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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Time off for Exempt Employees

As an exempt employee with an administrative definition, is sick leave deducted on 1/2 day basis, e.g., going home sick mid-day. It seems it would be standard policy to charge that time against sick leave. Is that standard?

Also as an exempt, what allowances are in place for things such as doctor's appts or other personal appts, if you have used your personal leave days and come in late due to an appt, can that time legally be deducted from any remaining vacation benefit? If there's isn;t any benefit days left, what then?

There are two issues going on here. The first is legal and the second is policy. We'll deal with the legal first, although I am not a lawyer and none of this should be taken as legal advice. Go get your own brother to go to law school if you want free legal advice.

Exempt employees are paid to do the job, not by the hour. Therefore, they cannot deduct money from your paycheck if you are late, take a long lunch, go to a doctor's appointment or what have you. If you work at all, you get paid.

Now, the policy point. If you come in late, take a long lunch, go to a doctor's appointment or what have you, they still have to pay you, but they can fire you, demote you, discipline you or make your life miserable. (Or all of the above!)

In my experience, most companies allow (or require) exempt employees to take off blocks of time in half or full days. The can say, "If you have a doctor's appointment, you need to take it as sick time/vacation time/PTO," and you take that in half day increments. Fine. Be gone for four hours.

What you really need to do is either ask your manager what the policies are or ask HR. The HR person will probably be right, but your manager will be the one enforcing it and making your blissful existence miserable if you screw up.

I realize that many companies administer their exempt employees incorrectly. They don't want to pay you overtime, but they also want to deduct the time you spent discussing new shoes with Jane over lunch from your paycheck. For some reason this is a difficult concept for many companies (especially small ones) to grasp. As I said, they can't do that. They can, however, fire you for that. (Or for nothing, really. The beauties of an at-will workforce.)

However, the real answer to your question is to ask at work. "Hey, boss, if I have a doctor's appointment on Tuesday, do I have to take time off, or can I just go and come back. I'll be gone about an hour." If he says, "I'll dock your pay for the hour you are gone," you respond, "I'm an exempt employee and legally you can't do that. You can, however, require I use vacation and I'll take a half day, or you can just say no."


Anonymous said...

Wow--I had no idea that I could in theory be required to take a half-day for dr.'s appts, etc. At my place we've got a "touch the wall" policy--you come in at all, you've worked the day. Mind you, my standard day is 10 hours, plus email from home eves and weekends. Given that I put in 50+ hour weeks, I'd be pretty unhappy if they made me take vacation of any type for run-of-the mill appointments.

BTW, Evil HR Lady, since this is my first comment I'll take the opportunity to tell you how much I enjoy your blog! I'm not in HR but have to deal with an interesting variety of personnel problems and I've learned a great deal from your thoughts and those of your readers. So, thanks!

TAD said...

So, you can't allow people to take leave in hour or half-hour increments? That kind of seems unfair if someone has to use half a day if they just need to leave work an hour early to for something like a dental appointment that's scheduled for 4:30.

Evil HR Lady said...

Anonymous--I think a "touch the wall" policy makes sense for an exempt employee. (Or a log on rule in my case).

Tracy--yes, theoretically. Just because you are exempt doesn't mean your employer has to allow you to leave whenever you want (unless your reason is subject to FMLA, and even then there are restrictions). ANy company that did such a thing would be extremely stupid.

Anonymous said...

Hope this helps
what if an exempt employee comes to work, stays only an hour and leaves for personal business the rest of the day – can you dock time from his/her vacation leave accrual bank? Since 2001, the federal rule has allowed exempt employees to use partial vacation and sick leave days so long as there was no loss of pay on payday. That is, if an exempt employee takes a half day off, the half day of accrued leave can be docked from the accrual bank – never from the paycheck. The total gross compensation paid for that pay period (the “salary”) will not have been reduced. If the employee does not have sufficient leave accrual, he/she can not actually receive a lower paycheck because of the partial day missed. That federal policy did not help employers in California, however, because the Labor Commissioner had a different policy. The Labor Commissioner enforcement policy only allowed employers to dock leave accruals for partial day leave absences due to illness, but not for absences due to personal reasons, i.e., vacation.

In good news for California employers, in late July, the Court of Appeal (located in the San Francisco Bay Area), has ruled that docking salaried employees’ vacation banks for a partial-day absence does not compromise the exemption status.
this was quoted from employment law bulletin

Karen Mattonen

Anonymous said...

Okay, forget vacation time and pay. We have two buckets (vacation and sick...sick is for sick or dr appts). If an exempt employee has a doctors appointment, do they have to use sick leave for it?

We have an exempt employee who has 9-12 dr appts a month each taking 2-3 hours.

Anonymous said...

PS on my post right above: This exempt employee never has to work overtime and works a straight 40 hour week.

Anonymous said...

I have a scenario that I cannot seem to resolve regarding this topic.

I am a senior manager in my company, and therefore an exempt employee. The expectations put upon me are 50 to 70 hours per week of work, which I have consistently met for over a year.

My manager, the CEO, has forced me to take PTO time for being out of the office for surgery. A minor surgery, I was still able to come into the office afterwards (I arrived at 10 a.m.) against the wishes of my doctor. This is only an example, and not an isolated incident.

I lost 2 hours of PTO time because he had me take time from 8 to 10 a.m., even though I typically start at 8:30 every morning. So, at the end of the day, I had 8.5 hours of work and 2 hours of PTO. At the end of the year, when my PTO turns into my vacation time for the following year, I was down hours from this and other similar situations (leave at 4:30, take PTO time until 6, or 5, or whatever the whim of the CEO at that time; etcetera.)

The policy for PTO and vacation time in the company simply does not mention exempt employees and PTO, and the explanation is to "take time whenever you are not here," with no regard to what hours that constitutes.

I don't want to leave my job due to this inflexibility, so I would prefer to resolve this. Are there any laws that protect my vacation time as an exempt employee (in the absence of a company policy)?


Anonymous said...

Geesh, Please tell me who your employer is and remind me never to apply there...that's a draconian policy. I wouldn't want to work for a company that distrusts its employees that much...and it would cause me to wonder why I shouldn't trust the leaders of such a idiotic place.

Anonymous said...

What happens when exempt employees have exhausted all of their vacation and sick time and still take time off?

Also, can you dock the employee's final paycheck if they s/he is in the negative when they terminate employment?

Anonymous said...

I still have not gotten an answer to my question:

There is an exempt employee in our department. They never work more than 40 hours as OT is not allowed in our department.

They have 9-12 doctor appointments a month, some of which are family member appointments. These can range from being gone 2 hours to 1/2 a day. So he is basically gone 20-40 hours a month to dr appointments.

He turns in 1/2 day sick slips if our boss catches that he is gone. Otherwise he does nothing since he only has 5 days left of sick or vacation.

What is involved legally here? There are no written policies even though we are a govt agency.

Anonymous said...

On January 7, 2005, the U.S Department of Labor (DOL) issued an Opinion Letter confirming that employers may deduct less than a full day from a salaried, overtime- exempt white-collar employee’s PTO bank for absences due to personal reasons, accident, or illness, without causing the loss of the exempt status of the employee. This opinion letter confirms what had been the DOL’s position under the previous regulations regarding the white-collar exemptions for executive, administrative and professional employees and resolves what had become an issue under the new regulations.

Anonymous said...

The problem lies with the few that take advantage of the system and end up missing work to the extent that the company is paying the person but they are gone to the dr all month. The few ruin for the many, what should be a good benefit.

Anonymous said...

I'm in HR and I'm having trouble with an exempt employee who has a medical condition (though not on FML nor is she diagnosed as disabled or needing any accommodations). She takes sick days regularly and when she is at work she leaves work early 2-3 times a week nearly every week. Because she works at least 4 hours on those days, she argues with me that she does not need to turn a PTO slip for any time missed.
Our policy does state that exempt employees are paid for the a full day as long as they work 4 hours. I tried to explain that we allow employees to go to appointments and take up to 4 hours to do so without any deduction from vac/sick time BUT that we expect the employee to be reasonable and this should be on occasion and not an every day occurrence. How can "word" the policy to reflect this expectation?
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Is it a problem if mangers within the same company adopt their own set of requirements for their direct reports when it comes to PTO time for exempt employees using PTO for leaving a few hours early? Some managers don't require partial day PTO use and some require it if an exempt employee leaves before 3pm no matter how many hours they have worked that.

Anonymous said...

I am an exempt employee and I went on vacation for 13 days as the company agreed to allow me to take the time, however I did not have any vacation time. My manager notified HR to deduct my pay, but it doesn't say why it was deducted. Is my company breaking the law by not paying me? If we are off 1 hour we have to make it up during the week and now they want us to come in on Saturdays and make up phone time if they think we haven't been on the phones long enough.

Anonymous said...

First off, I don't think you're evil. My HR Manager will literally yell at us if we ask a question. She called me stupid for not understanding how short term disability worked with salary+comm. You want people to understand so I think you are very nice!
My question on this discussion is this: what about non-exempt employees being forced to use half or full days off for doctors appts? I was told (from my manager) this was an attempt to prevent employees from going to the drs office.

Anonymous said...

I am dealing with a very similar issue. I live in Texas and we have been having horrible winter weather this week. I did not show up to work on Tuesday or Wednseday this week because the roads were hazardous and icy. I called my supervisor prior to find out if the office would be closed. She told me to call the weather hotline which I did and found out that the opening would be delayed till 10:00 am. That in itself is ridiculous since I with several other coworkers live quite a distance from the office. Anyway I stayed home and then returned to work on Thursday. When I arrived I clocked in and noticed that someone had charged vacation days to my timecard for Tues. and Wed. I did not put in for those days. I called my supervisor who was still home due to bad weather and explained to her that I just wanted to have an excused NO Pay absence for those two days instead of using my vacation days she said that it was policy to charge vacation time instead of me just not getting paid. I pointed out to her a memo that had been sent to all employees in our building on Monday prior to the bad weather explaining the procedure for inclement weather. In the second paragraph it stated that the building would generally be open if the roads surrounding the building were open and passable but that in the event that employees are unable to report to work due to hazardous driving conditions in their area, they have the opption to make up the time, take it as vacation, or excused time off without pay. When I mentioned the memo and sent her a copy she returned my email saying that it still stands that I will still have two days of my vacation used because it is the departments procedure to do so. How can a department with a company do things different than the company itself? What is the use in having company policies and procedures if each department within the company can change or amend them as they choose? Is there anything I can do about this? Oh and today on Friday we have had 5 inches of snow so the office actually closed down today. I wonder if they will charge me a vacation day again today since I can not come in due to the closing of the office and hazardous road conditions? Oh and in case it makes a difference I am a salaried non-exempt employee.

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that exempt employees had to use PTO first for any time missed and it wasn't an option not to do so.

Anonymous said...

I am a salaried exempt Clinical Manager (Nursing). I work 40hr week and if I leave for 30 min my sick/vac or personal time is docked. Now I understand this..but when the Director allows another person in the exact position I am leave 3 days in a row early (4hrs each day) and is not docked yet doesnt dock her time. She continues to accumulate time while others are forced to use ours up. I am also using intermittent FMLA but still working 40hr weeks (parent with cancer). I've been told I can not make up the hours unless on the same day I use them. Most of the time I am gone no more than 1 hour and my benefits get docked. It doesnt seem right the director isnt consistent with this with all the managers. I just dont get it?

Anonymous said...

If I work more than 40 hours in a week as salaried exempt, but it so happens that on one of those days, I work only 7 hours, can the company dock my vacation time to cover that one hour?

Tony Stark said...

I am a full time salary exempt employee. My company has let me take 7.5 vacation days this year. After I had already taken those days. They explained that I only accrued 3.5 days, and I will owe them 4 days pay if I decide to leave the company now. Is this legal?