The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2009-14. Although Opinion Letters only apply to the exact set of facts and circumstances presented in each case, they are a valuable aid in understanding current interpretations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
In this Opinion Letter, the DOL ruled that reducing a salaried employee’s pay due to a reduction in hours mandated by the employer may violate the salary basis requirement and jeopardize the employee’s exempt status.
In certain cases in which there is a low patient census, the employer offers voluntary time off (VTO). VTO allows the employees to take time off and “use paid annual, personal, or vacation leave, but continue to accrue employment benefits.” An insufficient number of volunteers under this system results in the implementation of an MTO (mandatory time off) system. Employees may then use accrued leave or take unpaid MTO. If an employee does not have sufficient time to allow payment under the leave policy or elects not to use accrued leave the employer deducts the VTO or MTO from the employee’s salary for that week. If the leave lasts the entire week, no salary is paid.
Under the FLSA, deductions from salary are not allowed when work is not available if the salaried employee “is ready, willing and able to work.” A reduction may be allowed “if it is a bona fide reduction not designed to circumvent the salary basis requirement, and does not bring the salary below the applicable minimum salary” (currently $455 per week). Deductions are allowed when exempt employees “voluntarily take time off for personal reasons, other than sickness or disability, for one or more full days.” The employee must truly volunteer, however, and it must not be “occasioned by the employer or the operating requirements of the business.”
State laws may provide rules that are more beneficial to the employee and must be followed. Contact Vision Payroll if you have questions about this Opinion Letter.