Q. One of our supervisors wants to coach his son’s basketball team and has asked to leave work an hour early twice a week. We told him we do not have a problem with leaving early, but that he would have to use vacation time to cover the time lost. He refuses to do that and says we cannot dock his pay for the two hours because he is a salaried supervisor. Is that right? Can we force him to take vacation time to cover the time he takes off?
A. He is wrong and you can force him to use vacation time. Generally speaking, an employer cannot reduce the salary of an exempt supervisor for absences of less than one day without losing the person’s exempt status. This is probably what the supervisor is thinking about.
In the situation you described, however, the company is not reducing the supervisor’s salary. He will continue to receive full pay for the week even though he is absent for two hours. Reducing his vacation time by two hours to cover the two hours of lost time is not the same as a “salary reduction.”
Both the U.S. Department of Labor and the courts have approved an employer’s right to charge such absences to other benefits, such as vacation, even if the employee disagrees or objects. When this is done, the employee still receives full pay for the week and the individual’s exempt status is not affected.
You should remember, however, that just because something is legal does not mean it is a wise employment practice. Reducing vacation pay for a supervisor in this situation is something that should be carefully thought out—particularly if the supervisor works late on other days. The adverse impact on morale may be more costly than the two hours.
Also, if his vacation pay is exhausted, then a deduction would be problematic.