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Break Rooms

What are the requirements for a break room? My employees are not required to take their breaks in our store and can go anywhere to do so. If we provide a break room does it need to have plumbing?

There is no federal regulation requiring employers to provide break rooms for employees. Some states have such laws. Feel free to post a comment providing your state and we can research applicable regulations.

The purpose of a break room is to provide employees a suitable area to step away from their work duties without leaving the premises. A kitchenette is of course a perk since it allows employees to bring their own food to work and eat on the premises. Providing a suitable place to store and consume food encourages employees to eat lunch together which can often improve teamwork and morale, and increase productivity.

Though a break room is not required under federal law, ensuring employees have reasonable access to a restroom is required under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act. Furthermore, the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide nursing mothers break time and a suitable location to express breast milk. The location may not be a bathroom and must be private.

April 28th, 2016, 7:34 PM |  Posted in: Labor Laws |
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Voluntarily Working through Lunch

In Florida, if an office employee chooses to work during their unpaid lunch hour without seeking prior approval from the employer, is the employer mandated to pay for that extra hour afterwards?

Employers in Florida are subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.

Under the FLSA, employees are classified as either non-exempt or exempt.

Non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked and are subject to overtime and minimum wage requirements prescribed by the FLSA. Most employees are considered non-exempt.

Conversely, exempt employees receive a fixed predetermined salary for any week during which work is performed regardless of the quantity or quality of such work. Exempt employees are excluded from overtime pay provisions.

The FLSA also sets compensation regulations for breaks and meal periods.

Short breaks lasting less than twenty minutes in duration must be compensated.

Meal periods typically lasting thirty minutes or more serve a different purpose than short breaks and are not time required to be compensated. Employees must be relieved of all work responsibilities during meal periods.

If an employee does any work during his meal period the time must be compensated and counted towards the total number of hours worked in the workweek. This rule applies even if the employee didn’t obtain the required prior approval to work through his lunch.

The employee can still be disciplined for not following company policy but he must be paid for the time worked.

April 28th, 2016, 7:17 PM |  Posted in: Compensation |
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Nursing Hours

What is the limited number of days a nurse can work in a row?

There is no federal law that limits the number of hours or days any adult employee may be required to work. Some states have adopted day of rest laws. Some states have gone further by adopting laws restricting mandatory overtime specifically for nursing staff.

Feel free to post your state in the comments section and we can research applicable state legislation.

Just to note, mandatory overtime in the healthcare profession has been a longstanding issue. Employers should not view the lack of regulations on the matter as a rationalization for requiring any employee to work excessive hours or days in a row. It’s common knowledge that excessive work hours leads to employee fatigue and illness, safety concerns, and low morale. All of which can mean severe consequences in the healthcare industry.

April 28th, 2016, 7:06 PM |  Posted in: Labor Laws |
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Vacation Time for Exempt Employees

If an exempt employee works less than 40 hrs. (ex. 39.5 hours) can any time worked less than 40hrs be charged against their vacation time?

Vacation benefits are not covered under employment law. Thus, employers are generally free to implement vacation policies at their discretion.

Employers are permitted to adopt a policy requiring employees, exempt or non-exempt, to use paid time off accruals to substitute for time not worked during the employee’s regular workweek. If an exempt employee is scheduled to work 40 hours a week but actually works 39.5 hours, the employer may require the employee to use .5 hours of PTO accrual.

The employer, however, may not deduct the equivalent of .5 hours from an exempt employee’s salary if the employee has exhausted his PTO accruals. Deductions from an exempt employee’s salary are only permitted in limited circumstances and in almost all cases only in full day increments.

Just because this PTO practice is legal doesn’t mean it’s a good one. Employers must carefully consider the pros and cons in making a determination whether such a policy is beneficial. In making that determination, it’s important to remember that exempt employees are expected to complete their work duties in however many hours in takes without additional compensation. So, requiring them to use their PTO to cover any hours less than their normal schedule is not really treating them as true professionals. Again, the practice is permissible just not very sensible in some cases.

April 28th, 2016, 6:51 PM |  Posted in: Benefits, Compensation |
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Retroactive FMLA Requests

Is there a particular form required to be filled out by the medical provider when requesting retroactive FMLA leave?

Retroactive FMLA leave designations are permitted as long as the employee is provided with appropriate notice and doing so does not cause “harm or injury” to the employee. An employer and employee can mutually agree that leave can be retroactively designated as FMLA leave. In fact, this is almost always advisable to do since proving that no “harm or injury” has occurred can be difficult.

The DOL Certification of Health Care Provider form or a similar form can be used for retroactive designations. There is not a specific form just for retroactive designations.

It’s worth mentioning that it’s important to determine if there was any way the retroactive designation could’ve been prevented. Are appropriate preventative measures in place to indentify if an employee’s need for leave may initiate the FMLA process? Are supervisors trained to be aware of potential qualifying reasons for FMLA leave? Was the initial notice of eligibility just not sent? Using this time to analyze your FMLA process may eliminate future issues.

April 27th, 2016, 8:55 AM |  Posted in: Human Resources Management |
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