Wage and hour laws have a tumultuous history in the public sector. For a period of time, due to a Supreme Court decision, they didn’t apply at all. That was many years ago, and since the late 1980s the U. S. Department of Labor has had special rules for the public sector. This includes any entity that is a political subdivision of the state. It of course includes cities, towns, and counties, and most often includes special districts, like public schools, fire departments, and libraries.
The special rules effectively provide flexibility to the public sector in the following areas:
Compensatory time. This is probably the most well-known. So long as the employer has a written policy or notice to the employee prior to the work being performed, the employer can either pay any overtime, or provide time-and-one-half off for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Be sure you know the rules about how many “comp time” hours can be accrued, when the employee is entitled to take the time off, and at what rate compensatory time is paid out.
Work periods longer than one week. Those engaged in law enforcement and firefighting duties may have set recurring work periods between seven and 28 days. Further, the number of hours worked in any work period may translate to more than 40 hours in a week, so long as it doesn’t exceed the regulatory total: 53 hours a week for firefighters, and 43 for law enforcement. Make certain that the employee is engaged in fire suppression or law enforcement activities as defined by the regulation. The regulations include other rules that are important to understand.
Shift swapping and volunteering in another department with no overtime. If employees volunteer to swap shifts or work in another department on a truly occasional basis, employers may not have to pay overtime for that work. Employers need to make sure they understand all the necessary elements and are following the regulations in order to take advantage of this exception.
Exempt employees can be docked for working fewer than 40 hours a week, so long as there is a written policy, and so long as it is for a permissible reason. The regulations discuss the details of what is acceptable.
If you want to see the regulations discussed in this article, please click here. If there is anything else we can do to assist you with federal wage and hour laws, give us a call. We are happy to help.