Improving Your Luck
Improving Your Luck

A quick aside before I begin – while this article is written from the perspective of family businesses, there’s much here that applies to all small businesses. I encourage you to read on – family business or not…

We’ve all seen the statistics. Two-thirds of family businesses fail between the first and second generation. Another 50% of those that remain don’t make it on to generation three. While you and I have never met, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that, as you lead your organization, failure is not one of your long-term goals.

To help increase your chances of success, let’s spend some time today talking about the secrets of the organizations that succeed. Are there secrets, you may ask (and, if so, am I allow to share them with you)? Maybe it’s nothing but luck. Chance… Fate… Destiny… Karma… Kismet… Serendipity… (aren’t online thesauruses a wonderful thing?)

Good news! It’s really not a secret and it’s not about luck. While there are definitely situations out of your control that can impact your business – economic downturns, health problems, natural disasters, werewolves (just threw that in to see if you’re paying attention) – there’re many things that you can do to increase your chances of success today and improve the likelihood that your organization will be one of the “fortunate few” for whom that success is sustainable into the future.

1 – Plan

Many small family-run companies “fly by the seat of their pants.” I’m sure this isn’t true of your organization but, some of those other organizations don’t do much (or anything, if we’re being brutally honest) in the way of planning. Strategic planning. Nah. Succession planning. Nope, not that either. They’re busy taking care of clients/customers and developing new business. There’s no time for planning.

This is a problem. To be successful, you must make time for planning. Planning and being deliberate about how you run your business – today and in the future – has a lot to do with whether (or not) you will be around tomorrow. Let’s talk about two critical types of planning.

Strategic planning – Work with your team to define and document your goals and your strategy for achieving those goals. Define your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risks. Have an annual plan, a 3-year plan and a 5-year plan. Make this an annual process and regularly check in to see how you’re progressing. Adjust, if you need to, as you go along.

Succession planning – Be proactive about succession planning. Who will take your place? Start at least 5 – 10 years before you intend to exit or begin winding down. If you’re already into that 5 to 10-year window, start now. Select the right person (based on experience, knowledge, skills and attributes, not just bloodline) and begin grooming that individual for the role. While your plan may be to have one of your children step into your spot, realize that genetics doesn’t automatically translate into ability for (or even interest in) the role. One of the quickest ways to run a business into the ground is to have the wrong person at the helm.

2 – Train

Train your employees. Train your successor. Train yourself (more on that later).

Employees – Make sure you invest in employee training. On-the-job training. Management training. Technical training. Hard skills and soft skills. As business owners, often we invest a lot in technology. We need current hardware and software to compete and work efficiently. Sometimes, unfortunately, we forget to invest in training. Technology is only as good as the way that your people use it and your people are only as good as the training that has been provided to them.

Successor and Family Member Employees – If your plan is to have a younger generation family member take over, or even just work in, the organization, chances are they have grown up in, or around, the business. Give serious consideration to having them work somewhere else for a while. Maybe it’s a summer job while they’re in school. Maybe it’s two years working for another company (yes, another company) after graduation. However you do it, there’s much to be gained. First, you can ensure that they’re working for the organization because they want to be there, not just because it is an easy place to get a job. Additionally, he or she experiences first-hand what it is like to be a non-family member employee and understands the expectations a non-related employer has. He or she also broadens their perspective and sees how things are done in other companies – valuable information and perspective that they can share, if and when they decide to come back “inside.”

It’s also advisable that family members are expected to learn the business from the ground up. Don’t allow a family member to step into a role that they aren’t qualified for simply because they are related to you. As we discussed earlier, it’s qualifications not bloodline that should be considered when placing someone in a position. Have the same standards for family members as you do for non-family members and allow them to truly earn their way into higher positions within the organization. And this goes beyond hire or promotion – manage their performance as you would do for a non-related employee as well.

3 – Don’t get stuck doing things “the way they have always been done”

What worked ten years ago, will not work today. What works today, probably will not work in 5 years, 10 years, or 20 years. Be willing to change. Accept input. Stay up to date on changes and trends in the industry. Be open to new ideas and new approaches. Ask for opinions and listen to different perspectives. Makes changes as you go along, and your organization will stay relevant and competitive.

4 – Don’t do everything yourself

We’ve all heard the saying “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” This approach to running a business is one of the quickest ways to ensure that the business will fold when you’re no longer there (it’s not great for your mental or physical health either)! Be willing to let go and turn things over to others. Let’s change the saying to something like this “if you want something done right:

  • assign the task to someone else,
  • provide them with the tools and training needed for success,
  • give them the opportunity to struggle a bit and even possibly fail the first time around,
  • provide feedback, guidance, and additional training to help them learn how to do it right.”

It’s not as catchy as the original saying but, trust me, it’s much more successful in the long run.

5 – Be intentional about separating family and business

Your family – You see them at work. You see them at home. You see them during the week and also on the weekends. Vacations – yup. Holidays – double yup. In order to ensure your own sanity and the sanity of those you love (yes, even though you never get away from them, you still love them), you need to be deliberate about separating work and home. Make rules and stick to them. No matter how tempting it is to discuss that new client over the dinner table, don’t. Those conversations can truly wait until you are together again – at work.

6 – Assess and improve (train) yourself

What kind of leader are you? Are you an “old school” leader or a “new school” one? (if “new school” isn’t a thing, it is now.) Old school leaders believe in tough love. A kick in the rump when something goes wrong and praise, ummm, never.

This form of leadership isn’t successful today (and I’m not sure it ever was). New school leaders focus on building teams, communicating vision, assisting employees with learning and growth. They’re empathetic and ask employees “what can I do for you” rather than “what can you do for me.” (Ask not what your employees can do for you, ask what you can do for your employees.)

If this isn’t the style of leadership you are comfortable with (and even if it is), invest in leadership training for yourself. No matter how long you have been doing your job, you still have things to learn. Improve yourself – improve your organization.

7 – Have the right people in the right roles

While I’ve touched on this several times earlier in this article, it’s important enough to discuss on its own. When you hire employees from the “outside” (as in, outside your family), you interview them, assess their background, skills, education, work ethic, and so on. You want to make sure that they will be successful in the job for which you are hiring them. The same is true of family members – don’t slot a family member into a role “just because” they are related. If you think it’s difficult telling your sister-in-law that you do not have a job for her <lazy, good-for-nothing> son, think how much harder it will be to tell her someday if you have to fire him.

8 – Understand and respect generational (and other) differences

Baby boomers, Millennials, Gen X, Gen Z. Ensure that you have a clear understanding of the differences and don’t think of one generation as “right” and all others as “wrong.” It’s important to know what motivates and energizes your employees. It’s also important to understand that for different generations “hard at work” can look different. You may be used to thinking that work can only happen when you’re in the office. Other generations may be comfortable and adept at working from a multitude of locations – the office, the home office, the soccer field, the coffee shop. We all know people who are in the office from sun up to sun down and don’t accomplish a doggone thing. Manage for results, not presence.

It’s also important to realize that not everyone fits into stereotypes. Not all Baby Boomers are technologically challenged. Not all Millennials are “entitled.” Not all Gen X’s are cynics and not all Gen Z employees are risk averse. People are people. Know the trends but get to know your people and manage each one as the individual they are.

Over 50% of the United States GNP is generated by family businesses. They’re the lifeblood of our economic structure. Unfortunately, they don’t tend to be long-lived. If you combine your passion for your business, your knowledge of the industry, your commitment to your clients, and savvy financial planning with the strategies we have talked about today, the likelihood that your organization will be thriving once you have left the helm just got a whole lot better. And, for the record, a little bit of luck does not hurt either!

Do you have questions or want more information on this topic – or any other HR topics? Please contact Karen DiGioia at karen@mostellerhr.com or info@mostellerhr.com.

Marijuana, clearing away (at least some of) the confusion!
Marijuana, clearing away (at least some of) the confusion!

Marijuana. Possession and use are federally illegal, yet, at the time of my writing, 33 states – including states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware – plus the District of Columbia, have comprehensive medical marijuana programs. Eleven states plus the District of Columbia allow recreational AND medical marijuana use and many other states are currently considering legalization of recreational weed. State laws continue to change quickly. By the time you are reading this article some of these numbers may very well have changed.

If I’m being totally honest, simply writing about this topic makes me a bit nervous. The rapidly changing landscape leaves many employers feeling baffled and confused about what they can and cannot do when it comes to marijuana in the workplace. Even many HR professionals, if they are being truthful, admit to finding it perplexing. While there is much about this topic that is still hazy (and I don’t claim to have all the answers), I’m going to focus on what currently is clear and try to eliminate some of the confusion. To keep things simpler, I will focus on the state of marijuana laws in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.

We know that, currently, all three states have medical marijuana programs and these programs make it legal for a licensed individual to buy, possess, and use medically prescribed marijuana, just like it’s legal to buy, possess, and use other prescribed medication. The primary question many employers have is “Does that mean that it’s also OK for licensed individuals to use medical marijuana in the workplace or to come to work high?” I have good news for you – this is one area where the current answer is very clearly “No!” (Did I just hear a collective sigh of relief?)

As an employer, to protect yourself and your organization, you can and should take the following steps:

  • Prohibit marijuana use while on the job.

Just like (I hope) you would prohibit an employee from keeping a bottle of vodka in their desk drawer or a bottle of wine in the office fridge and taking a sip from said bottle over the course of the work day, you can and should prohibit employees from using medical (or non-medical) marijuana in the office. (I’m not even going to touch here on the beer fridge trend going on in some companies today).

  • Understand that, with some limited exceptions, it is not OK to refuse to hire or to fire or to discipline an employee strictly for the use of medical marijuana.

The key word in the statement above is “strictly.” As we will talk about in a moment, it’s fine to deal with impairment, if it occurs, but it’s not OK to take action just because an employee has a license or uses medical marijuana. A number of states, including Pennsylvania and Delaware, have employee protection laws in place that make it unlawful to fire or discipline an employee strictly because that employee is licensed to use medical marijuana or to fire or to discipline a licensed employee who tests positive for marijuana use in a drug test unless failing to do so would cause the employer to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law or regulation.

  • If an employee comes to work impaired, whether it’s due to marijuana use (medical or otherwise), alcohol use, or use of prescribed (or unprescribed) medication, deal with the impairment as a performance issue, rather than focusing on the use of the substance.

Again, just as you would deal with an employee who had four beers for breakfast and came to work drunk, the issue is not the use of alcohol. The issue is on-the-job impairment. Deal with marijuana the same way. Document the performance deficit in detail, focusing on the expected standards of performance. If possible, have signed statements from others who witnessed the behavior. If your policy is to test when impairment is suspected, drive the employee to the drug-testing facility (please, do not have them driving themselves if you suspect that they are impaired). Meet with your employee, as you would with any other performance issue. Talk about the performance, the behavior and the related consequences. Consistently follow the policies that you have in place regarding both performance issues and substance use/abuse (more on that below).

  • Clearly communicate company policy regarding workplace use of marijuana and other substances, the consequence of non-compliance and the process that will be followed if non-compliance is suspected. Enforce your policy consistently.

As we have already recognized, this is a confusing subject – for employers and employees alike. Don’t assume that your employees understand what’s OK and what isn’t. Employees may wrongly assume that, if they can legally use marijuana, they can do so at work without consequences. It is still OK for employers to implement drug-free workplace policies. Adopt a written policy regarding substance use and communicate it to your employees. Ensure that your policy prohibits both marijuana use in the workplace and impairment in the workplace and during work time. Ensure that you and your managers know how to identify marijuana impairment.

So far, we have talked about what is clear. Now, I am going to move on to an area that is less so: Testing. Drug testing, especially pre-employment testing for drug use that includes marijuana is a practice that, for many employers, is coming more and more into question. While employees covered by Department of Transportation rules like those in safety-sensitive jobs like trucking, airline, and mass-transit workers must be tested for alcohol and drug use, what about organizations where testing is not mandated?

Some limited locations, currently Nevada and New York City, have passed laws that will go into effect in 2020 to make it unlawful to test job applicants for marijuana use. While that is currently the exception and not the rule, many employers are moving away from pre-employment drug testing, quite honestly, on the grounds that it screens out too many otherwise qualified candidates. In today’s highly competitive labor market, some employers are deciding that it just doesn’t make sense anymore. In states that have legalized recreational marijuana, the practice of making employment decisions based on tests that reveal marijuana use has become even murkier.

Add to that, the fact that testing for marijuana use is much different than testing for alcohol. Alcohol tests clearly show impairment and recent use. Marijuana testing is less clear. There is no common level of THC that indicates that a person is impaired, and THC can show up in a test as many as 30 days or more after use. This means that a test can come back positive for THC but this doesn’t mean that the employee was high at the time of the test. As a practice, the current shift, especially for positions where safety is not a concern (or, obviously, where testing is not mandated), is to discontinue pre-employment testing and utilize testing only when an employee appears impaired or when an accident has occurred. Many organizations are also shifting, whenever possible, to tests that measure performance impairment rather than presence of THC in the employee’s system.

If your practice has been to conduct pre-employment tests, it is a good time to give careful consideration to why you do it and to ensure that you still feel that it is important. If you do decide to continue testing, review the type of test that you use and keep yourself updated on the legal state of this topic.

I am hopeful that this article has helped to clear away some of the confusion around the topic of marijuana in the workplace (I am an optimist by nature!) However, it’s important to recognize that there are still murky areas and evolution of this topic will continue. What is true today may not be true tomorrow. While we don’t know what the future holds, we do know that the topic will continue to shift in ways that will impact the workplace. Your best bet is to stay on top of the subject.

For questions or more information pertaining to this topic – or any other HR topics, please contact Karen DiGioia at karen@mostellerhr.com or info@mostellerhr.com.

First Impressions
First Impressions

In one of his more serious moments, humorist-philosopher Will Rogers said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Notice – he did not say a GOOD first impression – just “a first impression.” The message here is that the first impression – good or bad – is one that will most likely stick.

Most of us are aware of this on a personal level. We do all we can to make sure that the first impression people have of us is a good one. We wear that special outfit for a first date. We get our hair cut before meeting our son’s girlfriend’s parents for the first time (true story – of four parents – three of us had gotten a haircut in the past two days). When going to a neighborhood party, we review tips on how to remember the names of new people we meet (still working on this one) and how to maintain eye contact (enough but not too much) when we speak to people.

The need to make a good first impression is also true in business. Chances are you’ve invested a considerable amount of time and money into making sure that the impression, first or otherwise, your organization and your employees are making is a good one. From the look of your website to the appearance of your office. The way employees dress and speak with customers, the length of time a customer can be kept on hold (and the music that plays during that time when they are on hold) – the focus of all these things, any oh so many more, is to make a good impression on current and prospective customers.

But what about your employees? Have you put as much time and effort into making sure the first impression you make with your employees is the best that it can be? If you haven’t, you should. To help you with that task, we are going to talk about orienting and onboarding new employees and how to make sure the first impression is a good one.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s talk about why it’s important to make a good first impression on your new employees. You hired them and are giving them an opportunity. Isn’t it up to them to take it from there? While you can take that approach, that’s kind of like saying “I invited you out on this date. That’s all the effort I am planning on putting into this.” That approach isn’t likely to result in a second date, let alone a long, meaningful relationship. Likewise, taking this approach with new employees isn’t likely to result in a long, meaningful relationship, either (and, chances are, you’ve invested a good bit more time and money into hiring this new employee than you ever spent on a first date!)

By properly onboarding your new employees, you’re accomplishing a number of things. First, you are greatly increasing the likelihood that the employee will stay. You’re also providing the information and tools the employee needs to succeed. Well-onboarded employees (yeah, that’s a thing) are shown to perform better, have higher commitment to the company and stay longer. There are even studies which also show that these employees are less stressed. Bottom line – proper onboarding benefits the employee and the organization. A win-win proposition!

So how do you do it?

First – Understand the difference between orienting and onboarding

Orienting typically refers to the paperwork side of things. Onboarding has to do with integrating the new employee into the team. Orienting is the required stuff – I-9, W-4, benefits forms, etc… Onboarding is the meaningful stuff – mission and values of the organization, where the employee fits in, how they can help the organization succeed and grow. Make sure you don’t focus only on “orienting” and forget about “onboarding” your new employee.

Second – Begin before day one

As we said, the paperwork needs to happen, but you don’t want the employee’s first day to be spent just filling out forms. Send out paperwork and benefits information ahead of time. Have a plan for the onboarding process and share that and the details of day one with your new employee. It’s fine to set aside some time for collecting that paperwork and answering questions about the benefits available. It’s also good to have someone walk through the employee handbook and discuss key policies. You just don’t want the first day to be nothing but forms, rules, and regulations.

Also, make sure your new employee’s workspace and office equipment are ready for them before day one. Nothing makes a bad impression like a new employer who is unprepared. Make sure the employee’s workspace is clean and waiting, have all technology tools ready and waiting (laptop, user access, passwords, etc…), schedule any training that may be appropriate. While you’re at it, let other employees know that the new employee is starting (and when) and what they will be doing. Make sure there’s someone available (you?) to take them to lunch on the first day.

Third – Dedicate a lot of time to the employee on (and after) day one

Plan to spend a good bit of time with your new employee (and commit to making it happen). Take them around and introduce them to other employees; then spend some one-on-one time with them. Explain the organization – its history, mission, values, and strategic and tactical goals. Begin to create a connection between the organization and your new employee. Review the employee’s job description and explain your expectations. We’ve talked about this in past articles: employees need to clearly understand what is expected of them. All too often managers assume that an employee knows what’s expected and ends up frustrated when the employee doesn’t meet their expectations. Next thing you know, that employee who was being held accountable for those *secret* expectations is on *double secret* probation with one foot out the door.

Fourth – Provide your employees with broad exposure and experience

While it’s good to pair your new employee up with a more experienced one by assigning a mentor, make sure you give your new employee a broad exposure, too. In addition to the mentor, assign them a “buddy” who they can go to with basic non-technical questions (“What’s the receptionist’s name?” or “Which way to the restroom?”). Over the first weeks (or months), give your new employee a chance to spend time with many different employees throughout the organization – employees in the same role and employees in different roles. In previous articles, we talked about the many advantages of a diverse team. Ensuring that your new employee has diverse exposure across your team will broaden their perspective and understanding, and will, in the end, make them more effective at their own job.

Fifth – Look at onboarding as a process that, when done best, will take months.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a new employee. The paperwork stuff may happen all at once, but good onboarding takes time. It’s also important to recognize that new employees need time to learn and grow and, yes, even make mistakes.

Sixth – Ask for input and feedback

Check in with your new employee regularly. Ask for feedback. It doesn’t have to be fancy – “How’s it going?” can get the conversation started. Let your new employee know that you are available to answer questions or just chat (within reason). Welcome them as a new member of your team and let them know you value their input and perspective. Much of onboarding involves the employee listening to others. Make sure you give them an opportunity to be heard, as well.

After reading all that’s involved in quality onboarding, you may be thinking “Nah.” Sure, it’s easier to just hand the employee the forms, show them where the bathroom and fridge are, take them to their workspace and expect them to take it from there. After all, you hired them because they had the experience and skills you were looking for – it’s time for them to get to work and produce. However, as the saying goes, “What you put into things is what you get out of them.” (according to Google, Jennifer Lopez said this). What is true of “things” is true of employees. The time you invest in thorough onboarding will go a long way toward producing a dedicated, high-performing employee who’s committed to their job and to the organization.

If you have questions or want more information on the topic of employee onboarding (or any other HR topic), please contact Karen DiGioia at karen@mostellerhr.com or info@mostellerhr.com.

Do I Have to Pay for That?
Do I Have to Pay for That?

You probably have a pretty good sense of which employees at your organization qualify for exemption under the FLSA and which do not. You also know that those employees who don’t qualify for exemption – your nonexempt or hourly employees – must, by law, be paid time-and-a-half for any hours worked in a workweek over 40 and also must receive at least the minimum wage. (if you’re not clear on any of those things, drop me an email and I’ll be happy to assist).

But – do you know what counts as “hours worked” and what doesn’t?

I’m going to work from the assumption that the answer to this question, at best is “maybe” and spend this some time talking about what counts as “compensable time” under the FLSA.

On the surface, it sounds simple. Work time is time when an employee works, right? But what about rest and meal times? Time worked that you didn’t approve? On-call time? Time waiting to work? Travel time?

Let’s start with a quiz. I’ll present each of the areas that will be covered later in this article. You indicate whether or not you think you are required to pay an employee for the time. After you finish the quiz, continue reading and see how you did. (No cheating!)

Time SpentYesNoMaybe
Time worked but not approved
Meal Time
Break Time
On-call Time
Waiting Time
Lectures, Meetings, and Training Programs
Travel Time
Sleeping Time
Time Away at a Multi-day Seminar

Time worked that wasn’t approved: Yes

An employee who works, even without approval, must be paid for the time. You can have a policy that states that employees are not to work overtime (or even regular time) without management approval, but, if they work you must pay them. If an employee doesn’t adhere to this policy, this can be handled as a performance issue – but you still must pay for the time!

Meal time: No

Meal periods (mostly commonly 30 minutes or longer) during which an employee is completely relieved of duty does not require compensation. Be careful, though. If an employees is performing any work duties while having their meal, either actively (like filing papers while eating their lunch) or inactively (like waiting at the phone in case calls come in), the time must be paid.

Break or rest time: Yes

Rest or break times of 20 minutes or less must be counted as hours worked. Providing employees with break periods is, generally, not required but doing so is considered “best practice” and increases the efficiency of employees.

On-call time: Maybe

It depends on how the employee can spend their time when “on call”. If they must remain at the worksite while “on call,” the time must be paid. If they are able to spend their “on-call” time freely – leaving home or work as long as they are “reachable,” if needed – it is not considered work time (until they actually receive a call at which point they then ARE working) and does not require pay. However, if an employee has constraints on how they can spend the “on-call” time (for example: must stay at home where they have access to their computer), they must be compensated.

Waiting time: Maybe

According to the FLSA, it depends on whether an employee is “engaged to wait” or “waiting to be engaged.” (Honestly, I don’t make this stuff up.) Some examples of employees who are “engaged to wait” would be an administrative assistant who is reading a book while waiting for a letter to type and send or a customer service representative who is checking personal email while waiting for customer calls to come in. In both of these cases, the time spent reading or on email must be paid. While it’s always best to have other work available for employees to do while they are “waiting,” if you don’t, you still need to pay them.

In the case of an employee who is “waiting to be engaged,” compensation is not required. To meet this definition:

  • The employee must have been fully relieved of their duties and be free to use the time as they choose
  • The employee must have been told in advance
  • The employee must know when they need to next show up for work, and
  • The break in time needs to be long enough for the employee to be able to effectively use it for their own purposes.

If all these requirements are met, the employee is “waiting to be engaged” and the time would not need to be paid.

Lectures, Meetings, and Training Programs: Maybe

Yes, “maybe” again. All these “maybes” is what makes this such a complex topic. If four criteria are met, the time doesn’t need to be paid:

  • Outside of normal work hours
  • Voluntary
  • Not job related
  • No other work is performed at the same time

If all four criteria aren’t met, the time must be paid.

Travel Time: Some Yes and Some No

Home to work travel: No

This one is clear and straight forward. You do not need to pay your employees for time they spend getting to work and going back home.

Travel that all falls into a day’s work: Yes

If an employee is traveling between job sites, is working in another city for the day and then returning home the same day or going out in the middle of the day to pick up supplies or deliver something to a customer, this is time worked and must be paid.

Travel away from home: Yes and No

If an employee travels away from home and that travel time covers more than one work day, travel time counts toward hours work if the time spent traveling (car, plane, etc…) occurs during the employee’s normal work hours. If the travel time is before or after “normal” work hours, then the time does not have to be paid (unless the employee is doing work while they are travelling, like making work phone calls, writing, or reviewing reports, preparing presentations, etc.…).

If an employee travels on a non-workday (generally a weekend), the travel time must be paid if the hours fall between the times that they would normally be working on a normal workday. This mean that if an employee who usually works Monday through Friday from 8:30 – 5:00 is travelling between 10:00 and 2:00 on Saturday, that time must be paid. If the travel time covers the entire normal workday time period (8:30 – 5:00) the full time would be paid but time normally given for meal breaks could be deducted.

However, if an employee is traveling to Chicago in a train headed westbound going 75 mph and another employees is leaving Chicago at the same time heading eastbound in another train… Oops. I’m sorry. Brief flashback to a middle school algebra quiz…

Sleeping Time: Maybe (yes, that answer again)

If an employee is required to stay “on duty” for less than 24 hours but is, for some reason, permitted to sleep when they are not busy, they are considered to be working and must be paid. The only exception is for “on duty” periods in excess of 24 hours for which an employer has an agreement with the employee that sleep time (which must be in excess of 5 hours) will be unpaid and for which adequate sleeping facilities are provided by the employer so that the employee can actually have an uninterrupted night’s sleep. While this is unlikely to apply to many industries and small businesses, it’s possible that, in the event of an upcoming bad weather event, an employee might be asked to sleep on site so that the organization could open the next day. If that happens, you now know the pay implications of this situation.

Time Away at a Multi-day Seminar: Yes and No

“What,” you may ask, “about a situation that combines many of the above categories? What if a non-exempt employee attends a multi-day seminar? What do I have to pay for then?”

If we apply many of the sections above, the employee would be paid for any time travelling that cuts across the regular workday (or corresponding work hours during a nonworking day) and for all time worked, while they are away, including time in the seminar and other related “work” activities. You are not required to pay them for time spent at the hotel (unless they are also working while at the hotel), time at restaurants, time sleeping, time at the pool, time at the hotel gym – you get the idea.

So – how did you do on the quiz? Better than I did on that middle school algebra quiz? Hopefully this article has made you aware that the answers to the question “Do I have to pay for that?” are not always clear. While it’s possible that you are more confused now than you were before, the important thing to realize is that when stepping outside normal “work” definitions, you should always determine if you have to “pay for that.” When in doubt, the U. S. Department of Labor website provides many resources which can answer your questions. Or, drop me an email. I’ll be happy to assist.

For questions or more information pertaining to this article, please contact me at karen@mostellerhr.com or info@mostellerhr.com.