Q&A: Hours and Salaries for Employees

20-Jun-2015

Question Corner

Hours and Salaries for Employees

By Jason R. Mau

Q: Summer is a pretty busy time of year for our company, and we want to hire several high-schoolers for a couple of months to help with some low-skilled tasks. What special rules apply to employees under age 18?

A: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that for all non-agricultural employment, the minimum age for employees is 14.  Fourteen and fifteen year old employees are limited to the hours they can work during school weeks, however, during the summer they can work up to 8 hours a day for up to 40 hours a week.  All hours worked must be between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the school year, but between June 1 and Labor Day, these employees can work up until 9 p.m.  Additionally, employees of these ages are limited to certain jobs they can perform, including retail, food service, delivery, clean-up.  For sixteen- and seventeen-year-old employees, they cannot perform any jobs deemed hazardous.  There are no hourly limits for all employees sixteen and older.  As for wages, the FLSA allows for a youth minimum wage of $4.25 for their first 90 consecutive days of employment.  Further, as long as an employer submits to the requirements of the FLSA, they will not violate any requirements of the Idaho child labor laws.

Q: Our salaried employees are required to work a full 40 hours, and if they work anything less, we deduct that time from their personal leave banks. We also have two nonpaid holidays each year. On those days, we deduct eight hours from their pay unless they use personal time. Is that OK?

A: Regarding the deductions to personal leave time, as long as your personal leave policy is a bona fide benefits plan under the FLSA, and no deductions are made to the employees’ predetermined compensation this policy is not prohibited by law.  However, deductions of pay from a salaried employee’s paycheck for nonpaid holidays is prohibited.  Under the FLSA, all salaried employees must receive the total predetermined compensation for any week the employee performs work; so as long as your employees work some time during the weeks in which these two holidays occur, you will be required to pay them their full compensation for those weeks.  Failing to do so may result in the loss of exemptions from the overtime and minimum wage requirements under the FLSA as to these employees. 

Q: A part-time employee recently resigned from her position. She didn't confirm that she had another job, but we heard she is working. We just received a “Notice of Unemployment Compensation” claim. Since she resigned and we think she’s currently employed, are we liable for the claim?

A: In Idaho, an individual is not eligible to collect benefits if she voluntarily quits her position. Furthermore, if this former employee is now working full-time, but has reported she is not employed, she could be subject to prosecution for a felony and could be required to repay the entire amount of benefits she received while she was working, as well as penalties.   

Q: To avoid layoffs, our company has had to cut the salaries of exempt staff. When business turns back around, are we obligated to return them to their previous salaries or reimburse them for the cut?  

A: As long as there are no employment contracts in place stating otherwise, and the salary cut is not being used as a device to evade exemption requirements, you may prospectively reduce salaries for an economic or business event that qualifies as a bona fide long term business slowdown.  However, to qualify under the FLSA and Department of Labor regulations, these reductions must be an uncommon business practice and only be for a fixed amount of time determined prior to the pay period for which it applies.  Otherwise, if your plan involves deductions in current pay periods you will cause a loss of the exemptions. You will not be required to reimburse for the reduction.

Jason R. Mau is an attorney in the office of Greener Burke Shoemaker Oberrecht, P.A.  He can be reached at 208-319-2600 or jmau@greenerlaw.com.