A. The U.S. Labor Department allows for seven specific situations in which an employer can legally deduct from an employee’s salary without risking his or her exempt status:
1. When an exempt employee is absent from work for one or more full days for personal reasons, other than sickness or disability.
2. For absences of one or more full days occasioned by sickness or disability (including work-related accidents) if the deduction is made in accordance with a bona fide plan, policy or practice of providing compensation for loss of salary occasioned by such sickness or disability.
3. While an employer cannot make deductions from pay for absences of an exempt employee for jury duty, attendance as a witness or temporary, the employer can offset any amounts received by an employee as jury fees, witness fees or military pay for a particular week against the salary due for that particular week.
4. For penalties imposed in good faith for infractions of safety rules of major significance.
5. For unpaid disciplinary suspensions of one or more full days imposed in good faith for infractions of workplace conduct rules imposed pursuant to a written policy applicable to all employees.
6. For any time not actually worked during the first or last week of employment.
7. For any time taken as unpaid.
A mistaken deduction could prove costly. Generally speaking, if an employer makes an illegal pay deduction, the exemption would be lost during the time period during which the improper deduction was made. The lost exemption not only applies to the affected employees but also to all employees in the same job classification working for the same managers responsible for the actual deduction.