Can we impose a disciplinary day off against an exempt employee? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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Can we impose a disciplinary day off against an exempt employee?

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Q. One of our department managers consistently violates our safety policies. We have written him up before, but that does not seem to get through to him. Our safety consultant has suggested that we give the manager a day off without pay to “send a message.” I am concerned that we may have a problem under wage-and-hour laws—that an employer cannot deduct wages from an “exempt” employee. This manager works long hours, and we do not want to face a claim that we made him a nonexempt employee because of a one-day disciplinary suspension. Your thoughts?

A. Generally speaking, exempt employees must receive their full salaries for any week in which they perform work. However, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does permit a deduction for absences of one or more full days (one full day or multiple full days, but not any half days) “imposed in good faith for infractions of workplace conduct rules.” However, such suspensions must be based on a written policy applicable to all employees.

Assuming your safety policy is in writing, you should be protected. But I have more good news. FLSA also permits penalties for violations of “safety rules of major significance.” There is no requirement that the penalty be in full-day increments. You may want to read the federal regulation at 29 CFR 541.602(b)(4) and (5).

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