Tuesday, May 20, 2014

When Does the Workday Begin ... and End?

Technology now allows employees to do small amounts of work at remote locations. When is this considered compensable time? These two questions dive into that question:

Computer log-in time: Paid or not?

Question: We ditched out time-clock, so now nonexempt employees clock in on their computers. What about the few minutes it takes for them to boot up their computer each morning? Is that compensable?

Answer: Technically, yes. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) considers this time compensable, since employees are engaged to wait. However, regulations (29 CFR 785.47) allow employers to disregard insubstantial or insignificant periods of time beyond employees' regular work day if, as a practical matter, this time can't be precisely recorded for payroll purposes.

Warning: This rule applies only when there are uncertain and identifiable periods of time of a few seconds or minutes, and where the failure to count the time is justified by business realities. The Department of Labor makes these determinations on a case-by-case basis, so check with the company's attorney before deciding not to pay employees for this time.

How to handle disparity for after-hours meetings?

Question: Our company often holds meetings after office hours. Full-time nonexempts are paid at their overtime rates, but part-time nonexempts are paid straight-time wages, since they never work longer than 40 hours in a workweek. Hard feelings have arisen among the part-timers about this disparity. Can we pay everyone at the same rate so that everyone is paid equally?

Answer: Not really. An expensive option would allow you to pay part-timers at their overtime rates, but you couldn't pay full-timers at their straight-time rates unless you knew that they wouldn't be working overtime during that week. A less expensive option would be to convert after-hours mandatory meetings into voluntary meetings. Under FLSA, meetings are voluntary if they're conducted after work, attendance is voluntary, meetings aren't directly related to employees' work and employees don't perform any productive work during that time.

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