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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

PTO Problems.

I'm an exempt, salaried employee. I've been in my position for a year. I recently learned that my employer has been using a full 8 hours of PTO for every full day I'm gone - regardless of whether I still managed to put in a full 40-hour work week.

For example: I work 8 hours each on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, am sick on Thursday, and work 8 hours each on Friday and Saturday. In this situation, I work and am paid for 40 hours, but my employer also uses 8 hours of PTO. Here's another example: I work 8 hours each on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, have a 2-hour appointment on Thursday but work 8 hours, and work 8 hours each on Friday and Saturday. I've effectively worked 48 hours, get paid for 40, and my employer still uses 2 hours of PTO.

Regardless of the fact that I obviously work too much, and this policy is reverse incentive to work more than absolutely necessary, not to mention wholly unscrupulous and downright evil, I have nonetheless "lost" over 25 hours of paid time off in the last six months alone. Oh, and this unwritten policy was not disclosed to me until this week. Do you have insight into the legalities of this and/or ways to recoup my lost PTO?

First, a question. Who is docking your PTO? Because that is the person I would start with.

It makes sense to me that if you miss a Wednesday because you are sick, and sick days count against your Paid Time Off (PTO) that you would be "charged" 8 hours of PTO. Since Saturday isn't a normal work day, it wouldn't be logical to assume that because you were sick during the week you'll work Saturday. What would be logical is for you to say to your boss, "Jan, since I had to take Wednesday off because I was sick, I'd like to work on Saturday to make up the time so I'm not charged against my PTO bank."

Jan can say yes or no (and, by the way, I think in this example, it would be perfectly legal to do so but any of you lawyers out there feel free to correct me). If Jan is a smart boss, she'll say yes.

Being charged for taking two hours off in the middle of the day chaps my hide, by the way. Especially if you still end up working at least 8 hours.

You say this policy is unwritten. It may be just how whoever is tracking this chooses to do so. No one cares about your vacation time like you do. You need to make sure you are on top of this.

It should be your boss (or your boss's boss) who is responsible for tracking PTO. (Actually, I think it should be you, but your company doesn't.) You need to have a conversation with this person to get clear understanding of how it works. You should ask for flexibility. When you need to take time off you need to be extremely clear about how it will be counted and if additional hours you work can make up for it.

Don't assume anything. Additionally, after you've had your conversation with your boss and she's approved you taking Wednesday off in exchange for you working Saturday, send her an e-mail that confirms your understanding of the conversation.

If they aren't willing to be flexible, it may be time to either stop working so much or find a new job. You're right about how the incentives are all wrong here.

Now, if it's some other group that is imposing this, you still need to deal with it through your boss. People are much more likely to listen to someone who is advocating for an employee then someone who is advocating for himself.


Anonymous said...

This type of behavior by an organization/management drives me nuts. It's the reason why mediocrity prevails and smart/talented/driven individuals leave a company or learn to play the game.

I would start by speaking with whomever is responsible for tracking your PTO, asking for some clarification on the policy. It may very well be written somewhere, but you don't know about it. If it's not, I absolutely agree that you should email that person after the convo, documenting what you've gone over. If you boss/the PTO Nazi's are unwilling to let you work out a 2 hour appointment by staying late, stop working more than 40 hours. Completely. And find a new job.

MsPinkSlip said...
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MsPinkSlip said...
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MsPinkSlip said...

Partial day exemptions are sticky subjects for exempt employees. I think this company might have a problem.

Anonymous said...

Partial day deductions are technically allowed but I think they are stupid and asking for trouble. If your boss wants to make a schedule change for you, great, he may not be able to for consistency sake or maybe he/she has a boss that thinks flexibility is for losers. Would definitely recommend asking you boss about it, preferably before you come in on a Saturday. Maybe he can’t accommodate your schedule change, but maybe he can adjust your work load that week so you don’t have to come in on the Saturday.

Comp Person said...

I'm also not an attorney (although I am a Compensation Manager and am pretty familiar with the FLSA regs). From what you've stated in this post, your employer is not doing anything illegal. They can charge your PTO bank for absences, and because you're exempt, you don't get paid for working more than 40 hours per week.

That being said, there is a difference between what is legal and what is advisable. I am also salaried exempt and if I miss an entire day of work, I always turn in PTO time. If I run out for an appointment and am still putting in my full 8+ hours for the day, I don't. My employer is good with this and I like working for my employer.

So I agree with the advice, talk to someone to see if you can work out a different arrangement, but don't approach it as a legal issue, because they are perfectly within their "legal" rights. And if you don't like the answer, look at the Employee Handbook posted on Punk Rock HR, item number 4.

HR Godess said...

I agree with EHRL (as usual!), talk to whomever is responsible for tracking the PTO. It's not illegal or dishonest for your employer to require you to use PTO if you miss an entire day of a scheduled work day. Expecting them to allow you to count your Saturday is not realistic. Especially if you work in a position in which you need to interact with other employees, who would not be in on Saturday.

I do think it's silly to charge you with any time if you have an appointment and leave early if you make up the time. Allowing your employees some flexibility leads to good will on both sides.

Ibn Tumart said...

Speaking from a California perspective, this company's policy raises a red flag for me. The state's presumption is that you hire this level of employee for the quality of the work, not the quantity.

An exempt employee here must receive his or her full weekly salary so long as he or she worked that week. There is an exception if the employee took an entire day off for personal reasons, but if the absence is due to sickness or an accident, then no dice.

Even if the employee has no PTO/sick days left, the California employer wouldn't be allowed to pay the salaried exempt employeeless than the full weekly salary.

Let me add the caveat that I am 100% up-to-date on California wage and hour law, but that is my understanding as of at least 2007.

Ibn Tumart said...

Oops---should be that I am not 100% up-to-date!

Ask a Manager said...

Ibn, that's true when it comes to the question of docking pay, but if my understanding is correct, it doesn't apply in this case, where the question is about docking vacation time rather than money.

I agree though that this employee needs to start by talking to her boss and getting clear on how the policy is supposed to work.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand of my state Law in WA you wouldn't want to deduct partial days, but full days only. Like everyone else said they aren't paying you for your time, but they are paying you for your position and duties. My initial guess is that the person tracking PTO could potentially be unaware of the implications of partial day exempt PTO deductions.
If this is the case I would speak with your supervisor and the person tracking PTO to make sure you both have a good working knowledge of the policy. I am not sure if you can ask for flexibility, because the policy has to be tracked fairly and equally, but if your issue doesn't get resolved I would speak with your HR rep. about it especially if the policy date is more than 3 years old.

jaded hr rep said...

Yeah, the 2 hrs for an appt stinks, but I don't see anything wrong with it unless the manager is denying you an hour(s)here or there because you've used up all your PTO. I personally wish all managers would track time off more closely so they know when too much time off becomes an issue.

By the same argument, I average 50+hrs/wk so I should never have sick or personal time deducted? I still track and deduct my own sick/personal time used even when I've worked way more than the 40 hrs weekly for the last 10+ years. I say welcome to the world of the exempt employee where the goal should be "get the work done," not "put in your 40 hrs".

Jewellee said...

In California the law was that if an exempt EE comes into work for a maximum of 15 minutes and have to leave for whatever reason (illness, family issue, sick child) they would get paid for the entire day. The law was changed in 2007 (I believe) and now if you work 15 minutes but less than four hours = you get paid for four hours. If you work four hours and 15 minutes = you get paid for 8 hours. I am trying to find out what the new San Francisco laws are concerning OT for exempt EE's. There have been a bunch of amendments and I cannot find anything on them. If anyone has any information I would welcome it. I am looking at a position that pays cr@p (but it's better than nothing) and they expect me to work 50+ hours. I want to make sure I go in completely educated and it's been 2 years since I have done HR.

Anonymous said...

Ok, let me get this straight. If an exempt employee does not work for an entire day for personal reasons or for a sickness or disability the employer does not have to pay them, but can require them to use PTO (per the organization’s policy) for that missed time.

However, according to my understanding of the FLSA you cannot deduct time from an exempt employee who works at least a partial day. So if someone came into work, for example, but left for two hours for personal reasons the employer would still be required to pay them for the entire work day (although they could be disciplined for it, I'd imagine). BUT, you can still take 2 hours of PTO away from them to fulfill the work day in that situation? So, they would still be receiving their full workweek of pay as required by the FLSA but part of that would come from their PTO bank?

What about disciplining an exempt employee for performance (not conduct or violation of safety rules)? According to my understanding of the FLSA you cannot discipline an exempt employee by suspending them without pay for performance related issues (say for 3 days or even a week) because the FLSA defines an exempt employee as someone who receives the same fixed amount of salary regardless of the quantity or quality of work performed in the workweek (hence you cannot take pay away from them for poor performance though unpaid suspensions or other means). However, you could suspend an exempt employee for same 3 days and require that they use their PTO for those suspension days? Should I be assuming that if this is the case it would really need to be in an actual written policy before it could be enforced?