Start communicating and training newly non-exempt employees
on timekeeping policies and procedures
If your organization has decided to reclassify certain employees from Exempt to Non-Exempt to comply with the new FLSA overtime rules, it is important to realize that exempt employees and their managers are likely to be unfamiliar with timekeeping policies and procedures.
Exempt employees are accustomed to “running the clock” after hours to finish up work email, taking client calls, or finishing projects during non-work hours. However as they transition to non-exempt status, they will need to start following the stated time tracking policy, be sure they are taking breaks, and stop off the clock work to avoid labor violation and unexpected overtime costs.
Below are three policies that need to be in place and reviewed with employee and managers before December 1. While newly exempt employees might think following these policies is cumbersome, they are probably not aware of specific labor laws and the risk to the business if these policies are not followed or ignored.
All hours worked by a non-exempt employee must be recorded and compensated, even those performed outside of the employee’s standard shift. Employees that are reclassified as Non-exempt may be used to handling emails or finish project after hours, especially with email and workplace systems available via mobile devices. Therefore, it’s critical to have a policy in place that informs employees that all time worked must be tracked, that off-the-clock work is prohibited, and that employees may be disciplined for not following their scheduled shift. Refusing to pay for unauthorized time worked—whether it’s regular or results in overtime pay—is not permissible.
Employees Using Their Personal Electronic Devices
Time a non-exempt employee spends doing work from their smartphone, tablet, or personal computer is considered time worked. Newly non-exempt employees may find this transition hard if their phone is chirping at them or they are getting notifications from apps connected to their phone. For this reason, you may consider a policy that prohibits non-exempt employees from using their personal devices for work purposes at all. Or only allow such use upon authorization from the company.
Example: A situation arises where a manager would like to have a particular employees checking and responding to work email over the weekend. Be sure that the manager builds that time into the employee's weekly schedule so it doesn’t lead to unexpected overtime.
If you have employees who frequently work overtime without prior approval, you are responsible to pay the employees, but need to address the issue with additional coaching and policy training with the employees and managers. If employees continue to work unapproved overtime you may consider using progressive discipline; however, be sure there is a clear policy, that the employee has been properly trained and significant coaching has been provided prior to any adverse employment action.
Employees should be given the benefit of the doubt during a transition period while requirements are being learned and put into policy.
Meal and Rest Periods
Many states require meal and/or break periods for non-exempt employees. It’s important to inform employees of these breaks, explain the procedures for clocking in and out, and remind them that no work should be performed during this time.
This is an area where it will be particularly important for your managers to be willing to manage. Employees who previously worked through lunch at their desk and could put in their eight hours between 9 and 5 might not want to take an unpaid lunch period or break, thus extending their workday. State law, however, may be indifferent to their feelings. If employees ask to waive their meal or rest periods, you’ll want to check your state laws surrounding Break and Rest Periods. Sometimes these breaks can be waived, but sometimes they cannot. And waiving them sometimes requires special circumstances and agreements between employers and employees.
With the December 1, 2016 deadline approaching, these are the final weeks to evaluate if any employees are going to be reclassified and notify them. This is the final push for policy updates, training and coaching not just for employees, but managers who might be new to managing non-exempt employees. Humans in general are resistant to change, so expect a few hiccups during the transition period, but to keep your organization on budget and free of wage and hour claims and continue to enforce policies and coach employees on the timekeeping policies that apply to them. Again, if work is performed, it must be compensated.