Vision Payroll

August 9, 2009

US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on Nine-Day, Compressed Workweek

The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2009-16. 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 said that a time-keeping system was in compliance with the FLSA. The DOL explained the system as follows:

[E]mployees work nine hours per day Monday through Thursday and work eight hours on one of the two Fridays during the two-week period. The company is proposing changes to the corporate policy and to the time-keeping system to ensure compliance with the FLSA. The new policy will require employees to choose their desired workweek schedule from a list of employer-established, standard workweek schedules. The employees may choose a schedule that begins at 11:31 a.m. Friday and ends at 11:30 a.m. the following Friday, with the scheduled workday starting at 7:30 a.m. Alternately, the employee may choose a schedule that starts at 12:31 p.m. Friday and ends at 12:30 p.m. the following Friday. The workday starts at 8:30 a.m. Once approved, the selected workweek will appear on the employee’s time card. Time cards will have two separate columns for reporting time on Friday – one column for hours worked during the first workweek and another column for hours worked during the second workweek. Employees will continue to be paid time and one half for all hours worked over forty in any workweek.

Since the “workweeks are fixed, consist of 168-hour periods, and employees will be paid for any hours they work over forty in that specified period” the proposed system is in compliance with the FLSA.

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.

August 2, 2009

US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on Compensating Study Time Outside Normal Work Hours

The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2009-15. 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 confirmed that time spent studying for city-required training programs, seminars, and classes is compensable under the FLSA, but the time spent studying may be limited by the city. Regardless, all time spent studying is compensable even if it exceeds the limits set.

The city in question requires employees to attend and pass certain training programs designed to assist the employees in their jobs. Although the training is during normal working hours, “homework” is often assigned by the instructor. The homework is generally reading or studying certain material in preparation for future classroom discussion.

There are four criteria to determine if training programs and similar activities should be treated as compensable time:

  1. Attendance is outside of the employee’s regular working hours;
  2. Attendance is in fact voluntary;
  3. The course, lecture, or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job; and
  4. The employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.

Since criteria 1. ,2., and 3. are not met, the time spent by the employees in class must be compensated.

Homework required as part of a compensable training program is also itself compensable. The city may set a realistic limit on the time that employees spend studying. It is the responsibility of the city to see that such limits are not exceeded, but any time spent over the limit is still compensable. Alternatively, the city could allow employees time during their normal work day to complete any homework.

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.

August 1, 2009

US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on Pay Reductions to Salaried Employees

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.

July 27, 2009

US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on Compensating Employees for Web-based Classes Taken at Home

The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA 2009-13. 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 employees who take “web-based prerequisite classes at home in preparation for a voluntary job-related training class” must be compensated for the time spent. In this case, technicians could volunteer to take a training class during regular working hours to learn new and advanced features on Tellabs 5500 equipment. Tellabs required that the technicians, who did not work for Tellabs, complete four prerequisite classes, each lasting approximately four hours. These classes would be completed at home on the technicians own time.

There are four criteria to determine if training programs and similar activities be treated as compensable time:

  1. Attendance is outside of the employee’s regular working hours;
  2. Attendance is in fact voluntary;
  3. The course, lecture, or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job; and
  4. The employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.

Since criterion 3. is not met, the time spent by the technicians on the pre-requisite classes must be compensated by the employer, even though the other three criteria were met.

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.

July 26, 2009

US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on Barbacks

The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA 2009-12. 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 confirmed that barbacks who receive tips from the bartenders they support qualify as tipped employees and therefore are eligible for tip credits. A barback is described as an assistant to the bartender who works the same hours as a bartender and whose primary duty is to support the bartender.

In this case, the barbacks did not directly receive tips from customers but from the bartenders they supported. The tips were more than $30 per month. Tip splitting or pooling is allowed under the FLSA in certain circumstances and the tips are allocated to the employee who retains them. Since the barbacks are “engaged in an occupation in which [they] customarily and regularly [receive] more than $30 a month in tips” they qualify as “tipped employees”.

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.

July 25, 2009

US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on Concessionaires

The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA 2009-11. 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 concluded that a concessionaire at a privately-owned recreational establishment did not qualify as a recreational establishment. A recreational establishment is an “establishment that is an amusement or recreational establishment, organized camp, or religious or  non-profit educational conference center that either ‘does not operate for more than seven months in any calendar year,’ or, ‘during the preceding calendar year,’ has ‘average receipts for any six months of such year [of] not more than 33 1/3 per centum of its average receipts for the other six months of such year.’” Although a restaurant may qualify as a recreational establishment if the host establishment qualifies and the acts with the concessionaire as a single establishment, in this case the entities were separate and distinct.

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.

July 21, 2009

US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on Coaches Qualifying as Teachers

The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2009-10. 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). Because the letter was apparently never mailed after it was signed, the DOL under new Secretary Hilda L. Solis has decided to withdraw the letter for further consideration. Therefore, this letter may not be relied upon as a statement of agency policy. It is possible that a different conclusion may be reached when the Opinion Letter is reissued.

In this Opinion Letter, the DOL confirmed that community members who coach athletic teams qualify as teachers under the FLSA. Although a teaching certificate indicates that an employee qualifies for the exemption, there is no requirement that a teacher possess a certificate to qualify. Further, “there is no minimum education or academic degree required” for the exemption. Coaches qualify as teachers if their primary duty is “teaching and imparting knowledge to students in an educational establishment.” Since these community members apparently do not provide other services to the school district and there is no salary requirement for teachers under the FLSA, the coaches qualify and are exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements.

State laws may provide rules that are more beneficial to the employee and must be followed. The DOL may come to a different conclusion when it reissues the Opinion Letter after further consideration. Contact Vision Payroll if you have questions about this Opinion Letter.

July 20, 2009

US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on Overtime for State Police Civilian Helicopter Pilots

The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2009-9. 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). Because the letter was apparently never mailed after it was signed, the DOL under new Secretary Hilda L. Solis has decided to withdraw the letter for further consideration. Therefore, this letter may not be relied upon as a statement of agency policy. It is possible that a different conclusion may be reached when the Opinion Letter is reissued.

In this Opinion Letter, the DOL ruled that civilian helicopter pilots employed by the Division of State Police do not qualify as exempt employees under the FLSA. The pilots are not executive employees since “their primary duty is not managing the department or subdivision in which they are employed.” They are not administrative employees since piloting a helicopter is not “office or non-manual” work. The DOL has long held that pilots do not qualify under learned professional exemption since their primary duty does not have any “advanced knowledge that must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

State laws may provide rules that are more beneficial to the employee and must be followed. The DOL may come to a different conclusion when it reissues the Opinion Letter after further consideration. Contact Vision Payroll if you have questions about this Opinion Letter.

July 19, 2009

US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on Overtime for Plumbing Company Employees

The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2009-8. 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). Because the letter was apparently never mailed after it was signed, the DOL under new Secretary Hilda L. Solis has decided to withdraw the letter for further consideration. Therefore, this letter may not be relied upon as a statement of agency policy. It is possible that a different conclusion may be reached when the Opinion Letter is reissued.

In this Opinion Letter, the DOL reviews the pay policy of a company that engages primarily in “drain cleaning and other minor plumbing repair and replacement services involving such items as water heaters, disposals, and toilets.” Eighty to ninety percent of the company’s revenues are from retail sales or services to private homeowners. The technicians receive pay based on twenty-three percent of the revenues attributable to their labor and five percent of the revenue attributable to their parts sales. They also receive a monthly bonus that is dependent on monthly sales. Their pay is guaranteed to be more than 150% of the minimum wage and is generally three to six times the minimum wage.

The DOL ruled that “because more than seventy-five percent of its annual dollar volume of goods and services it not for resale”, it qualifies as a “retail or service establishment”. Employees of such establishments are exempt from minimum wage if:

  1. The regular rate of pay of such employee is in excess of one and one-half times the minimum wage, and
  2. More than half of the employee’s compensation for a representative period (not less than one month) represents commissions on goods and services.

Since the employees apparently qualify under these standards, they are exempt from the minimum wage laws.

State laws may provide rules that are more beneficial to the employee and must be followed. The DOL may come to a different conclusion when it reissues the Opinion Letter after further consideration. Contact Vision Payroll if you have questions about this Opinion Letter.

June 2, 2009

US Department of Labor Issues Opinion Letter on On-Call Time for Ambulance Personnel

The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2009-7. 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). Because the letter was apparently never mailed after it was signed, the DOL under new Secretary Hilda L. Solis has decided to withdraw the letter for further consideration. Therefore, this letter may not be relied upon as a statement of agency policy. It is possible that a different conclusion may be reached when the Opinion Letter is reissued.

In this Opinion Letter, a county ambulance service requires its employees to be on-call approximately forty hours per week. On-call employees must carry a pager, respond in uniform within five minutes, and abstain from alcohol and other substances. Over a test period of two months, the typical on-call employee responded twelve or thirteen times in a month.

Generally, on-call time is compensable when the restrictions are too burdensome or callbacks are too frequent to allow employees to use the on-call time freely. The DOL concluded that since the town was small enough that employees could travel anywhere in town and still be able to respond in the allotted time, since on-call employees were not disciplined even when taking as long as eight minutes to respond, and since the number of callbacks was not too frequent, employees had effective use of the on-call time for personal purposes and were not required to be compensated (other than time spent on call-backs).

State laws may provide rules that are more beneficial to the employee and must be followed. The DOL may come to a different conclusion when it reissues the Opinion Letter after further consideration. Contact Vision Payroll if you have questions about this Opinion Letter.

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