Q: A non-exempt employee has asked to be paid for the hour she spent checking work email while she was out on vacation. We didn’t request, require, or authorize this work. How do we handle this?
A: Although you didn’t give this non-exempt employee permission to check her work email while she was on vacation, you will need to pay her for the time she worked. In this case, the employee checked e-mail for one hour of her vacation day, so you would provide one hour of regular pay and charge the rest of her day to her vacation bank.
To prevent this kind of thing from occurring in the future, it is perfectly permissible to create and enforce a policy stating that employees are not permitted to perform work (including checking e-mails and voicemails) while on vacation or taking any other kind of paid or unpaid leave. While you can’t withhold pay for time worked, you can hold employees accountable to the policy by disciplining for any violation.