“Do I have to pay my employee for every minute worked“?
I know that it sounds like an odd, even absurd question, but managers are consciously or subconsciously tackling this very question every day in scenarios that sound a lot like this:
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‘David, I need for you to stay just a few minutes longer to help me finish this report. It’s only 30 minutes so you don’t need to report the time‘.
‘Carole, I’m sorry to have to interrupt you during your lunch, but this is extremely important. I need for you to review these figures right now since I’ll need the information for my next meeting‘.
‘I understand that you don’t work weekends, but I’ll need for you to come in for just a few hours on Saturday to help with this project. You can take a few hours off in the next few weeks when it’s not so busy.
These are all pretty reasonable workplace scenarios, so what’s wrong here? Let’s address each scenario to figure out why these are all potential overtime violations if your employee is an hourly paid staff member.
Scenario 1: If you are a U.S. employer, you’re required to pay your hourly staff for all time worked. This includes increments of 10 minutes or more. Asking your employee to “stay a few minutes” without ensuring that the employee is recording the time that they’ve worked means that you are not paying your staff member for time worked as required under the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA. This can become a big deal if your employee decides to file a pay complaint with the Department of Labor – which they can very easily do – for even one infraction.
Scenario 2: Whenever you ask an hourly or non-exempt employee to work during their lunch break, or any break period for that matter, you are required to pay them for that time; even if they are eating lunch while working.
Scenario 3: By law, hourly employees can choose how they are to be compensated for time worked beyond their regularly scheduled hours. The employer can’t dictate whether your employee will take a day off, or, be paid for the time worked. Your employee is the one who can decide whether or not they would prefer to have a day off in lieu of working an extra day, or, be paid for the time worked. Employees should arrange which day will be taken in terms of time off with their manager in advance.
Employers should also remember that:
- Although these types of pay issues apply to hourly or non-exempt employees, you can’t just change your hourly employees’ status from non-exempt to exempt from overtime to avoid paying for time worked beyond the employee’s regularly scheduled hours. Only certain types of roles are eligible for exempt status per the DOL. I’ll be sharing details about what types of roles classify as exempt versus non-exempt staff in an upcoming article.
- Any extra hours worked which pushes employees over a weekly full time threshold must be paid at time and a half based on the Fair Labor Standards Act’s rules relating to overtime pay.
- You are required to pay employees for time worked even if you haven’t approved the time. It’s key to be clear with employees as to your expectations related to their work hours and approved overtime. Disciplinary action may be necessary for employees who work without prior approval, but only if it is clear that they were aware of the company’s policy regarding obtaining approval for time worked.
- All employers no matter how small should have some type of written policy regarding working hours and pay.
- Employees have the right to file a complaint with the Department of Labor for even the smallest infraction related to pay.
- There may be additional nuances related to overtime pay which varies from state to state, so be sure to check U.S. state regulations here.
If you are a “non-U.S. employer, of course there are other regulations that are country specific that may apply, but that doesn’t mean that many of these employee best practices can’t be applied to your staff.
Regardless of where your company is located in the world, if your goal is to maintain or improve employee morale, improve your company’s reputation as a desirable place to work, and ensure that you treat your employees fairly, always pay employees for any hours that they work for you.
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