Question & Answer
Q. We had a disciplinary issue with an hourly employee last week. Instead of reporting at normal time to work, we instead asked that they report later in the morning for a meeting with supervisors. In the meeting, we suspended her for two days and gave her instructions about when to report for duty again. She did not clock in prior to the meeting. Are we responsible for paying any minimum amount of time for the time that she showed up for the meeting and was then suspended?
A. Yes. The Fair Labor Standards Act defines the time that employers are required to pay for their employees’ work and provides different rules for exempt and non-exempt employees in this situation.
Under the Act, non-exempt employees are paid on an hourly basis and are eligible to receive overtime when they have worked more than 40 hours in a workweek. The law has specific rules that discuss how an employer should pay for time spent in lectures, meetings and training. An employer is not obligated to pay for the time spent in a meeting if all of the following criteria apply:
The meeting takes place outside of normal hours;
The meeting is voluntary;
The meeting is not job-related
No work is performed during the meeting.
In your situation, a disciplinary meeting is job-related, mandatory and likely to take place during normal hours. Since not all four criteria have been met, the company would have to pay the non-exempt employee for the time spent in the meeting.
The rules are different for exempt employees, but the time still must be paid. Because exempt employees are paid weekly salaries regardless of hours worked, there are strictly defined instances when an employer is permitted to deduct from the employee’s salary. If the meeting doesn’t fit into the approved list of deductions, the employer is not permitted to make the deduction. Specifically, the employer is not permitted to make partial-day deductions from an exempt employee’s pay. The only exception is when intermittent leave taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
This means an employer must pay a full day’s wages for an exempt employee who attends a meeting. While the law allows employers to pay an exempt employee a partial week’s salary in the final week of his or her employment, the regulations state that the employer must prorate the salary by days, not hours. For example, if a manager terminates the employee on a Wednesday morning, the employee should be paid wages for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.