What Are My Rights as an Exempt Employee?

I am the Operations Manager of a manufacturing company. I am a salary-based employee. I get a generous 14 days PTO and 5 Paid Sick Leave. If I ever have to take off work for a personal reason, I submit a request for TO and take it. My boss is almost always ok with that and doesn’t ask anything in return. It’s understood that I get my work done before I go. 

Being that I am a salaried employee, what are my rights to time off? If I work for part of the day, am I paid for the whole day? Do I even NEED to request time off? Would my half-day be considered a whole? 

Separately, if I take time off for a medical appointment, is my boss able to require that I make that time up?

I know there’s a lot there. But I appreciate all the help you may be able to give. 

First of all, there’s a difference between a salary-based employee and a salary-exempt employee. Based on your job title, I’m assuming that you are salary-exempt, which means you are not eligible for overtime, among other things, and I’m answering on that basis. If you are eligible for overtime or your job doesn’t include managerial level work, then none of this is correct.

Let’s clear up some misconceptions: Exempt doesn’t mean you can come and go as you please. There are many exempt jobs that require strict schedules, such as a dentist. Dentists would rapidly find themselves applying for unemployment if they wandered in and out without regard to the patient schedule.

Your boss can set hours, require you to make up time, and come in on weekends. He can demand that you work onsite (even if you could do a better job remotely). He can require that you work 60 hours a week if he wants to.

What he can’t do is cut your pay.

Now, good bosses give their exempt employees the flexibility to do their jobs and run their personal lives. This means that many bosses don’t dock your PTO if you go to a doctor’s appointment or take a long lunch or start late or leave early. As long as you get the work done, they shouldn’t care.

But some managers do care. And since you work in a manufacturing environment, it may be a significant burden to others when you are not there.

So, yes, your boss can ask you to make up the time. Yes, he can dock your PTO/sick time for doctor’s appointments.

If you’re out of PTO/sick time and take a partial day off work, he can’t dock your pay. He can only cut your pay in very specific circumstances. Here’s a link to the details.

Now all if this is what your boss can do, not what he should do, or what you should do. The two of you should sit down and discuss his expectations and your expectations and agree. Your boss would be wise to listen to what you need to do a good job. You would be wise to be reasonable in your requests. But, if you can’t come to a satisfactory agreement, it’s time for you to move on. Don’t worry; everyone else is doing it, so you’ll just be hip and in style.

Image by DavidRockDesign from Pixabay

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5 thoughts on “What Are My Rights as an Exempt Employee?

  1. Great description of exempt employee pay, especially since you gave both the employer and the employee expectations. The big reason questions keep coming up about this has to do with incorrect assumptions on either side. If the employee doesn’t need all the time that the employer expected the specific job to be finished, there’s needs to be a discussion between them as to obligations. Some employers are more concerned with getting the job done and won’t care if the employee has more excess free time during the work week, and lets they do non-work/personal events despite being available to take on another job. And then there’s employers who figure that they are also paying for the employee to be working on jobs for a timeframe. Both situations have to be addressed upfront to avoid misunderstanding as asked by the individual questioning application for when they can use their PTO and paid sick time.

  2. Don’t FLSA exempt staff also have to be calculated on a weekly or longer basis and not a daily basis? So even if you have to miss the whole day they can’t dock your pay?

    1. I just read the link. It’s a very clarifying overview!

      I’m curious what you think about this scenario – employees are forced to take vacation time by the employers then during this mandatory phase they run out of PTO. Can the employer dock the pay then?

      My ex company did this to all employees in lieu of furloughs. People were required to take 2 days off each week. Once they ran out of PTO it was unpaid.

      Of course, it was understood you were really supposed to be working on those days off, but let’s pretend folks actually didn’t work on those days. Is that the same as a vacation if it’s employee mandated like that?

      1. No. The employer screwed up here. If the company is going to furlough exempt employees they can only do it in full week increments. The employee has to be the one taking the day off for it not to be paid.

        What the company should have done is say “we’re cutting your pay by 20 percent.” As long as they give advance notice, they can do that legally.

        Will they lose employees? Sure. But they’ll lose them and have the law on their heads how they did it here.

        1. Yeah they are woefully understaffed now. “People don’t want to work anymore” didn’t you know?

          The State I live in requires 30 days written notice of pay cuts, so I suspect this is why they tried to furlough/not furlough us. Thanks for confirming my gut reaction and thanks for your awesome blog! I’ve learned a lot of how to stand up for my rights professionally at work thanks to you.

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