Top 5 Hourly Pay Issues for Small Businesses

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on July 11, 2012 9:45 AM

Don't short-change your hourly employees. Not only is it unfair to your workers, but an employer could also face hefty fines and other legal consequences for failing to comply with federal wage laws.

Because the laws can be confusing, employers are often uncertain about when hourly employees must be paid, according to a recent article in Inside Counsel, a magazine for corporate attorneys. Small business owners can also take advantage of the article's warnings and advice.

Here are five situations when hourly workers must be paid for their time:

  1. Mandatory Meetings, Training Programs, and Social Events. As employers probably know, employees must be paid for their time at any meeting or social event they're required to attend. Of course, an employer does not have to compensate an employee for attending any meeting that's voluntary.

  2. Work-Related Travel. In general, employees who travel to different job sites or run work-related errands during a workday must be paid for travel time. Commuting to out-of-town meetings and conferences, along with travel for work-related emergencies, are also generally included.

  3. Waiting Time. What happens when an employee doesn't have any assignments or tasks to perform? If the employee is required to remain at work, she must still be paid. However, if the worker is given the option to go home but chooses to stay at work anyway, an employer does not have to compensate the employee for waiting time, Inside Counsel advises.

  4. Work-Related Duties From Home. If an employer performs work-related duties while "off the clock," like during a lunch break or after work, she generally must still be compensated. This includes employees who are required to respond to work-related emails from home, according to Inside Counsel.

  5. Interns Who Fill Employees' Shoes. Interns can be unpaid, if their duties fall within the Labor Department's guidelines. But interns who in effect substitute for regular workers must be paid.

The Labor Department's online FLSA Hours Worked Advisor can help you determine when hourly employees must be paid for their time under the law. For more specific concerns, consider consulting an experienced employment-law attorney near you.

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