Category Archives: Wage and Hour Issues

Quirky Question #233, The Regular Rate: Where Math and Law Collide

Question:

We operate a warehouse in Minnesota where the employees work two weeks on / two weeks off. They work 10 hours per day, 7 days per week when they’re on at an hourly rate of $30. The employees also ordinarily receive a non-discretionary year-end bonus of 10% of total compensation, which is meant to compensate them both for their work and for their having to deal with such a crazy schedule.

The employees don’t like the swings in their pay from big checks to zero based on the on/off pay periods. We would like to make the employees salaried non-exempt in order to even out their pay, but we don’t want to change their total compensation in any meaningful way.

Can you explain how to figure this out? Answer→

Quirky Question #231, Is it Really Employee Appreciation if the Gift Card is Taxable?

Question:

Our company awards prizes at holiday parties and, from-time-to-time, at employee appreciation events.  The prizes range from company logo t-shirts to $50 gift cards and cameras worth about $125.  Do we need to report any of these items as compensation on Form W-2 for the employees who win these prizes? Answer→

Quirky Question #230, Accommodating Nursing Mothers

Question:

We are a large Minnesota employer and we have a non-exempt employee who is asking for breaks to express her breast milk multiple times every day, and each break takes a long time. We let her do so in her office, and she tapes a “not available” note across the window on her office door, but the door doesn’t lock. I know we don’t need to pay her while she’s on these breaks, but productivity in the office is suffering, as other employees are being forced to wait for her to complete her tasks. Can we put some limits on this? Answer→

Quirky Question # 224, The De Minimis Defense to Off the Clock Work Claims

Question:

We have an employee who is claiming that he should be paid for time cleaning up his work station after logging out of our electronic time keeping system each night.  Literally, he spends one or two minutes straightening his piles of paper and on other trivial similar tasks.  Another company HR representative said that every minute an employee spends on any tasks must be paid for.  We have offices on the West Coast including California.  Do we really have to pay him for this time? Answer→

Quirky Question #223, Meal Periods Outside California

Question:

We have offices in 13 states, a headquarters in Iowa and a manufacturing facility in Alaska.  Several employees have used our “open suggestion box” to request that we allow them to work through lunch so they can go home earlier.  I am aware of California’s unique laws which require that non-exempt employees be offered meal periods of at least 30 minutes during which they are relieved of all duty.  I am assuming this is applicable to California only.  Are short lunch periods a problem in any other states? Answer→

Quirky Question #214, Christmas Bonus as Part of Regular Rate of Pay When Calculating Overtime Pay

Question:

 Each year, we provide our employees with a Christmas bonus of varying amounts.  We’ve always done this because we want to reward our employees for a hard year of work and also spread a bit of holiday cheer.  We were recently told by someone that we may have to pay additional overtime wages if we keep giving our employees a Christmas bonus.  We don’t want to take away the Christmas bonus since our employees really appreciate it, but we might have to if this is true.  Is this person right and is this true in Minnesota and Iowa? Answer→

Quirky Question #207, New York Wage Deduction Law

Question:

We are a New York employer.  We had an outside vendor doing our payroll and we recently discovered several of our employees were overpaid three months in a row.   Is there anything we can do other than get the employees’ agreement to make a deduction to recoup the overpayments?  I seem to recall that many states, California comes to mind, forbid deductions except in very limited circumstances. Answer→

Quirky Question #204, Unpaid Internships

Question:

I am a Human Resources representative of an independent for-profit company that publishes multiple travel and vacation magazines.  Some of my company’s executives have expressed an interest in hiring interns for next summer and for a possible year-round program, if the program is successful.  Currently, we aren’t sure what we would like our interns to do exactly but one thing is clear – the company wants to save costs by having an unpaid internship program.  I am generally aware of recent litigation involving unpaid internships, but I am not sure what this means for my company and our potential unpaid internship program.  Can you provide some guidance? Answer→

Quirky Question #201, Tip Sharing

Question:

I run a restaurant chain that operates in different states, and I’m about to open my first location in Minnesota.  We generally ask our servers to share a portion of their tips with bussers.  We also include mandatory charges for large groups.  I’ve heard the rules surrounding tips and service charges are quite unique in Minnesota.  Is there anything special I need to be aware of? Answer→

Quirky Question # 183, Retaliating Against an Applicant Who Previously Sued Under the FLSA

Question:

We recently made an offer to an applicant for an important job at our company. The offer was conditioned on a satisfactory background check and her passing our standard drug test. She had no problem with the drug test. But, when we did the background check, we discovered that she had sued her former employer for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Based on that fact, we want to pull the offer. Do you see any problems with that decision? Are we buying litigation? Answer→