It is common knowledge that nonexempt employees are to be compensated for any time they spend working, but what about the times when they are not? As an employer, you may occasionally run across a nonexempt worker who is getting paid for not working. This employee could be at his or her workstation engaged in some non-work related activity or off-site, taking care of personal matters while on the clock.
Regardless of the circumstances, you may feel that it is in your best interest not to pay this employee by docking his or her pay accordingly. While this may seem like it is the right action for you to take, federal law makes this practice illegal. Not only do you face fines and sanctions if you break the law regarding this situation, but you also run the risk of being sued by that employee.
What You Need to Know About the Fair Labor Standards Act
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and related regulations, employers cannot dock or withhold pay from nonexempt employees. If they show up and clock in, you must still pay them for a full work day. The law also requires you to pay them for a small portion of the time they are not working, such as for work-related travel and break time.
This can be pretty confusing for employers, especially small businesses. Fortunately, there are stipulations in place that mandate when and how to pay your employees for time that is spent not working. To better understand these regulations, it helps to have a firm understanding of what working hours are.
What Is Working Time?
Nonexempt employees are considered to be working when they are actively engaged in physical and mental functions that are required by their employer and necessary to benefit the employer and business. This includes when that employee is clocking in for the start of his or her shift, getting to a workstation and training or preparing for his or her job.
However, employees who arrive to the job early before their assigned time are not eligible to receive pay for any time they spend waiting to clock in. As an employer, you are not legally required to pay for any time employees spend before and after performing their principal duties, unless it is in writing or common practice. However, there is a distinction that you should keep in mind. If your employees are engaged in activities that are vital to their jobs, such as trainings or meetings, you are required to compensate them for that time. This includes any time spent waiting for lectures, meetings, trainings and related activities.
There are also exceptions in which you may not be obligated to pay employees for waiting time. They are as follows:
- Employee is attending outside of regular working hours or schedule.
- Attendance is not mandatory.
- The training program, course or lecture is not directly related to the employee’s job or work.
- The employee does not perform any productive activities during the event.
Employee time spent engaged in work-related activities must meet all four of the above conditions in order for you to not be legally required to provide compensation for that time.
Violations and Consequences
If you don’t follow federal laws and regulations regarding this matter and attempt to dock employee pay anyway for any time spent not working, you may be fined by the state and federal government and sued by the employee. Trying to save a few dollars here and there by docking employee pay can cost you a fortune when you consider how much money you’ll have to pay out.
Take the time to now to develop a thorough understanding of the law and how it applies to compensating employees for their time when they are not working. By paying your employees for all compensable time, you can create a more productive workplace while maintaining compliance with the law.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.