To Eat or Not to Eat? Managing Meal and Rest Periods

To Eat or Not to Eat? Managing Meal and Rest Periods

Ensuring employees adhere to state and federal mandates surrounding meal and rest periods is incredibly important during optimal times. It is crucial now more than ever with so many employees working remotely that managers hold their employees accountable for taking their required meal and rest periods and are documenting such breaks accordingly, and that such time worked is appropriately compensated.

When it comes to managing teleworking employees, it is vital to ensure compliance with federal, and state, and local wage and hour laws which are different depending on the classification of your employees:

Exempt Employees

Exempt employees must be paid for the entire workweek during which they perform any amount of work as their “primary duty” for the employer. PTO or vacation/sick may be taken in full or half day increments (depending on your internal policies), but the employee’s full salary must be compensated for that workweek if they have performed any work. If an employee performs NO work for the employer, the full week may be taken off as unpaid as in compliance with organizational policies. It is additionally important to note that exempt employees must still be paid their full, weekly salaries for absences taken at the employer’s discretion or based on operational requirements.

In addition to communicating expectations and reiterating your internal policies regarding meal and rest periods, strongly encourage your exempt employees to work their regularly scheduled hours if possible.

Nonexempt Employees

Generally, nonexempt employees must be compensated for any and all work performed during the workweek. The schedules of nonexempt employees may be reduced due to a decrease in demand or due to closures, with pay reflecting that cut accordingly. The biggest thing to focus on with nonexempt employees is ensuring that time is logged and monitored accordingly and in compliance with federal, state, and local wage and hour laws. Consider the following to make certain no violations arise:

  • Depending on the time tracking system your organization uses, many remote employees do not have access to a physical time punching system. While it is ideal if you have software that provides online access, what do you do if you don’t have that type of system? A simple spreadsheet to be submitted daily, indicating when an employee punches in and out throughout the day is one common method.
  • Alternatively, have your employees email you when they start their day, communicating expectations of when meal and rest breaks are to be taken and logged, with these emails and entries being logged and monitored closely.
  • Communicate to your employees your policy on meal and rest breaks, ensuring that laws and expectations are outlined and understood. CLEARLY communicate that all hours worked when working remotely must be logged accurately.
    • Additionally, communicate your policy on the use of overtime, particularly the authorization (or prohibiting unauthorized) of working overtime.

Contact us if you have any questions on regulations that may apply to your organization, or for assistance on implementing a policy on meal and rest periods or a system for effective time tracking.

Families First Response Act – How it Affects You!

Families First Response Act – How it Affects You!

In unprecedented rapid succession, House Bill 6201 (also known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act) was passed by House of Representatives on March 13, the Senate on March 18, and signed into effect by the President on March 18. Effective on April 1, this bill will provide for paid emergency sick leave, expanded leave protections, enhanced unemployment benefits, and free testing for those adversely affected by COVID-19.

The following summarizes the three biggest components to the Families First Act:

  • Paid Sick Leave – Qualifying employers (private sector employers with less than 500 employees and all government employers) will be required to pay for up to 80 hours of paid sick leave (prorated based on average hours worked over a 2 week period) benefits to employees who have been impacted by COVID-19 (for reasons such as being required to stay home or when it has been advised to self-quarantine, when they are exhibiting symptoms, are caring for someone who is in quarantine or isolation, or for those who have children who’s schools or childcare facilities are closed or a caregiver is unavailable during this health emergency).

Employers with less than 50 employees may be exempt from this mandate, particularly if the “viability of the business” would be in jeopardy as a result of providing this benefit.

  • Paid Family Leave – Private sector employers with less than 500 employees and government employers are required to provide up to 12 weeks of paid Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) to employees who have worked more than 30 calendar days to care for children when schools are closed or childcare facilities are unavailable or when they are unable to work remotely.

After 10 days (2 weeks, or 80 hours) of leave that would satisfy the paid sick leave requirement outlined above, eligible employees will receive 2/3 of their regular rate of pay.

Private employers with less than 50 or more than 500 employees are exempt from this mandate.

  • Unemployment Benefits – The federal government is encouraging all states to be more flexible with eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits. They are projected to provide $1 billion in additional funding to provide UI benefits to affected employees, and states have been authorized to extend the provision of benefits beyond the standard 26 weeks of payment.

The Department of Labor is actively working on finalizing the specifics to each of these components of the bill, specifically regulations that would assist small employers in navigating through this process, particularly if they are exempt from these mandates.

Nearly every organization has been adversely impacted by this national health emergency. We are actively working with our clients and colleagues to assist in answering questions regarding the employment status of their workers, modifying sick leave and time off policies, and providing any assistance as needed as we work through this situation. There are countless additional exceptions, provisions, and factors to consider when applying these mandates to specific businesses. For additional information regarding how this bill affects your organization personally, please contact us for a consultation and guidance.

We will keep all of our clients personally updated as additional regulations are finalized. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding House Bill 6201, its provisions, and how to implement these new protocols within your organization.

We are all in this together and wish you all health and safety during this time.

Telecommuting – Yay or Nay?

Telecommuting and providing flexibility in work schedules are benefits that employees are increasingly seeking and are incentives that really don’t take that much effort or cost (relative to other benefits) to implement. Not only is the opportunity to work remotely appealing to employees as it provides them with an opportunity to manage both their home and work lives efficiently, but there are a number of benefits for employers as well, including:

  • High Levels of Morale = Low Levels of Stress – (A + B = C) When your employees have higher levels of morale, they are less stressed about their work, are more motivated to perform at their best, and will in turn produce quality work. Employees who are happier and healthier often have a sense of autonomy over their work, and providing them with this opportunity will help keep them engaged and reduce burnout.
  • Retention and Reduction of Turnover – For many employees, when the desired work-life balance is met, there is no need or desire to seek work elsewhere as they are content in the stability they’ve established in their position. Recruitment is expensive. Employees who have flexibility are proven to be less likely to leave an organization, with this benefit often outweighing the offer of more compensation elsewhere.
  • Productivity and Work Hours – A huge benefit for employers who have remote employees is the option to extend work hours. With employees working from home, work schedules can be far more flexible (e.g., an employee starting later and working until 8pm versus 5pm) which can benefit your customers and clients, particularly when factoring in varying time zones.

Making the wants and needs of your employees a priority proves to them that you genuinely care about their work and their aspirations. Granted, business needs should always be a top priority, but if you can meet your employees halfway and can offer them incentives and opportunities to grow and perform at their very best, you can reap the benefits of highly motivated, long-term employees who will remain loyal and productive.

 

 

Summer Lovin’

Gillian and Steve knew of one another, working for the same bank but in different departments, but hadn’t had a chance to converse in a non-professional setting until a weekend barbeque a mutual friend arranged for a group of her coworkers. After some drinks and casual conversation, Gillian and Steve had hit it off and over the next few weeks, engaged in a romantic relationship. Everything was going well until Steve’s attention was directed to another, having viewed the relationship as more of a fling. Gillian was less than pleased and proceeded to spread rumors at work, creating an uncomfortable working environment for anyone who had to interact with the two.

With more and more couples meeting at work, workplace romances may pop up at any time of year, but are especially abundant during the summer months with barbeques and other warm-weather activities presenting opportunities for employees to get together in casual settings. This time of year, reinforcing your policies pertaining to fraternization and appropriate conduct can mean the difference between a healthy team environment and one full of unproductive drama and gossip.

Avoiding these issues in paramount, and while it is near impossible to prevent workplace romances from occuring, ensuring that there are rules in place to prevent problems from arising is key. Ensure that your policies address relationships between supervisors and their subordinates and detail what is and is not appropriate conduct (including displays of affection, gossip and unproductive conversation, poor performance, and sharing confidential information).

Apply policies in a consistent manner and have in place a process for dealing with situations when things go wrong. Ideally, a conversation reminding both parties of policies pertaining to appropriate conduct will suffice, but when resentment still lingers and affects productivity, do not hesitate to take action. Administering appropriate disciplinary action may be what it takes to prevent the situation from escalating into a more serious case, such as sexual harassment or workplace violence.

While most summer flings come and go without a hitch, some can result in persisting bitterness and anger. Ensure that your policies and plans are in place to tackle any issues head on, and make certain that this is communicated effectively with your employees to allow them with the information to make responsible decisions for themselves.

Beating the Heat, One Flip-Flop at a Time

After taking some vacation time and enjoying a long weekend at the lake to beat the heat, Dean was not thrilled to rejoin the workforce on Monday, with summer temperatures still lingering in the unbearable low 100s. Deciding to take a little bit of the lake to work with him, Dean showed up wearing a pair of board shorts, a polo shirt, and some sandals, thinking that in light of the heat his boss wouldn’t mind some less professional attire. To his surprise, a Board meeting had been scheduled the previous week in his absence for Monday morning. Dean had no choice but to attend the meeting to discuss the status of a project with the suit-wearing Board Members, who were less than amused by his casual dress.

Trying to stay cool is a top priority for most of us when the sweltering heat of summer hits. At home, it is easy to kick back in a pair of shorts and some flip flops, but with many industries requiring professional attire in the workplace, how do you keep cool and avoid melting on the job?

Of course air conditioning and fans help, but many are tempted to wear office inappropriate attire when the temperatures rise. There are a number of ways to meet in the middle when dealing with inclement weather, a heat wave being just as troublesome as frigid conditions in the winter.

• Review Company Policies – This time of year, take the opportunity to review your company’s policies on personal appearance and attire. Consider modifying the policy to include exceptions, such as casual dress during inclement weather, and make certain to provide examples of what is/is not appropriate as part of this exception.

• Consider Telecommuting Options – With technology offering opportunities to work from home, many employees may prefer to stay in their temperature-regulated houses during heat waves. Staying comfortable will often mean more productivity, so allowing this option for applicable positions it is a great alternative to ensure that the job still gets done.

• Be Flexible – Warm weather dress codes can be difficult to define, let alone enforce. Make certain that some resolute standards are in place, then allow for some flexibility beyond that. Trust your employees to use good judgment in deciding what is and is not appropriate around those guidelines as every position and situation is different.

While the summer season is typically more laid back than its counterparts, communicate your policy (possibly modified for the warmer months) clearly to employees to avoid any problems. Make sure your employees know to use good judgment and inform them of the best rule of thumb when deciding if an article of clothing is appropriate or not: when in doubt, don’t.