FLSA

EMPLOYER ALERT – BEFORE YOU HIT SEND

Technology means you can be on top of business activities 24/7, and so can your employees. But stop and think before you send that after hours email or text. Unless your employee is properly classified as exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the time that employee spends reading and responding to your email or text is compensable work time. And if they are already putting in a 40-hour week, then it’s overtime.

There has been a recent growth in wage and hour claims arising from off-premises work done by employees. Similar problems arise when employees are able to log into their work computer remotely – you as the employer are responsible for keeping a record of all hours worked by nonexempt employees. The FLSA has strict guidelines regarding which employees may be classified as exempt; you can’t solve this problem simply by giving an employee a title and paying them a salary.

Other concerns: If the employee checks email on their smart phone or even responds to text messages in the morning before leaving for the office, when does their compensable work day actually begin?

The best practice is to have clear policies on when it is – and isn’t – acceptable for employees to work outside of normal business hours. And be sure to enforce them.

EMPLOYER ALERT – MINIMUM WAGE INCREASES JULY 24

Effective July 24, 2009 the federal minimum wage increases to $7.25 per hour, an increase of four cents above the current Florida minimum wage of $7.21 per hour. Employers are required to pay the higher of the federal minimum wage, or the minimum wage required by state statute.

Accordingly, Florida employers should adjust their payroll practices no later than July 24 to ensure that all employees are paid a minimum of $7.25 per hour. An exception is tipped employees, whose hourly rate continues to be governed by the Florida law permitting a reduced wage of $4.19 per hour, provided that the employee’s wage plus tips equals total compensation of at least $7.25 per hour.

IN THE NEWS – PROPOSAL FOR COMP TIME IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR

Legislation is currently pending in the House of Representatives which would allow employers to offer “comp time” in lieu of overtime for nonexempt employees working in excess of 40 hours per week. Titled “The Family-Friendly Workplace Act,” the bill would give employees the option receiving one-and-one-half hours of paid leave for every hour worked over 40 in a given week, instead of receiving time-and-one-half overtime pay. Currently, the Fair Labor Standards Act (“the FLSA”) prohibits private-sector comp time, permitting only federal government employees to receive time off in lieu of overtime pay.

Comp time legislation resurfaces every few years, but its proponents have never been successful in bringing about a change in the FLSA. Critics – primarily labor unions and employee advocacy groups – argue that providing an alternative to mandated overtime payments would be subject to abuse, and employees’ elections to receive time off in lieu of pay might be coerced rather than voluntary.

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the sponsor of the current bill, feels differently. In her recent press release, she states:

“Time is one of our most precious resources. We all want more of it and yet we only have 24 hours in a day. That means we have to figure out how to work a full day, run errands, pack lunches, make dinner and spend quality time with our kids, spouse, or elderly parent,. Giving employees more flexibility in their workweek is key to increasing retention as well as attracting great employees that will help increase our country’s competitiveness.”

The ability to offer comp time would provide welcome flexibility for employers and employees alike, particularly in the small business arena. Whether this bill has any better chance of succeeding than its predecessors remains to be seen.