Can a New Manager Require Exempt Employees to Clock In?

by Evil HR Lady on November 29, 2018

A newly-hired manager is telling salaried employees that they have to work 45 hours a week, take designated lunch breaks and set daily hours. If employees miss time, they have to make it up. Does this make all employees non-exempt?

In the past, being salaried/exempt meant employees had flexibility. As long as they put in over 40 hours per week, the timing of their daily arrivals and departures didn’t matter. Aren’t salaried employees paid for the job, rather the hours? Employees are coming to me, an HR manager, with their concerns, but the manager won’t budge. What should I do?

To read my answer, click here: Can a New Manager Require Exempt Employees to Clock In?

Leave your own answer in the comments!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

GreenDoor November 29, 2018 at 4:20 pm

Right on. I’m salaried/exempt and I’m still expected to arrive and leave at the same times, take my lunch at about the same timer, and it would certainly be frowned upon if I was away from my desk for long periods of time on a “break.” I don’t get a work-from-home option, either. What this manager is doing is perfectly normal. I would, however, tell her to ease up if there aren’t any actual performance/attendance problems with the staff. For example, are we talking people coming in five minutes late or 50 minutes late? The former isn’t worth making an issue over but the latter may be.

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Linda Williams November 29, 2018 at 4:29 pm

I concur. All employees in my company login to a timekeeping system, even our owners. Unless you are a designated remote employee, the right to work from home on occasion is an earned privilege. I also agree that if there are performance/attendance issues deal with those on an individual basis. Treat individuals as adults until they prove otherwise. An employee in an exempt position is paid for the work, not their time. There are times when they may be asked or expected to stay later in the day to work on projects. You have to have balance.

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curious November 29, 2018 at 5:35 pm

Could you please clarify the belief that treating an exempt employee like an hourly employee increases the chances of a position losing it’s exempt status?

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Jen November 29, 2018 at 10:49 pm

Here is a quote from one of her earlier articles:

“In order to be exempt without managing people you have to be sufficiently self managing and have the ability to make decisions. Without that you are non-exempt and must be paid by the hour and given overtime (when appropriate).”

So basically micromanaging an employee’s hours would make it look like the position really isn’t one that has sufficient decision-making ability, and the employer could be subject to paying overtime (and back overtime if applicable).

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Marion Heaton November 29, 2018 at 5:42 pm

I have been employed as exempt in both the corporate and medical environments. I found the medical environment much more rigid in their employees’ time keeping. Depending on the level of the employee the corporate environment can be much more more flexible. There is an expectation in both to work a 40 hour week. Thus, I believe the environment has an impact. With the case discussed, the type of business this manager worked in prior could have an impact on the inflexibility. Or the new manager has been directed to do so as there may have been issues prior to coming on board..

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Ginger November 29, 2018 at 7:44 pm

Curious – many people misunderstand what exempt actually means. The main issue that puts the exempt status in jeopardy is docking pay. Companies can require staff to take PTO/vacation for every half hour of time they miss so long as when they run out of time they don’t dock their pay for the missed time. However, most companies aren’t this strict with their exempt staff. People who have experienced the true flexibility that being exempt can offer are shocked that the flexibility isn’t required by law but is more of a culture/morale issue.

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Cajun2core November 29, 2018 at 8:10 pm

When I was an exempt employee, I never had to clock in or out. The most I had to do was to fill out a time sheet on how much time I spent on what task to determine billing, workload, etc.

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Dorothy November 30, 2018 at 10:27 pm

I contend that filling out a timesheet, punching a time-clock, and logging into an on-line system are the same. One uses a sheet of paper, one uses a mechanical device and one uses the corporate computer system. But each tracks when you arrive and leave.

What is the difference in your mind?

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KES December 1, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Cajun sounds like they are describing timesheet for client billing only. This is common. I’ve had it at three jobs that didn’t track when I came or went or how long I worked. Nothing to do with payroll.

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Laura K November 29, 2018 at 8:45 pm

Thanks for the article, Suzanne. I’ve always had these questions and have seen it handled differently different places. It was nice to read your explanation, especially if what’s culturally variable vs what’s legally required (or not required).

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Observer November 30, 2018 at 5:24 am

Three things:

Salaried and exempt are not the same thing. Make sure that they are actually EXEMPT. Otherwise you need to pay them for overtime for that last 5 hours.

If they are actually exempt, then you CANNOT dock them if they don’t make up the time. Yes, you can discipline them up and including firing them, but you HAVE to pay the full week’s salary.

Lastly, this is not a legal issue, but one of practicality. Did your staff sign on for a 45 hour week? Generally, unless a job is fairly highly paid “full time” means 40 hours. So, if the new manager is demanding 45 as a new thing, you need to deal with that. You may not have the authority to make her stop that, but you DO need to bring that up the chain. Because otherwise, you are going to lose your good staff.

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charles December 1, 2018 at 4:56 am

“Can you tell me what problem you are trying to solve?”

This is a great question to ask!

And not just in this situation; many times I have seen managers do some really wacky stuff and I wish I had your advice to ask them this question. I’m not sure I would have gotten a good answer; but, it would have been nice to know what they were thinking.

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M. O December 3, 2018 at 7:35 pm

What does exempt mean? It means that when the duties test was performed the position is exempt from overtime. If anyone is reading this and saying “huh” then the simplest thing to do is Google “Department of Labor” “Exempt Employee” and you will find the legal definition of exempt vs non-exempt. https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/whd/flsa/screen75.asp

Why is the employee considered exempt? If you review the Department of Labor website you will find the categories under which the legal definition establishes the exemption. Executive, Administrative, Professional are some of those categories. Under these categories, an employee is paid for all hours, regardless of how many or few worked, for one wage. https://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/fs17a_overview.pdf

To note that an employee is “salaried” does not necessarily mean that the employee is exempt from overtime. It may mean that employee is paid a fixed wage. An employee can be salaried and exempt or salaried and non exempt. At the end of the day, I find the word “salaried” is either misused or the employee is misclassified.

Here is the question, can the employer of an EXEMPT employee direct the work and meal time period, including the number of hours worked. Yes, the employer can. Including start time, end time and the number of hours worked. So if the employer wants an EXEMPT employee to work 45/50/60 or 70 hours, they can do that. There is nothing illegal in asking an employee to clock in or out of a time recording system. They can compel the employee to make up time, they can dock vacation and personal time; to the extent their policy and state laws allow such docking. Not all state law will allow this. What the employer cannot do is to reduce the wages for hours not worked.

If the employer does and if the employee is EXEMPT, the employer has violated the law.

If the employee is “salaried” (misused word) and nonexempt the employer can dictate the terms and conditions of hours worked, but at all time state laws must be obeyed.

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