and federal guidelines. A program can take from 15 minutes to an hour to complete. And some months we must cover three to four programs. In the past, we worked with a company trainer and were paid for the time. But now the airline refuses to pay us and advises us to complete the programs during our shifts or at home on our personal computer. But many employees are part time and don’t have enough downtime to complete the training. We are covered by a union contract, but it does not address this issue.

A: In the airline industry, your employer may not have to pay you for the training time, even if you are an hourly employee. Normally, hourly employees have to be paid for all the time they work. And the training you describe would be considered hours worked because it isn’t voluntary. But as long as your pay for all the hours you work during the week, including the training, equals at least the hourly minimum wage, the airline wouldn’t be violating federal labor law, said the U.S. Labor Department.

Here’s another wrinkle, specifically for airline employees: If the training puts you over 40 hours a week, the airline doesn’t have to pay you overtime. That’s because airline employees are exempt from overtime. By law, most hourly employees who work more than 40 hours a week have to earn at least 1½ times their regular hourly rate for those extra hours. Not so for airline employees. So the bottom line here is that if you earn at least minimum wage for the week, including the extra hours, your company can legally say the training is on you.

— Carrie Mason-Draffen

Newsday

real estate

Lenders turn to auctions

Q: We are no longer able to pay our mortgage due to a hardship. We decided to try a short sale. We listed the property, found a strong buyer and submitted all the required paperwork to our lender. Now the lender wants us to auction off the house. What gives?

A: In a short sale, your lender is accepting less money than it is owed to release your property from its mortgage. Short sales are supposed to be sold for market value to ensure that the lender recoups the most money possible. Lenders historically have relied on a report from a real estate agent called a broker’s price opinion, or BPO, to help determine market value. In an effort to make sure the short sales are sold for the highest prices, lenders in the past six months have started turning to auctions.

— By Gary M. Singer

Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel


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