Q. We recently sent an employee home for not following his supervisor's instructions. Do we have an obligation to pay him for the full day regardless? How should we handle this situation in the future? Is this considered administrative leave? —D.M., California
A. I'll answer your last question first. Don't sugarcoat this insubordination by calling it “administrative leave.” This is a disciplinary suspension. If you're dealing with a nonexempt, hourly employee, you have to pay for only the hours that he or she worked before being sent home—not the hours he or she missed.
If you're dealing with an exempt, salaried employee, you should not make pay deductions of less than a full week for disciplinary suspensions. This could put you at risk of losing the worker's exempt status. (The pending Labor Department proposal would allow for disciplinary suspensions in one-day increments.) There's one exception to the current rules: You can hand out daily suspensions to exempt workers if the suspension is due to the worker's breach of a major safety rule.