The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2009-18. 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 addressed two questions regarding an employer’s accrued paid time-off (PTO) plan.
Are exempt employees who are required to take PTO during periods of “low patient census” in danger of losing their exempt status?
If an exempt employee’s accrued PTO is exhausted and the periods of low patient census continues, could [the employer] schedule the exempt employee for less than forty hours and reduce pay accordingly?
In response to the first question, the DOL stated “[a]n employee will not be considered to be paid “on a salary basis,” however, if any deductions from the salary are made for full or partial day absences occasioned by the employer or by the operating requirements of the business.” Therefore, those employees could lose their exempt status if such deductions are made.
As for the second question, the DOL concluded, [u]nlike a salary reduction that reflects reduction in the normal scheduled workweek and is not designed to circumvent the salary basis, deductions from salary due to day-to-day or week-to-week determinations of the operating requirements of the business are precisely the circumstances the salary basis test is intended to preclude. Such a plan is, therefore, inconsistent with the guaranteed salary basis of payment required by the regulations.”
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.