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OT pay for checking email? DOL to explore it

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in Human Resources,Overtime Labor Laws

The HR news on everyone’s radar right now is the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed regulations resetting the salary basis for exempt employees. But that’s not all the DOL is up to. Buried in those proposed regs was an announcement about technology and overtime that was easy to miss, but which may dramatically alter how you pay some hourly employees.

Next month, the DOL will issue a Request for Information asking stakeholders such as employers, trade associations, employees and employee rights groups for comments on employees’ after-hours use of technology for work-related purposes.

The DOL said the request is in response to questions it received during outreach meetings while working on the overtime regulations. The DOL wants to know about nonexempt or overtime-protected employees and their use of technology like smartphones, laptops, iPads and other devices that allow them to answer and send email, access company files and otherwise work anywhere at anytime.

Why is this important? Partly because if the proposed overtime regulations setting the minimum weekly salary at $970 for exempt workers really become law, employers will move some of those formerly exempt employees into hourly positions to avoid having to raise salaries so dramatically.

That means tons of workers who are used to reading and responding to email and working from home, from a coffee shop or a commuter train will likely continue that habit. If their “extra” work via electronic devices becomes compensable, employers may find themselves with large, unplanned overtime bills.

Final note: When you determine whether a currently exempt employee should be converted to hourly status, consider how much time he or she spends after regular working hours conducting business with electronic devices.

Are you better off raising that employees’ salary to exceed the new salary basis? Or would you be better off just paying overtime?

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