Reminder: Register Now for Our Ringing in the New Year Webinar

I want to remind every one of my followers that the early bird pricing for my latest webinar will end on December 3rd.   This lecture will focus on just the new year.  So I am calling it “Ringing in the New Year–2020”.  For only $149 I will cover all the latest for 2020.  This includes:

  • Completely new and revamped 2020 Form W-4
  • New DOL exempt rules
  • Minimum wage increases on the state level
  • New and upcoming sick leave and/or paid leave programs going into effect
  • 2020 Form W-2
  • 2020 Form 941
  • 2020 Form 1099-NEC

This different approach allows me to concentrate on the upcoming year and saves your time by not having to review information you may already know or will receive from other sources.

Our price for this information packed lecture is only $149. Click here to register.  Subscribers to Payroll 24/7 will receive a 20% discount if they register by Tuesday, December 3, 2019.  Not a subscriber to Payroll 24/7?  Try us out with your registration. If you register prior to Tuesday, December 3, 2019 you will receive a free 60-day subscription to this valuable payroll news service.

This lecture has been submitted to APA for 1.5 RCH credits.

Wage and Hour Laws–They are Here, There and Everywhere Part 4

In my first blog in this series, October 23, 2019, I started discussing the complexities of compliance with wage and hour laws.  Which apply…federal or state?  What areas are covered?  When these questions do arise, where do you find the answers? Can a payroll professional simply check the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to find the answer with a quick verification of any state requirement? Or is the state the main source to go to first with the FLSA as the fall back? The answer is not simple.  In this blog series I will be discussing 23 areas where payroll professionals need to ensure compliance by researching wage and hour laws. In Part 2, I covered the first six areas. In Part 3 I discussed the next four areas.  This time I am reviewing the next set of four areas that may require research to ensure compliance: which includes posting requirements, frequency of payments, methods of payments, and termination requirements.

11. Posting Requirements
Many states have posting requirements in addition to the ones required by the FLSA.  The state may have its own minimum wage poster.  It may require a payday notice or copies of the wage and hour laws be posted or given directly to the employee. State with payday notice regulations include California, Montana, Minnesota, Texas, Tennessee and New York For those states who have them, including California, Connecticut, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, wage orders are usually required to be posted as well.

 

 

12. Frequency of Payments
Federal laws do not specify when an employee must be paid, only that they must. However, most states have a requirement that not only must employees be paid but that they must be within a certain frequency, such as semi-monthly or weekly.  Arizona requires that the employer designate two or more days in each month to pay employees and the days cannot be more than 16 days apart.  New York bases its requirements on whether the employee is a manual worker, a clerical worker or other type of worker. Most states require either biweekly or semimonthly paydays.  These include California, Illinois and New Mexico. Other states permit monthly payrolls including Alaska, Delaware and Washington. Be sure when researching to also check into the amount of time permitted between closing the payroll (collecting the timesheets) and paying the employees.  States do have requirements on what can be called “payroll processing time” or “lag time”.

13. Method of Payment
There is no requirement under the FLSA as to the method to pay an employee. Almost all the states do address this issue. The common requirement is the employee be paid by U.S. currency or check.  The federal government does regulate the paying of employees via direct deposit under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act. The Act was recently updated to include the newest method of payment of employees—payroll debit cards. The states are updating their regulations for payroll debit cards.  The payroll professional must determine if the state allows this form of payment if it intends to begin a pay card payment program and what restrictions may be in place.  These restrictions include limiting fees and voluntary participation.

14. Termination Requirements

Again the FLSA is silent when it comes to requirements on paying an employee who terminates.  States that address this issue vary greatly. For some states it can even depend on whether or not the employee quit or was discharged.  For example, if an employee is discharge Colorado requires that the employee be paid immediately.  But if the employee quits the check is due on the next regular payday. As to whether or not vacation pay must be included with the final paycheck will be discussed in the next segment of this blog.

 

In Part 5 I will be covering the next four areas that may require research including vacation pay requirements, compensatory time off, reporting time or show up pay and call back pay.

Wage and Hour Laws–They Are Here, There and Everywhere Part 2

In my previous blog, October 23, 2019, I discussed the complexities of compliance with wage and hour laws.  Which apply…federal or state?  What areas are covered?  When these questions do arise, where do you find the answers? Can a payroll professional simply check the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to find the answer with a quick verification of any state requirement? Or is the state the main source to go to first with the FLSA as the fall back? The answer is not simple.  In this blog series I will be discussing areas where payroll professionals need to ensure compliance by researching wage and hour laws. Today I am reviewing the first six areas that may require research to ensure compliance:  White collar exemptions; minimum wage; tip credit; meals and lodging credits; overtime rules and regulations; and regular rate of pay.

White Collar Exemptions
The FLSA does address this issue in great detail. The question here is whether or not the state follows suit. Does the state follow the same regulations for determining if an employee is exempt from minimum wage and overtime regulations? This is especially important since the federal rules are being revamped and implemented as of January 1, 2020 for the first time since 2004. Since the increase under President Obama was stopped by the courts, this will be the first official change. The states have not had time to catch up to these new regulations but should address this issue in 2020 as the legislatures start meeting. So far, states that differ from the FLSA include Alaska, California, Hawaii and Montana.

Minimum Wage
The FLSA has a standard. However since the states were the first to introduce the concept of a minimum wage (Massachusetts circa 1912) and the federal rate has rarely kept up with inflation (the last update was 10 years ago) this is an area where payroll sees the biggest difference between the FLSA and the states. 29 states have a higher minimum wage than the federal, 14 states are equal to the $7.25, 2 states are lower, and 5 states have no minimum wage provisions.

Tip Credit

The FLSA allows for tip credit against minimum wage for certain employees. The state requirements can range from forbidding tip credit as in CA and NV to matching the federal to anywhere in between.  It is important to verify the definition of a tipped employee including the dollar limits if any and the percentage or dollar amount permitted for the credit.

 

Meals and Lodging Credit

The FLSA allows for a meals and lodging credit against minimum wage for certain employees.  But it is a general rule stating that the fair market value can be deducted.  Many states do allow a meal and/or lodging credit, but they may specify the exact amount that may be taken. California (see chart below) and New Hampshire are two states that specify the exact amounts that may be taken for the credit. It is important to verify if the state allows the credit and then the regulations on which employees employers are permitted to use the credit and the amounts permitted.

Overtime Rules and Regulations
Again the FLSA rules on this are well known.  But a state may have its own method or regulations concerning the calculation of overtime.  Alaska, California, Colorado and Nevada are four states that have a daily overtime requirement.  Kentucky requires overtime for the 7th day worked.

Regular Rate of Pay

 

Regular rate of pay is the calculated rate that is used to pay overtime under the FLSA.  It can be affected by such payments as nondiscretionary bonuses and commissions.  The state could require a different definition. In this area, most states are less strict than the FLSA. An example is Arizona which requires that the minimum wage of the state be considered the regular rate of pay.

 

In part 3 of this series I will discuss the next 4 areas of research which includes on call or stand by pay, providing holiday/sick/vacation benefits, statements and payday notices and what is hours worked.

DOL Proposing Rules for Tip Credit Provisions

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced a proposed rule for tip provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The proposed rule would implement provisions of the Conso

Still life of a full tip jar

lidated Appropriations Act of 2018 (CAA). The proposal would also codify existing Wage and Hour Division (WHD) guidance into a rule.

According to the announcement: The CAA prohibits employers from keeping employees’ tips.  During the development of those provisions, the Department provided technical assistance to Members of Congress. DOL’s proposed rule would allow employers who do not take a tip credit to establish a tip pool to be shared between workers who receive tips and are paid the full minimum wage and employees that do not traditionally receive tips, such as dishwashers and cooks.

The proposed rule would not impact regulations providing that employers who take a tip credit may only have a tip pool among traditionally tipped employees. An employer may take a tip credit toward its minimum wage obligation for tipped employees equal to the difference between the required cash wage (currently $2.13 per hour) and the federal minimum wage. Establishments utilizing a tip credit may only have a tip pool among traditionally tipped employees.

Additionally, the proposed rule reflects the Department’s guidance that an employer may take a tip credit for any amount of time an employee in a tipped occupation performs related non-tipped duties with tipped duties. For the employer to use the tip credit, the employee must perform non-tipped duties contemporaneous with, or within a reasonable time immediately before or after, performing the tipped duties. The proposed regulation also addresses which non-tipped duties are related to a tip-producing occupation.

In this notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the Department Proposes to:

  • Explicitly prohibit employers, managers, and supervisors from keeping tips received by employees;
  • Remove regulatory language imposing restrictions on an employer’s use of tips when the employer does not take a tip credit. This would allow employers that do not take an FLSA tip credit to include a broader group of workers, such as cooks or dishwashers, in a mandatory tip pool.
  • Incorporate in the regulations, as provided under the CAA, new civil money penalties, currently not to exceed $1,100, that may be imposed when employers unlawfully keep tips.
  • Amend the regulations to reflect recent guidance explaining that an employer may take a tip credit for any amount of time that an employee in a tipped occupation performs related non-tipped duties contemporaneously with his or her tipped duties, or for a reasonable time immediately before or after performing the tipped duties.
  • Withdraw the Department’s NPRM, published on December 5, 2017, that proposed changes to tip regulations as that NPRM was superseded by the CAA.

After publication this NPRM will be available for review and public comment for 60 days. The Department encourages interested parties to submit comments on the proposed rule. The NPRM, along with the procedures for submitting comments, can be found at the WHD’s Proposed Rule website.

Opinion Letters Issued

Despite all the “turmoil” that is going on over at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the work is still continuing. The DOL has issued three new opinion letters that address compliance issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). An opinion letter is an official, written opinion by the Department’s Wage and Hour Division on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the individual or entity that requested the letter.

The latest opinion letters are:

  • FMLA2019-2-A: Addressing whether attending a Committee on Special Education meeting to discuss a child’s Individualized Education Program qualifies as FMLA leave;
  • FLSA2019-11: Addressing the application of the section 7(k) overtime exemption to public agency employees engaged in both fire protection and law enforcement activities; and
  • FLSA2019-12: Addressing the employment status of volunteer reserve deputies who perform paid extra duty work for third parties.

Be sure to keep up with the latest rule changes and opinion letters from the DOL with a subscription to Payroll 24/7.  Only $149 per year for all the latest payroll news right to your inbox.

Our First Payroll Lecture is Here

I am offering my first payroll lecture of the year next week on June 18th.  The subject will be travel pay. The lecture is two hours from 10:00 am to Noon Pacific time.  It is approved by the APA for 2 RCHs.  The nominal charge for the webinar is $99.  You can register under our Shop on our website. 

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the FLSA requirements for paying an employee who travels
  • Comprehend the best practices for tracking and paying for travel pay
  • Understand the IRS requirements for taxing travel pay reimbursements including per diems and accountable plans.

New DOL Wage and Hour Opinion Letters Have Been Delivered. Let’s Look Inside…

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced on March 14th, that they had released new opinion letters on their website.  These letters address the compliance issues related to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Before we review the new opinion letters for the FLSA, let’s do a quick review of what exactly is an opinion letter.

The Wage and Hour Division issues guidance primarily through Opinion Letters, Ruling Letters, Administrator Interpretations, and Field Assistance Bulletins. They are provided on the DOL website.

An interpretation or ruling issued by the Administrator interpreting the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Davis-Bacon Act (DBA), or the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA) is an official ruling or interpretation of the Wage and Hour Division for purposes of the Portal-to-Portal Act. 29 U.S.C. § 259. Such rulings provide a potential good faith reliance defense for actions that may otherwise constitute violations of the FLSA, DBA, or PCA. Prior rulings and interpretations are affected by changes to the applicable statute or regulation so an employer should always periodically review any relevant opinion letters that it uses as a basis for a policy to ensure that changes have not occurred. From time to time the DOL updates its interpretations in response to new information, such as court decisions, and may withdraw a ruling or interpretation in whole or in part.

Now on to the new letters just recently issued.

FLSA2019-1:  This opinion letter clarifies the FLSA wage and recordkeeping requirements for residential janitors and the “good faith” defense. Discusses what to do if the FLSA and state requirements do not match. In this case the state of New York did not consider the employee subject to minimum wage and overtime but the FLSA does.

FLSA2019-2: Addresses the FLSA compliance related to the compensability of time spent participating in an employer-sponsored community service program.

I always encourage employers to use the opinion letters when formulating policy.  If you don’t see an opinion letter that addresses your issue, you may ask for one to be issued on that policy or question by submitting the request online.  Of course, not all requests submitted result in an opinion letter being issued. Or it may be issued but as a non-administrative letter which holds less weight. But it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Reminder: Keep up with the payroll news by subscribing to Vicki’s e-news alerts, Payroll 24/7.  The latest payroll news when you need it, right to your inbox.

Salary Levels Are Rising (Or Are They?) …It’s Still Anyone’s Guess …But We ARE Getting Closer!

On March 7, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a news update concerning the new salary levels for employees to qualify for the Executive, Administrative, and Professional exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The news update acknowledges that the currently salary level of $455 per week, in effect since 2004, needs to be increased but not to the level that was required by the Obama Administration in 2016 ($913 per week). The Department is proposing to adopt a salary level that uses a clear and predictable methodology for employees and that will also comply with the FLSA and the recent court decisions concerning the Obama Administrations regulations that were invalidated by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The rule was submitted on Appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit but was being held in suspension.

This rulemaking proposes to rescind the 2016 rule formally and replace it with this current rule. The same methodology is being used as in the 2016 rule.  The level is set at approximately the 20th percentile of earnings for full-time salaried workers in the lowest region (South). Applying the 2017 data and projecting forward to January 2020 (when the rule should be effective) this results in a proposed standard salary level of $679 per week or $35,308 per year. However, the Department anticipates using the 2018 data in developing the final rule.

One holdover from the 2016 Obama Administration rule is the ability to count nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level test.  These bonuses must be paid annually or more frequently. The new rule will incorporate these types of bonuses.

The DOL is not proposing any changes to the standards duties tests at this time.

For employees who are exempt under the Highly Compensated Employee test, this level will be increasing as well.  The 2016 rule increased that $100,000 threshold to $134,004.  This new rule, using the same methodology of the 90th percentile for full-time salaried employees nationally as the 2016 ruling is projecting that the final level will be $147,414 for 2020.

The automatic updates contained in the 2016 rule will not be adopted.  Instead the DOL proposes to update the earnings thresholds every four years to prevent the levels from, once again, becoming outdated.

The DOL is now conducting a 60-day comment period on the new rule.  Click here to read the new proposed rule.  The address to comment is on page 2 of the report.

We will see where the rule stands after the 60-day comment period. Until then we just wait…

I invite your comments… what do you think of the new level?

 

Reminder: Keep up with the payroll news by subscribing to Vicki’s e-news alerts, Payroll 24/7.  The latest payroll news when you need it, right to your inbox.

With Higher Minimum Wages Can Come Higher Penalties

As my Payroll 24/7 subscribers found out today, Illinois is increasing its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by the 2025.  But the bill, Senate Bill 1, also increases the penalties for failure to follow

the new requirements.  One of blogs that I follow, Wage & Hour Insights has an excellent post on this very issue.  I urge you to take a moment to read Bill Pokorny’s blog on the new Illinois minimum wage violations penalties, Stiff New Employer Penalties Included in Illinois $15 Minimum Wage Law. It is an excellent source on the new requirements.

Average vs. Weighted Average When It Comes to Calculating Overtime Rates–Another Use for Algebra!

Calculating overtime is always tricky.  What rate is the “regular rate of pay” as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a question that must be answered each time for each calculation.  What can make this even more difficult is when the employee works at more than one rate in the workweek.  What rate do you use for the “regular rate of pay” if the employee has two or more hourly rates during the workweek? Can you simply average the different rates or is something more required?  The Department of Labor recently addressed this situation in Opinion Letter FLSA 2018-28, dated December 21, 2018.

Facts of the letter:  The employer in question wanted to determine if their compensation plan, which pays an average hourly rate that may vary from workweek to workweek, complies with the FLSA. It was concerned in both the area of minimum wage and calculating the overtime rate.  The employer pays a different rate for when an employee is working with a client as opposed to when the employee is traveling between clients.  It makes sure that the typical standard rate of pay is $10.00 per hour and if the employee works over 40 hours in any given workweek, they are paid overtime based on the $10.00 rate.

The DOL agreed that the employer followed the minimum wage requirement as the employer is paying well above the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.  However, the problem for the employer is with the rate used to calculate overtime.  According to the letter:

…If the employer always assumes a regular rate of pay of $10 per hour when calculating overtime due, then the employer will not pay all overtime due to employees whose actual regular rate of pay exceeds $10 per hour. 29 C.F.R. § 778.107. Neither an employer nor an employee may arbitrarily choose the regular rate of pay; it is an “actual fact” based on “mathematical computation.” Walling v. Youngerman-Reynolds Hardwood Co., Inc., 325 U.S. 419, 42425 (1945); 29 C.F.R. § 778.108. That said, the compensation plan does comply with the FLSA’s overtime requirements for all employees whose actual regular rates of pay are less than $10 per hour, as an employer may choose to pay an overtime premium in excess of the statutorily required amount.

So what rate should an employer use to calculate the overtime in situations where the employee is working two or more rates within the workweek?  The rate is determined by what is known as a “weighted average” not an average of the rates. The DOL addresses this method in Fact Sheet #23: Overtime Pay Requirements of the FLSAIt reads as follows:

…Where an employee in a single workweek works at two or more different types of work for which different straight-time rates have been established, the regular rate for that week is the weighted average of such rates. That is, the earnings from all such rates are added together and this total is then divided by the total number of hours worked at all jobs. In addition, section 7(g)(2) of the FLSA allows, under specified conditions, the computation of overtime pay based on one and one-half times the hourly rate in effect when the overtime work is performed. The requirements for computing overtime pay pursuant to section 7(g)(2) are prescribed in 29 CFR 778.415 through 778.421.

Here is an example of a weighted average calculation: The employee has worked the following hours at the following rates for the workweek:

Step 1: To determine the weighted average the following calculations would be required:

Step 2: Divide the total earnings by the total hours worked to determine the regular rate of pay

$475.75 divided by 43 = $11.06 (regular rate of pay)

Step 3: Determine the premium pay for overtime by multiplying the regular rate of pay by .5 (or divide by 2) then multiplying that amount by the number of overtime hours

$11.06 x .5 x 3 = $16.59

Step 4: Determine the total weekly compensation by adding the total earnings (step 1) and the premium pay (step 3): $475.75 + $16.59 = $492.34.  $492.34 is the total weekly compensation.

In closing, it must be remembered that it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the regular rate of pay used for overtime calculations is the correct one.