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.

 

Paying Extra to Exempt Employees

I always seem to get questions this time of year about paying overtime or “extra pay” to exempt employees.  Many departments or companies have this time of year as their busiest and want to make sure that exempt employees can earn extra monies during this time without endangering their exempt status or actually converting those employees to nonexempt.  I want to refer my followers to a great blog by Bill Pokorny of Franczek Radelet written for the Wage and Hour Insights blog that answers this exact question. I hope you find it useful.

Election Day a National Holiday?

Well it’s almost over, the 2018 election. Still having a few counts here and there with a runoff election still to come. But all in all, the 2018 election has come and gone. The only thing that remains, as it does after every election cycle here in the United States, is the discussion of making election day a national holiday. But what exactly does a “national holiday” mean here in the United States?

It appears to me that most people who discuss having election day designated as a national holiday don’t understand how holidays work here in this country. The United States does not have national holidays. It’s that simple. Yes, we have days that are designated as a holiday on the federal level. But these days are not official holidays for all employees in the country. They are, rather, the days that federal employees are given off with pay. I have stated this before, in other blogs, but will state once again. The United States is the only country that does not mandate that employees receive days off with pay in honor of national holidays. When I say other countries, I am speaking of course of industrialized countries. But this list of industrialized countries includes Chad, Peru, Slovenia and Sudan. So, we are not only talking about major European countries such as Germany or France. But if we were just looking at European countries let’s take Germany as an example. Germany has one national public holiday which is their German Unity Day, with the remaining 9 to 13 holidays being regulated by what they call their states even though some of them are held nationwide. Now this is in addition to 20 days of vacation as well as additional dates that the employer may give as a public holiday. Yet despite this they have a very strong economy. Yet here in the United States is not mandated for all employees to have the nation’s birthday, July 4th, off with pay.

Therefore, when local, regional, statewide, and national elected officials talk of having our election day as a national holiday it means nothing to the average worker if it were simply to be added to the holidays we already have. Yes, many employees may get Christmas off with pay, or Fourth of July off with pay, but not all employees are required to be given the day off with pay. It all depends on the company’s or employer’s policy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics workers in private industry in the United States receive an average of eight paid holidays per year based on the latest statistics in 2017. Workers in the manufacturing and information industries are more likely to receive paid holidays (97%). But workers in the leisure or hospitality industry only receive paid holidays 37% of the time. Not all workers receive the same holidays or the same number of holidays. For example, again the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that workers in manufacturing and financial activities receive an average of nine paid holidays per year while workers in leisure and hospitality receive an average of six paid holidays per year. For clarification, there are 10 annual federal holidays with Inauguration Day occurring only once every four years for a total of 11 days.

Before you start the discussion of employees who would not be able to have a day off due to their type of work such as first responders, hospitals and even restaurants, other countries have already addressed this issue quite easily.  It is usual for the employee who must work on a “mandated holiday” to have another day off with pay. So, if on a Monday holiday, I would have to work as a police officer, I might get Tuesday or Wednesday off with pay in addition to my normal days off.

My question to all the elected officials and others who advocate a national day off to vote is this:  Where would this national election day fall? Would it establish our first and only mandated national holiday? Or would it just simply be added to the calendar as another day to shop, BBQ or sleep in, if and only if, my employer decided to give me the day off with pay?

CA Adopts ABC Test for Independent Contractors

On Monday, April 30, the California Supreme Court issued a landmark [Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Ct., Cal. Sup. Ct., Dkt. No. S222732, 4/30/18] decision basically stating that the “ABC Test” is to be used when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor for purposes of California wage orders. Previous to this latest decision the court case of S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, Cal. Sup. Ct., 769 P.2d 399, 3/23/89) was used to determine employee status. In that case the principal test of an employment relationship was whether the person to whom services were rendered has the right to control the manner and means of accomplishing the result desired. Under Dynamex, the Court embraced a standard that presumes all workers are employees instead of contractors and places the burden on classifying an independent contractor under the ABC test.

For a detailed analysis of this case and how you might have to adjust your hiring decisions, I will refer you to the Labor & Employment Law Blog posted by Timothy Kim for the law firm of Sheppard Mullin.

FLSA Video Training Has Arrived at DOL/WHD

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is launching a new series of brief, plain-language videos to help employers understand their legal obligations when it comes to calculating overtime etc.  According the the WHD website these videos “strip away the legalese and provide employers with basic information…”  The topics provided so far are:

  • Coverage: Does the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) apply to my business?
  • Minimum Wage: What minimum wage requirements apply to my business?
  • Deductions: Can I charge my employees for uniforms or other business expenses?
  • Hours Worked: Do I have to Pay for that time?
  • Overtime: When do I owe overtime compensation and how do I pay it correctly?

The videos are very well done and cover the rules quite nicely.  For example the overtime video does go into all the calculations needed for regular rate of pay.  They last an average of seven or eight minutes each. If you are looking for a good basic training on these topics listed check out the videos from WHD.

WHD Launches PAID Program

Paid Logo

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor has launched a new nationwide pilot program, the Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program. According to the WHD, PAID facilitates resolution of potential overtime and minimum wage violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The program’s primary objectives are to resolve such claims expeditiously and without litigation, to improve employers’ compliance with overtime and minimum wage obligations, and to ensure that more employees receive the back wages they are owed—faster.

Under the PAID program, employers are encouraged to conduct audits and, if they discover overtime or minimum wage violations, to self-report those violations. Employers may then work in good faith with WHD to correct their mistakes and to quickly provide 100% of the back wages due to their affected employees.

WHD is implementing this self-audit pilot program nationwide for approximately six months. At the end of the pilot period, WHD will evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot program, potential modifications to the program, and whether to make the program permanent.

However there are potential pitfalls to the new program.  The Blog Wage & Hour Insights, which I feature quite often in my blogs, has an excellent post by Staci Ketay Rotman, Bill Pokorny and Erin Fowler on this very subject that I encourage you to read to get a better understanding of this new program.

DOL Issues New Opinion Letters Including Lump Sums

The Federal Department of Labor (DOL) has been issuing a flurry of opinion letters recently.   But even more  amazing, is that one of the opinion letters actually deals with a subject long been a thorn in payroll’s side and one that some of us have waited years for a ruling.  The basic problem is whether or not lump sum payments such as bonuses are the same as normal wages under the law when it comes to withholding for garnishments.  You see many of the states do not think that lump sum payments fall under the Consumer Credit Protection Act or CCPA.  This is the Act, written in 1970, that sets the limits for what can be deducted from an employee’s pay for such garnishments as child support and creditor garnishments.  The DOL is actually in charge of enforcing the Act, but has always been unclear on their position on whether or not lump sum payments are covered under the Act.  This is especially true for child support, as employers may actually be required to report the pending lump sum payment and wait for instructions on withholding, usually for back child support owed to the state.  For example, according the the Office of Child Support Enforcement’s matrix on states and lump sums, Alabama requires 100% of all lump sums.  California states that it is subject to 50% unless the lump sum payment does “not involve earnings”. while Indiana follows the CCPA, So we have tried to look to the DOL to give a definition ruling on this and low and behold, they finally have.

In opinion letter CCPA2018-1NA the DOL has answered numerous questions on what constitutes earnings by discussing 18 different specific examples of common types of lump sum payments that an employer may issue to an employee.  These include commissions, discretionary and non discretionary bonuses, profit sharing, production bonuses, sign-on bonuses, relocation incentive payments and safety awards.

ALEC Wins Another State Over!

The American Legislative Exchange Council, or as it is commonly known ALEC, according to their website, is “America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislatures dedicated to the principles of limited government”.  It’s current legislative agenda is to try to stop increases in the minimum wage and the mandatory sick leave movement as it sees it as having a negative effect on workers.  But in order to keep the minimum wage low or as ALEC describes it; “Maximizing the freedom of businesses and employees to negotiate their own wages” they not only have to convince state legislatures not to raise the minimum wage or provide mandated sick leave, but have to convince all local governments as well.  This is a tough job as there are thousands of local entities such as cities and counties that could decide to raise the minimum wage or enforce mandatory sick leave.  So ALEC takes the approach to tackle this from the head down by convincing state legislatures that they need to pass laws that prohibit any local entity from passing any type of minimum wage or benefit increase that does not equal the state level.  At this task they are making headway.  The latest state to buy into ALEC and bar local governments from passing a minimum wage or benefits ordinance is Wisconsin.

New legislation, A748,  prohibits counties, cities, and towns from enacting ordinances that: (1) establish or mandate local hour and overtime requirements, including scheduling employee work hours or shifts; and (2) require employers to provide employment benefits, including a retirement, pension, profit sharing, insurance, or leave benefit. The legislation does allow prospective employers to solicit salary information from previous employers and preempts counties, cities, and towns from prohibiting such solicitation.  The bill is effective as of March 30, 2018.

New Opinion Letter from DOL–NO Pay for FMLA Breaks

The Department of Labor is once again issuing opinion letters.  A flurry of letters were released on April 12th.  One letter addressed the issue of compensating for breaks that are covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  The Wage and Hour Insights blog authored by Staci Ketay Rotman and Bill Pokorny with FranczekRadelet covered this topic quite well so I decided to share it with my blog followers.  I hope you find it useful and insightful.