Time off for Exempt Employees

by Evil HR Lady on March 19, 2008

As an exempt employee with an administrative definition, is sick leave deducted on 1/2 day basis, e.g., going home sick mid-day. It seems it would be standard policy to charge that time against sick leave. Is that standard?

Also as an exempt, what allowances are in place for things such as doctor’s appts or other personal appts, if you have used your personal leave days and come in late due to an appt, can that time legally be deducted from any remaining vacation benefit? If there’s isn;t any benefit days left, what then?

There are two issues going on here. The first is legal and the second is policy. We’ll deal with the legal first, although I am not a lawyer and none of this should be taken as legal advice. Go get your own brother to go to law school if you want free legal advice.

Exempt employees are paid to do the job, not by the hour. Therefore, they cannot deduct money from your paycheck if you are late, take a long lunch, go to a doctor’s appointment or what have you. If you work at all, you get paid.

Now, the policy point. If you come in late, take a long lunch, go to a doctor’s appointment or what have you, they still have to pay you, but they can fire you, demote you, discipline you or make your life miserable. (Or all of the above!)

In my experience, most companies allow (or require) exempt employees to take off blocks of time in half or full days. The can say, “If you have a doctor’s appointment, you need to take it as sick time/vacation time/PTO,” and you take that in half day increments. Fine. Be gone for four hours.

What you really need to do is either ask your manager what the policies are or ask HR. The HR person will probably be right, but your manager will be the one enforcing it and making your blissful existence miserable if you screw up.

I realize that many companies administer their exempt employees incorrectly. They don’t want to pay you overtime, but they also want to deduct the time you spent discussing new shoes with Jane over lunch from your paycheck. For some reason this is a difficult concept for many companies (especially small ones) to grasp. As I said, they can’t do that. They can, however, fire you for that. (Or for nothing, really. The beauties of an at-will workforce.)

However, the real answer to your question is to ask at work. “Hey, boss, if I have a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, do I have to take time off, or can I just go and come back. I’ll be gone about an hour.” If he says, “I’ll dock your pay for the hour you are gone,” you respond, “I’m an exempt employee and legally you can’t do that. You can, however, require I use vacation and I’ll take a half day, or you can just say no.”

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous March 20, 2008 at 11:38 pm

Wow–I had no idea that I could in theory be required to take a half-day for dr.’s appts, etc. At my place we’ve got a “touch the wall” policy–you come in at all, you’ve worked the day. Mind you, my standard day is 10 hours, plus email from home eves and weekends. Given that I put in 50+ hour weeks, I’d be pretty unhappy if they made me take vacation of any type for run-of-the mill appointments.

BTW, Evil HR Lady, since this is my first comment I’ll take the opportunity to tell you how much I enjoy your blog! I’m not in HR but have to deal with an interesting variety of personnel problems and I’ve learned a great deal from your thoughts and those of your readers. So, thanks!

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Tracy March 21, 2008 at 12:28 am

So, you can’t allow people to take leave in hour or half-hour increments? That kind of seems unfair if someone has to use half a day if they just need to leave work an hour early to for something like a dental appointment that’s scheduled for 4:30.

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Evil HR Lady March 21, 2008 at 1:07 am

Anonymous–I think a “touch the wall” policy makes sense for an exempt employee. (Or a log on rule in my case).

Tracy–yes, theoretically. Just because you are exempt doesn’t mean your employer has to allow you to leave whenever you want (unless your reason is subject to FMLA, and even then there are restrictions). ANy company that did such a thing would be extremely stupid.

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karen mattonen March 22, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Hope this helps
what if an exempt employee comes to work, stays only an hour and leaves for personal business the rest of the day – can you dock time from his/her vacation leave accrual bank? Since 2001, the federal rule has allowed exempt employees to use partial vacation and sick leave days so long as there was no loss of pay on payday. That is, if an exempt employee takes a half day off, the half day of accrued leave can be docked from the accrual bank – never from the paycheck. The total gross compensation paid for that pay period (the “salary”) will not have been reduced. If the employee does not have sufficient leave accrual, he/she can not actually receive a lower paycheck because of the partial day missed. That federal policy did not help employers in California, however, because the Labor Commissioner had a different policy. The Labor Commissioner enforcement policy only allowed employers to dock leave accruals for partial day leave absences due to illness, but not for absences due to personal reasons, i.e., vacation.

In good news for California employers, in late July, the Court of Appeal (located in the San Francisco Bay Area), has ruled that docking salaried employees’ vacation banks for a partial-day absence does not compromise the exemption status.
this was quoted from employment law bulletin

Karen Mattonen

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Jacquelyn Thorp June 5, 2014 at 2:57 am

Waving hello to Karen…nicely said.

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Anonymous April 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Okay, forget vacation time and pay. We have two buckets (vacation and sick…sick is for sick or dr appts). If an exempt employee has a doctors appointment, do they have to use sick leave for it?

We have an exempt employee who has 9-12 dr appts a month each taking 2-3 hours.

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Anonymous April 15, 2008 at 1:24 pm

PS on my post right above: This exempt employee never has to work overtime and works a straight 40 hour week.

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Anonymous May 15, 2008 at 6:29 pm

I have a scenario that I cannot seem to resolve regarding this topic.

I am a senior manager in my company, and therefore an exempt employee. The expectations put upon me are 50 to 70 hours per week of work, which I have consistently met for over a year.

My manager, the CEO, has forced me to take PTO time for being out of the office for surgery. A minor surgery, I was still able to come into the office afterwards (I arrived at 10 a.m.) against the wishes of my doctor. This is only an example, and not an isolated incident.

I lost 2 hours of PTO time because he had me take time from 8 to 10 a.m., even though I typically start at 8:30 every morning. So, at the end of the day, I had 8.5 hours of work and 2 hours of PTO. At the end of the year, when my PTO turns into my vacation time for the following year, I was down hours from this and other similar situations (leave at 4:30, take PTO time until 6, or 5, or whatever the whim of the CEO at that time; etcetera.)

The policy for PTO and vacation time in the company simply does not mention exempt employees and PTO, and the explanation is to “take time whenever you are not here,” with no regard to what hours that constitutes.

I don’t want to leave my job due to this inflexibility, so I would prefer to resolve this. Are there any laws that protect my vacation time as an exempt employee (in the absence of a company policy)?

Thanks!

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Anonymous June 18, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Geesh, Please tell me who your employer is and remind me never to apply there…that’s a draconian policy. I wouldn’t want to work for a company that distrusts its employees that much…and it would cause me to wonder why I shouldn’t trust the leaders of such a idiotic place.

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Anonymous June 23, 2008 at 5:11 pm

What happens when exempt employees have exhausted all of their vacation and sick time and still take time off?

Also, can you dock the employee’s final paycheck if they s/he is in the negative when they terminate employment?

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Anonymous November 6, 2008 at 5:34 pm

I still have not gotten an answer to my question:

There is an exempt employee in our department. They never work more than 40 hours as OT is not allowed in our department.

They have 9-12 doctor appointments a month, some of which are family member appointments. These can range from being gone 2 hours to 1/2 a day. So he is basically gone 20-40 hours a month to dr appointments.

He turns in 1/2 day sick slips if our boss catches that he is gone. Otherwise he does nothing since he only has 5 days left of sick or vacation.

What is involved legally here? There are no written policies even though we are a govt agency.

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Anonymous February 13, 2009 at 11:49 pm

On January 7, 2005, the U.S Department of Labor (DOL) issued an Opinion Letter confirming that employers may deduct less than a full day from a salaried, overtime- exempt white-collar employee’s PTO bank for absences due to personal reasons, accident, or illness, without causing the loss of the exempt status of the employee. This opinion letter confirms what had been the DOL’s position under the previous regulations regarding the white-collar exemptions for executive, administrative and professional employees and resolves what had become an issue under the new regulations.

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Anonymous March 12, 2009 at 5:44 pm

The problem lies with the few that take advantage of the system and end up missing work to the extent that the company is paying the person but they are gone to the dr all month. The few ruin for the many, what should be a good benefit.

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Anonymous April 22, 2009 at 11:56 pm

I’m in HR and I’m having trouble with an exempt employee who has a medical condition (though not on FML nor is she diagnosed as disabled or needing any accommodations). She takes sick days regularly and when she is at work she leaves work early 2-3 times a week nearly every week. Because she works at least 4 hours on those days, she argues with me that she does not need to turn a PTO slip for any time missed.
Our policy does state that exempt employees are paid for the a full day as long as they work 4 hours. I tried to explain that we allow employees to go to appointments and take up to 4 hours to do so without any deduction from vac/sick time BUT that we expect the employee to be reasonable and this should be on occasion and not an every day occurrence. How can “word” the policy to reflect this expectation?
Thank you!
NiceHRLady

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Anonymous May 20, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Is it a problem if mangers within the same company adopt their own set of requirements for their direct reports when it comes to PTO time for exempt employees using PTO for leaving a few hours early? Some managers don’t require partial day PTO use and some require it if an exempt employee leaves before 3pm no matter how many hours they have worked that.

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Anonymous May 14, 2010 at 2:25 am

I am an exempt employee and I went on vacation for 13 days as the company agreed to allow me to take the time, however I did not have any vacation time. My manager notified HR to deduct my pay, but it doesn't say why it was deducted. Is my company breaking the law by not paying me? If we are off 1 hour we have to make it up during the week and now they want us to come in on Saturdays and make up phone time if they think we haven't been on the phones long enough.

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Anonymous January 10, 2011 at 9:08 pm

First off, I don't think you're evil. My HR Manager will literally yell at us if we ask a question. She called me stupid for not understanding how short term disability worked with salary+comm. You want people to understand so I think you are very nice!
My question on this discussion is this: what about non-exempt employees being forced to use half or full days off for doctors appts? I was told (from my manager) this was an attempt to prevent employees from going to the drs office.

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Anonymous February 6, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I am dealing with a very similar issue. I live in Texas and we have been having horrible winter weather this week. I did not show up to work on Tuesday or Wednseday this week because the roads were hazardous and icy. I called my supervisor prior to find out if the office would be closed. She told me to call the weather hotline which I did and found out that the opening would be delayed till 10:00 am. That in itself is ridiculous since I with several other coworkers live quite a distance from the office. Anyway I stayed home and then returned to work on Thursday. When I arrived I clocked in and noticed that someone had charged vacation days to my timecard for Tues. and Wed. I did not put in for those days. I called my supervisor who was still home due to bad weather and explained to her that I just wanted to have an excused NO Pay absence for those two days instead of using my vacation days she said that it was policy to charge vacation time instead of me just not getting paid. I pointed out to her a memo that had been sent to all employees in our building on Monday prior to the bad weather explaining the procedure for inclement weather. In the second paragraph it stated that the building would generally be open if the roads surrounding the building were open and passable but that in the event that employees are unable to report to work due to hazardous driving conditions in their area, they have the opption to make up the time, take it as vacation, or excused time off without pay. When I mentioned the memo and sent her a copy she returned my email saying that it still stands that I will still have two days of my vacation used because it is the departments procedure to do so. How can a department with a company do things different than the company itself? What is the use in having company policies and procedures if each department within the company can change or amend them as they choose? Is there anything I can do about this? Oh and today on Friday we have had 5 inches of snow so the office actually closed down today. I wonder if they will charge me a vacation day again today since I can not come in due to the closing of the office and hazardous road conditions? Oh and in case it makes a difference I am a salaried non-exempt employee.

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Nona May 24, 2012 at 1:51 am

Thanks to the previous poetsrs for pointing out to Intested Mom that the FORM sent home and returned by parents is what dictated whether or not a family participated in the use of the system. Parents had the option of sending the messages to phone only, email or both. Parents who did not return the form were not keyed in to the system. This fall, the form will be sent out for the new school year. If you were off-put by the reminder to vote call and do not wish to receive like notices, you merely have to neglect to turn in your form. The PTO will surely honor your point of view and not submit your information to the vendor. The letter does not state ONLY used for emergencies. It merely states confirmed ways in which the system would be used.A neighboring town’s PTO utilizes the same system and has even expanded it to allow teacher group notification calls, academic group calls, etc. The system has myriad ways in which it can be utilized for communication. Personally, I appreciate that I am given the reminders when it’s budget/referendum time, as our busy life sometimes can cause things to fall through the cracks.

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Anonymous April 20, 2011 at 1:50 pm

I was under the impression that exempt employees had to use PTO first for any time missed and it wasn't an option not to do so.

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Anonymous June 15, 2011 at 12:05 am

I am a salaried exempt Clinical Manager (Nursing). I work 40hr week and if I leave for 30 min my sick/vac or personal time is docked. Now I understand this..but when the Director allows another person in the exact position I am leave 3 days in a row early (4hrs each day) and is not docked yet doesnt dock her time. She continues to accumulate time while others are forced to use ours up. I am also using intermittent FMLA but still working 40hr weeks (parent with cancer). I've been told I can not make up the hours unless on the same day I use them. Most of the time I am gone no more than 1 hour and my benefits get docked. It doesnt seem right the director isnt consistent with this with all the managers. I just dont get it?

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Anonymous June 30, 2011 at 7:40 am

If I work more than 40 hours in a week as salaried exempt, but it so happens that on one of those days, I work only 7 hours, can the company dock my vacation time to cover that one hour?

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Tony Stark August 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm

I am a full time salary exempt employee. My company has let me take 7.5 vacation days this year. After I had already taken those days. They explained that I only accrued 3.5 days, and I will owe them 4 days pay if I decide to leave the company now. Is this legal?

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Anonymous July 27, 2012 at 5:34 pm

I have a different situation, I am non exempt. if I leave 15 min early I have to use pto but our exempt employees have a “touch the wall” policy. They are running completely amuck and my workload is building because we have to tack up their slack. Our new CEO put this in place because she is the worst offender and does not care what they are doing as long as they are not bothering her.

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Ron October 8, 2012 at 9:30 pm

We have a part time pastor at our church who is required to work 30hrs a week. He has signed a contract that states he only works 30 hour weeks. He is an exempt employee.
He doesn’t tell the personnel people in our church when he is on vacation, or when he is taking sick leave. My question is. How do we know how to calculate his vacation and sick leave if he won’t let use know?

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Ron Page October 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Thanks for the information; on the previous email.
I Couldn’t fire him if I wanted to though. Its up to
the Church to decide that. I have told him number times
that he needs to let people know how much vacation or
sick leave he has taken. The problem now is when he
He retires how much vacation is he allowed to have to
roll over? If he gets 20 days after five years. We don’t
have any policy in place to say how much he can roll over when he leaves.

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struggling October 11, 2012 at 1:44 am

I have a question. I am a salaried employee. We have PTO time. We were recently told that we would be docked 8 hours even if we work 4-5 hours and then leave for an appointment. Is this legal?

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Evil HR Lady October 15, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Not likely. But if they are going to dock you anyway, just take the whole day off.

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Anonymous October 24, 2012 at 9:21 pm

Is it legal to require an exempt employee to flex (take a day off & use PTO for it)?

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Annon December 4, 2012 at 10:42 pm

We have 5 days sick leave and say 2 weeks of vacation. If an exempt employee has used all their sick leave, and then misses a half day due to illness, must they use half a day of vacation in order to be paid for that half day? Our policy is silent on that matter. We do not have a paid time off bank for any purpose, but rather a fixed 5 days sick leave and x number of days for vacation based on tenure.

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Anonymous January 9, 2013 at 2:10 am

Is it legal for an employer to require an exempt employee to use paid time off on a given day if the employee takes time off but still works a full day (e.g. employee arrives late due to illness, doctor appointment, or inclement weather but works additional hours attending evening meetings or completing client projects)?

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JD April 17, 2013 at 9:55 pm

. I am an exempt employee and have 2 weeks of vacation Employess are given 6 sick days for the calender year. the sick days can also be used for personal time. question 1: do sick days apply to me as an exempt employee? question 2: If I choose to take a day as personal time, but don’t elect to use a vacation day..is this considered unpaid?

\Thank you in advance…

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Mallory May 18, 2013 at 4:29 am

Question:
My employer has decided to cut out any flex time or make up time for the two female employees but allows the male employees in the plant to do make up time whenever they have doctor’s appointments. The female employees are required to take 4 hours of sick or vacation for dr’s appointments even if they only need an hour. One is exempt – one is non exempt. The exempt, non-exempt and hourly men are allowed to do whatever they have to to make up the time. Is this discrimination and do I have a clear case?

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Mallory May 18, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Thank you so much for responding. This even goes a step further. We have a signed policy in our personnel file that states we can do makeup time twice a month – when my female coworker questioned why we couldn’t do make up time and showed our boss/hr rep the policy she said that one didn’t apply to us. When she asked where the one was that applied to us she said there wasn’t one and that it was up to the supervisors discretion(which is her) when my coworker said well that doesn’t make sense she was written up for being rude and aggressive. When any man in the plant is accused of anything for disciplinary action the event is investigated and statements from both parties are given and they ask for witnesses. My coworker was written up no questions asked. Also what is my next step? I can’t go to local HR because she is the one doing the discriminating. We can’t go to the plant mNager because he doesn’t like confrontation and just says it is supervisors discretion. I have called corporate HR and I am hoping they take care of it but I have told them I am scared of retaliation. My question is what do I do if corporate HR doesn’t do anything? Also what do I do if there is retaliation whether there is a good outcome or not.

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Anonymous May 31, 2013 at 8:43 pm

I am a salary exempt employee. I work 7days a week, anywhere from a 9-13 hour day. I do not receive sick days nor do I have any vacation time. I know it’s not right, but is that legal?

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Ashley May 31, 2013 at 11:22 pm

I am an exempt salaried employee in a small company with no HR department. We are not given overtime (though in a few instances my boss paid if we worked like 8 extra hours that week), but if we leave even an hour early we are either docked pay or we have to make up that time! (Comp time, turns out, is not an allowed agreement in private companies per regulations).

I got sick a couple months ago and had to leave work about 4 hours early. I missed out on 4 hours of pay, even though I am not hourly. My boss is basically treating us as salary when convenient in not paying overtime, and as hourly when convenient (when we miss a stupid hour or two). We have no HR to complain to because the manager is the CEO and “HR”. This makes complaining hard as I know she would just fire me.

Any thoughts on how to handle this?

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Ashley May 31, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Oh and I should add….we do not receive sick leave, even after one year employment. We do receive 10 days vacation after one year (I am at 10 months).

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Ashlyn June 6, 2013 at 3:26 am

I have a question. I’m employed at a daycare and work hourly. I’m a full time employee I work 40 hours a week. Can My employer FORCE the employees to leave there work when working there daily schedule. When the Employee has requested to stay in to work there regular 8 hours. As my supervisor say if i say you have to go you go no exceptions. I’ve read the employee handbook and it doesn’t state ANYTHING that an employee has to leave when begin told from supervisor/director. Everyone has to work for their earnings.

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Nina July 17, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I am the office manager for a small business in florida. All of our employees are salaried employees who work between 40-50hrs/week. We receive 80 vacation hours and 40 sick/personal days per year. My question is – if an employee takes of 3hours one day but worked 40 or less hours because of that time off – can the employer doc their sick/personal time? or say they employee works 45 hours but took 3 hours off for a personal appointment, can the employer doc their personal time for this appointment? I am really at a loss…I thought if you were salaried you couldn’t doc the employee unless they took a day off 8 hours or 4 hour increments?

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Hope Smith September 22, 2013 at 7:06 am

Hi,

I live in CA I am a nonexempt employee. (Probably the only nonexempt employee in my department) My supervisor “allows” the other employees whom are exempt to leave early without having to use PTO ect.. (We are talking about 30minutes to an hour at times) I am not entitled to this since I am nonexempt. My question here is. Is this allowed? Is this fair? I am always at work 30 minutes earlier than my coworkers and they usually leave at 5 while I leave at 4:30. My manager says this is because they are exempt and I am nonexempt. If I want to leave early I would need to make up the time or use PTO! Can anyone give me any input on this?

Thank you,
Hope

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Anonymous March 15, 2014 at 7:00 pm

I am exempt and am being asked to work six days a week 9-10 hours per day. No overtime or comp time because they can . Count your blessings that they can’t work you longer and more days for free.

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Monica January 9, 2014 at 12:50 am

I have recently left my company and as an exempt employee earned 2 comp days for Labor Day and thanksgiving. I’ve asked to be paid out those days since I’m no longer with the company and will not be using any comp days. What is the California state law around this? Do they pay me?

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pac January 12, 2014 at 5:01 pm

I am a full time salaried professional employee working 40 hours a week. (most weeks include overtime hours of which they pay us an extra 10 dollars and hour for if we agree to do it) This month they have made several scheduling changes and when they sent me my schedule for the month of January….they could not supply me with a month worth of hours totalling 40 hours per week….so they made me use my vacation time to make up the 4 hours that they couldn’t give me find for my schedule. Can they randomly use my vacation time when they don’t have enough hours to supply me with?????

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chad February 16, 2014 at 11:34 pm

I am an exempt employee, i do not get PTO or sick days. If i work at least half a day i get paid for the entire day anything less and my pay will be docked if i work extra hours i dont get anything extra. I recently asked for a half day to take my child to the doctor and was told I have to take the entire day off. Is this legal and what are the possible consequences if i go to work that day after i take my child to the doctor?

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Sick from Home February 28, 2014 at 1:05 am

Ok. Scenario: I’m an exempt employee. I am sick. I informed my manager that I will be working from home today to prevent the spread of my sickness at the office. He said, “No Problem,” in writing. I worked throughout the day (some of the work involved interaction with the manager). At the end of the day (around 18:00), my manager informed me that he wants me to take a vacation day. I know that it isn’t just, but is it legal?!

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Margaret March 12, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Hello
This issue of exempt/salaried employees having to use their PTO time for partial days has been an ongoing issue in our office for more than a few months. Most of our salaried/exempt employees are not only hooked up to work in the office, but, we are also hooked up to work from home. Even while out sick or on vacation there are a few of us who do work from home. The owner wants to start deducting, at 4 hour increments, on the days that we call in sick, are on vacation, taking a personal day, but, still work from home using our laptops (which we pay for ourselves). CA law seems to contradicting. I have talked to several HR manager’s with all telling me the same thing. If we, as an exempt/salaried employee work for any length of time during the day, whether at the office or home, we have to be paid for the entire day. After reading through all of these posts, I am more confused than ever. What is the real legal take on this?????? PLEASE HELP!!!!

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anonymous April 22, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Is it legal for an employer to require an exempt employee to use paid time off on a given day if the employee takes time off but still works a full day (e.g. employee arrives late due to illness, doctor appointment, or inclement weather but works additional hours attending evening meetings or completing client projects)? – See more at: http://evilhrlady.org/2008/03/time-off-for-exempt-employees.html#sthash.GHUseGDA.dpuf

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Kyle April 22, 2014 at 11:49 pm

If anyone can answer this questions, I would be grateful. I am salaried and exempt, so are all other managers in the company I work for. We have to put in 40 hours a week, most of us put in 50+. But should for some reason I only work 38 hours one week… I am required to use 2 hours of my PTO to equal 40, or I will be dropped down to hourly for the 38 hours. Is this legal?

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Evil HR Lady April 25, 2014 at 8:54 pm

No. Not legal. They can require you to use 2 hours PTO if they want, but if you don’t, they can’t dock your salary or say you are hourly for that week. If they do that, they owe you overtime for all the times you worked more than 40 hours.

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Kyle April 28, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Evil HR Lady,
Do you know of any resources I can prove to upper management to your last post of… No. Not legal. They can require you to use 2 hours PTO if they want, but if you don’t, they can’t dock your salary or say you are hourly for that week. If they do that, they owe you overtime for all the times you worked more than 40 hours.

I am in the state of Wisconsin.

Thank you very much!
Kyle

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