The Axcet Blog

FLSA Overtime Rules: How To Accurately Measure Time and Attendance

Young girl in office working on desktop computer

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires all businesses to keep precise and thorough records of the hours exempt and nonexempt employees work, both by work day and week. Accurately tracking employees’ work hours under the FLSA is challenging in itself, before even considering overtime pay and other time and attendance issues.

Tracking nonexempt employees’ time gets especially difficult because of common questions that arise in the workplace. For instance, how should time be counted when these employees work at their desks over lunch? And in our always-on, 24/7 culture, should nonexempt workers be paid for writing or responding to emails on weekends?

Failing to follow FLSA timekeeping requirements could put your small business at risk for fines and wage and hour lawsuits. To avoid that risk – and the steep price that comes with it – be sure you are complying with all relevant minimum wage, overtime and other salary-related regulations.

Overtime

An increase in the salary level for the FSLA overtime exemption is likely to take effect in 2020. This change will have a significant impact on small businesses, particularly now, when the U.S. employment rate is at record lows and overtime hours are increasing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. worker logged 3.5 hours per week in overtime in late 2018, so it is all the more important to know what you can and can’t do with regard to paying employee overtime. Here are six do’s and don’ts to help you avoid running afoul of the FLSA’s overtime rules.

Dos & Don'ts of Paying Overtime

Employee Breaks

Some states require you provide employees with meal or other breaks, but you are not obligated to do so under the FLSA. However, if your company does provide these breaks, the FLSA restricts how you handle these situations. Federal law, for example, obliges you to pay employees for rest breaks that last 20 minutes or less – and you must include the break time in calculating the employee’s daily and weekly hours worked.

You do not have to pay employees for meal breaks that last 30 minutes or more, provided they do no work during that break period. You are expected to pay the employee for any meal breaks in which he or she continues working or is responsible for work-related tasks.

It’s expected, of course, that your company will pay employees for periodic, brief bathroom breaks during the work day. However, state and federal rules don’t dictate the length of restroom breaks for which employees must be paid, and no employer wants to be in the business of monitoring the time workers spend in the restroom.

That said, if you notice an employee is taking unusually long bathroom breaks that are becoming disruptive to his or her productivity, you do need to follow best practices for addressing it.

Inclement Weather

The tough winter of 2018-2019 had employers asking whether they could require employees to work during bad weather and what their obligations were for paying employees during office snow days.

Whether or not you can demand that employees work when weather conditions are dicey depends on your industry. Motor carriers, for example, are prohibited by law from requiring employees to drive in dangerous conditions. Other types of businesses can legally insist that their teams report to work. However, you should consider employees’ safety, their comfort level with bad-weather driving and the potential long-term effect on morale before deciding to demand that they brave the elements to report to work. 

You may or may not have to pay employees for “snow days.” Several factors, including a worker’s classification as exempt or non-exempt, affect whether or not employees must be paid for days when the weather reporter’s frightening forecast has proven to be accurate.

Can I Require Employees to come to work during inclement weather?

Civic and Charity Involvement

As spring and summer approach, small businesses often look for opportunities to involve employees in charitable and civic activities that focus on team building and giving back. There are many ways you can encourage employees to contribute to the community, from paying them to volunteer during the work day to covering the costs of entry fees for charity events.

Numerous factors affect whether employees must be paid for time they invest in civic and charitable work. Before you ask workers to take part in company-sanctioned activities, be sure you understand what the law requires.

Time Off to Vote

Every couple of years, elections come around. Most states have laws that grant employees time off to vote, although no federal laws govern this issue. The amount of time you must allow for employees to cast their ballots – and the fines an employer may incur from failing to comply – differ by state. It’s important to know and adhere to your state’s requirements.

4 Employer Guidelines for Election Day

As a small or mid-sized business owner, you invest a great deal of yourself into your company. Protect that investment by making sure time and attendance, overtime and payroll issues are managed correctly. These requirements are complex and nuanced, and Axcet HR Solutions can help you ensure complete adherence to every legal obligation.  

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Written by Jeanette Coleman