7 Dirty Secrets All Human Resources Should Tell


Vacation, overtime and double-time pay; when are they required? Are they ever required?

As human resources professionals, your primary concern is to make sure employees know (and follow) the rules set out by the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA).

Human resources can Play The Hero by telling these dirty little secrets.
Human resources can Play The Hero by telling these dirty little secrets.

Here are seven secrets of what employees are entitled to (and employers are not required to do). How many of your employees know these “dirty” little secrets:

Dirty Secret 1—Employees are not required to be paid extra for working nights and weekends.

The FLSA does not require extra pay for the weekend or night work. This policy only comes from an agreement between employers and an employee (or designated representative).

The only listed requirement for additional pay is for covered, nonexempt workers are paid no less than time and one-half the employee regular rate for time worked over 40 hours in a single workweek.

Dirty Secret 2—Employers are not required to provide minimum holiday or vacation pay.

This dirty little human resources secret says the FLSA does not mandate pay for the time that is not actually worked. Periods of time –vacations, holidays (Federal or otherwise), sick leave—are not required to be paid. Any of these benefits are through an agreement between employer and employee (or designated representative).

Dirty Secret 3—Employees are not required any severance pay at termination.

There is no requirement in the FLSA for severance pay. Severance payment is also only a matter of agreement between employer and employee (or designated representative).

Dirty Secret 4—Employees are required morning and afternoon breaks, with a minimum of 30 minutes for lunch.

The FLSA does not require breaks or meal periods. Certain states have requirements for breaks or meal periods. However, working in a state not requiring breaks or meal periods, these benefits are only through agreement between employer and employee (or designated representative).

There are exceptions human resources can make for nursing mothers, which will be discussed below.

Though breaks are not required by the FLSA, giving employees’ breaks from 5 to 20 minutes have to be counted as hours worked and must be paid time. This includes the short times that employees are allowed to spend away from work:

  • Smoke breaks
  • Restroom breaks
  • Personal phone calls or visits
  • Coffee or soft drinks, etc.

Human resources departments are not required to include unauthorized extensions of approved breaks as hours worked, especially when expressly and explicitly advised employees that breaks may only last for a specific period of time; any extension of the break will be considered contrary to your rules and can be punished.

Periods for actual meals (usually at least 30 minutes), are different from other breaks; it is not work time and not required to be paid.

For nursing mothers, employers covered by the FLSA must comply with provisions for break time for nursing mothers. Effective from March 23, 2010, employers are required to provide unpaid break time and a designated area for nursing mothers under the FLSA to expressly breastfeed for one year after the birth of the child.

Where employers already provide paid breaks, an employee who uses break time to expressly milk is required to be compensated in the same manner as breaks for other employees. Furthermore, FLSA requires employees must be relieved from duty completely, or the time must be compensated work time.

Dirty Secret 5—Employees are not required to receive annual salary increases.

Raises in pay are generally a matter of agreement between employer and employee (or designated representative). The only raises required by the FLSA are to bring pay up to Federal minimum wage.

Dirty Secret 6—Employees are not required to receive regular performance evaluations.

The FLSA does not require employers (human resources departments or anyone) to conduct evaluations. Again, performance evaluations are usually through agreements between employer and employee (or designated representative).

Dirty Secret 7—Double-time is not required for holiday work.

There is no requirement under FSLA for double-time pay. Any payment arrangements are through an arrangement between employer and employee (or designated representative).

Are any of the requirements (or lack thereof) surprising to you, the employee or human resources professional? For HR pros, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

However, how many human resources departments can say that all of their employees are aware of these (non) requirements of the employer? Compliance is a key concern for HR and making sure your staff is aware of the rules for payment, break and time off  is as critical a job as human resources will ever have.

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