Can we split a shift to avoid overtime? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Can we split a shift to avoid overtime?

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Q. We have an employee whose job requires her to perform check-in tasks for about an hour at the beginning of the day. She is then needed to perform certain check-out tasks eight hours later at the end of the day. During the remainder of her workday she performs various administrative services. To manage her time and avoid overtime, we began asking her to take an extra hour break during the middle of the day. She says she doesn’t want to take this additional break. Can we require her to take the additional breaks so that we don’t have to pay her overtime?

A. Yes. The “break” would not be considered compensable time as long as the employee is completely relieved of her duties and is able to effectively use this time off in whatever way she wishes.

The U.S. Department of Labor notes that these so-called “split-shift” arrangements are permissible when the employee has time off in the middle of a workday and the employee understands that he or she does not have to return to work until a definite specified time.

To avoid legal problems, you should have the employee’s schedule documented in writing, and make it clear that she is relieved of her work during the specified time period.

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