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BEWARE OF BONUSES AFFECTING OVERTIME CALCULATIONS

Overtime is paid at the employee’s “regular rate of pay”.   Some new court decisions and subsequent interpretations have also provided that non-discretionary production bonuses, must be included in an employee’s “regular rate of pay” before figuring overtime payments.

The definition of an non-discretionary production bonus is: The employer predetermines the specific criteria that is required to receive a bonus. Employees expect to earn the bonus if they meet the criteria. An employer’s incentive pay plan that provides additional compensation for exceeding performance or productivity goals is an example of how nondiscretionary bonuses are executed in the workplace. 

To calculate overtime for an employee with this bonus program, you must allocate the bonus dollars over the time period the employee earned the bonus (week, month, year, etc.)  The courts explained it this way:

  • Take the bonus earned during the bonus period;
  • Divide the bonus by the total number of hours worked during the bonus period;
  • Multiply the resulting number by 0.5; and
  • Multiply the resulting number by the total number of overtime hours worked during the bonus period.

You must then show this amount on the wage statement (payroll stub) for the pay period that the bonus is paid.

Here is a hypothetical offered by the court:

The hypothetical employee earned a $360 monthly bonus for work performed during the previous month of December, from December 1 to December 31, 2017. This bonus would be reflected on the January 7 to January 20, 2018 wage statement. To calculate the OverTimePay-Override line, the hours worked in December 2017 would be used because that is the time period in which the bonus was earned. In this hypothetical, the employee had worked 160 regular hours and 20 overtime hours in December 2017, for a total of 180 hours. First, divide $360 by 180, which results in $2. This number represents the increase to the regular hourly rate. Multiply $2 by 0.5 and the result, $1, represents the increase to the overtime hourly rate. Then, take $1 and multiply it by 20, the overtime hours worked during December 2017, and the result, $20, is the overtime pay adjustment, which would be identified as the OverTimePay-Override line on the wage statement.​

This is not the calculation you would use for a flat-rate bonus.  The court said that the flat-rate bonus should be calculated as: A flat sum bonus is “factored into an employee’s regular rate of pay by dividing the amount of the bonus by the total number of non-overtime hours actually worked during the relevant pay period and using 1.5, not 0.5, as the multiplier for determining the employee’s overtime pay rate.”

This reasons that a bonus would be further diluted if you include all hours including overtime hours in the calculation.

California has more information about how to calculate overtime for different situations.  Here are a few common questions but you can find more at https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_Overtime.htm

3. Q. Is a bonus included in the regular rate of pay for purposes of calculating overtime?

A. Yes, if it is a nondiscretionary bonus. A nondiscretionary bonus is included in determining the regular rate of pay for computing overtime when it is based upon hours worked, production or proficiency or as an incentive to remain employed by the same employer. Incentive bonuses include flat sum bonuses. Flat sum bonuses must be computed by dividing the bonus by the maximum legal regular hours worked, not by the total hours worked during the pay period. Bonuses designed as an incentive for increased production for each hour worked are divided by the total hours worked in the pay period. Discretionary bonuses or sums paid as gifts at a holiday or other special occasions, such as a reward for good service, which are not measured by or dependent upon hours worked, production or efficiency, are not included for purposes of determining the regular rate of pay.
4. Q. Are any amounts excluded from the regular rate of pay?
A. Yes, there are certain types of payments that are excluded from the regular rate of pay. Examples of some of the more common exclusions are sums paid as gifts for special occasions, expense reimbursements, payments made for occasional periods when no work is performed due to vacation, holiday, illness, failure of the employer to provide sufficient work, premium pay for Saturday, Sunday, or holiday work, and discretionary bonuses.
5. Q. Are salaried employees entitled to overtime?
A. It depends. A salaried employee must be paid overtime unless they meet the test for exempt status as defined by federal and state laws, or unless they are specifically exempted from overtime by the provisions of one of the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders regulating wages, hours and working conditions.
6. Q. How is overtime calculated if I work at different rates of pay in the same workweek?
A. If you are paid two or more rates by the same employer during the workweek, the regular rate is the “weighted average” which is determined by dividing your total earnings for the workweek, including earnings during overtime hours, by the total hours worked during the workweek, including the overtime hours. For example, if you work 32 hours at $11.00 an hour and 10 hours during the same workweek at $9.00 an hour, the weighted average (and thus the regular rate for that workweek) is $10.52. This is calculated by adding your $442 straight time pay for the workweek [(32hours x $11.00/hour) + (10 hours x $9.00/hour) = $442] and dividing it by the 42 hours you worked.

 

ALERT!! NEW CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT RULING ON OVERTIME–MUST READ!

Overtime pay in California is based on the employee’s “regular rate of pay,” which is not always an employee’s normal hourly wage and must include almost all forms of pay that the employee receives.

Yesterday, the California Supreme Court ruled that an employer must calculate the regular rate of pay by dividing the employee’s total compensation by the number of non-overtime hours an employee worked during the pay period, rather than the total number of hours the employee worked, including overtime hours (Alvarado v Dart Container Corporation of California).

Many of you may pay your employees a premium for working on a weekend or a night shift and you should be aware of this distinction in the law.   Others may pay a “make up amount” to compensate workers who have changed from a daily or weekly rate to an hourly rate and have a separate line to increase their pay to meet a minimum payment.  It may be subject to increased overtime rates as well.  This may eventually extend to housing or other items that are considered part of the regular compensation package.  It may all need to be included at some point as this ruling evolves.

In the case, Dart Container Corporation of California, allegedly maintained a policy of paying a flat “attendance bonus” of $15 per day to employees who worked Saturday and Sunday shifts, regardless of the number of hours worked on the weekend shift. An employee sued, claiming he was improperly paid overtime during the weeks that he earned the weekend attendance bonus.

The employee argued that overtime pay on any flat sum bonus should be divided only by the “regular” hours he worked that week (the method in the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement [DLSE] manual), not by the “total” hours worked during the week (regular hours plus overtime hours worked, the federal formula). For example, to determine the employee’s regular rate of pay, you would divide only by 40 regular hours instead of 48 total hours (regular hours plus overtime hours). This would result in a higher regular rate of pay and, thus, a higher overtime rate.

The California Supreme Court unanimously reversed the lower court and approved the DLSE method of calculating the regular rate of pay when a flat sum bonus is involved: Employers must divide the employee’s total compensation by the employee’s non-overtime hours worked (not by the total hours worked).

The Court reasoned that a flat sum bonus is not tied to the number of hours worked – the $15 will be paid when an employee picks up a weekend shift, regardless of how many hours the employee worked that week. Because the flat sum bonus was payable even if the employee didn’t work overtime, only the non-overtime hours should be considered when calculating the regular rate of pay.

The Court also based its ruling on two other policy factors:

  • California law requires premium overtime pay which is meant to discourage employers from imposing overtime work.
  • California labor laws are interpreted liberally in favor of worker protection.

The Court also decided that this ruling should apply retroactively, not just going forward.

This decision is limited to flat-sum bonuses, but we may see employees argue that it should apply to other types of extra compensation.

We strongly urge employers who want to give “extra pay” to hourly workers should consult legal counsel.

Second Article Printed in Progressive Dairyman Magazine – Marijuana Laws and You

We were again privileged to be asked to submit an article covering the new Marijuana Laws for Progressive Dairyman magazine.  You can read the article here: https://www.progressivedairy.com/topics/management/cutting-through-the-smoke-marijuana-and-the-workplace or  you can read the article in the October 18 issue.

Please feel free to leave a comment or ask questions regarding this or any HR issue.   You can always call our office at 559-625-2322 if you are a customer or would like more information.

 

A Short Explanation of the 7-day Work Week Penalty In California

The article below was originally  emailed to many of our customers and we felt we should share this information with all.  We  hope it is helpful.

 

The state of California says that an employee should not be forced to work 7 days in a week and has attached a penalty for doing this.  This is not new, but recently, there was some misunderstanding of the rule.  I will try to explain.

When we first meet with you to discuss your employee packet, we ask all of you to define your workweek.  This is NOT your pay period and it does not change.  Your work week is permanently listed as a 7-day period that has an exact starting and stopping time.  As an example, your work week may run from 12am Monday morning to 11:59 pm Sunday night.  Let’s use this example:

If an employee works on Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat and Sunday, then they worked all 7 days in the SAME workweek.  In this case, the employee would be entitled to be paid regular pay through Saturday, but the first 8 hours that they work on Sunday are paid and 1 ½ times their normal hourly rate.  All hours worked on that 7th day after 8 hours is at double-time pay.  Everything resets on Monday morning.  You cannot pick a different day to pay this “penalty pay” and you also may owe for daily or weekly overtime as usual for the week.

Using this same example of Monday-Sunday as the workweek, if the employee had Monday off, but worked every day for the rest of the week and continued working Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the next week before getting a day off on Thursday (9 days in a row), there is no penalty or 7-day rule pay because the employee had Monday off in one defined work week and Thursday off in the next work week.

The 2 places where we see the most use of the 7-day rule are in harvesting and when an employee switches shifts with another employee.   There are also some issues when milkers change from day to night shifts.

Most harvesters work a shorter day on Sunday and this reduces the cost of the 7th day pay.

In your handbook we give notice to employees that they must obtain consent from the supervisor before making any changes to their work with another employee.  This is so you have a chance to check and avoid having an employee work all 7 days in the same work week.

Finally, if you are going to have situations when employees work all 7 days, it may be a good idea to include the release form in your employee packet so you have advance notice of your employee’s wishes.

As always, if you have any questions regarding these issues, please contact us at our office number (559) 625-2322 and ask for the client services department or legal department.

You may also obtain more information on our other blog posting “work weeks upheld by California Supreme Court” from May 9, 2017  https://www.hrmobileservices.com/work-weeks-upheld-by-california-supreme-court/

 

WORK WEEKS UPHELD BY CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT

Monday, the California Supreme court voted 7-0 in favor of the seven days in the same  work week interpretation.  This means that, if you define your work week, as long as an employee has one day off in that workweek, they are not eligible for premium ovcr-time payments.  They rejected the interpretation that employees should only work 6 days and affirmed the wording that employees may only work 6 days in the same work week.

Here is how it works.  If your work week is Monday through Sunday, and the employee works every day in the week, the hours they work on Sunday would be subject to the 7th day penalty where the first 8 hours are at time and a half and all hours after the 8th hour are double time.  However, if an employee worked Wednesday to the following Wednesday, there is no violation of the seven day rule because they had at least one day off in each work week as defined.

This is why it is so important to establish and notify your employees of your work week in your employee handbook and other documents.  It does not have to align with paydays, but it is preferable.  Remember, if you pay twice a month, it is possible that a payday falls in the middle of a pay period and you may miss an employee working through the seven day rule because part falls in 2 different pay periods.  You are still responsible for paying the penalty overtime if this happens.  You would apply it in the pay period where the seventh day was worked.

Overall, this is a victory for employers who have been following these rules as written for many years.  To change them now would have been a huge hit to employers across California.  Having one day off a work week is good for employer and employee, but a new law of 1 day off in any seven days could be hard to adjust.  This is especially true of businesses such as restaurants where you have high turnover, people calling in sick and then you have to ask another employee to come in to cover a shift.

So, rejoice, the courts did the right thing.  The best way to keep the government out of these things is to pay properly, follow the law and make sure your competition is doing the same.

Final Thoughts on 2016 and a Caution to Legislators and Employers for 2017

I will begin this by saying that some of this article is focused on California, while much can be applicable to the rest of the United States.  The San Joaquin Valley is a microcosm of what has taken place across this country.  The rural, farming and agriculture areas of this country are tired of being ignored.   And finally, they stood up in November and got the attention of the people that think that life is only lived in big cities.

California politicians are very good at double speak.  They say they are supportive of Agriculture, but none of them every actually come to the Valley to talk to business owners.  On the rare occasion they do come to the Valley it is to talk to the workers or to point at a High Speed Rail train that is not going to do anything for people here.

The fact is, California, and many State governments across the country, would prefer if Agriculture would just go away.  They would much rather we were all working in a state full of Silicone Valley businesses.  They are cleaner, there would be no fight over water, and we could just ignore it altogether.  In the past election, we did not get visits by Hillary (Trump dropped in quickly) and Kamala Harris (the new Senator) didn’t bother with and knows nothing about this side of California.  The Governor has only been to Fresno a few times in 6 years and that is never to learn about real issues (he knows it all I guess).

For the rest of the country, the story is similar.  President Obama flew over the rest of the US and only visited a few coastal states in 8 years in office.  He came to California almost monthly to San Francisco or Los Angeles to attend a fund raiser, but on the ONE occasion that he came to the valley to discuss the drought, he got off the plane, went to a dirt field for about 1 hour and then flew out because he had a golf date in Southern California (where they had water to make beautiful greens for his putting).  We never saw a thing done about the drought after that and still have not until last week when a bill (0pposed by outgoing Senator Barbara Boxer) was signed by the President to help us build dams.  This was not because of any work done by the President, but by the work of our Representatives from the Valley that finally got enough support from  enough people in both parties to get this to the President despite Barbara Boxer.

One of the most telling examples of how Legislators view business owners is how they write regulations.  Almost all regulations start with the assumption that most employers are bad.  In fact, many times it is actually written into the introduction and states that this bill must be passed to protect the workers, etc.  The reality is that most employers work very hard with their employees to create a family atmosphere.  The regulations get in the way of much of this.  Every time the government mandates a benefit that many people are already doing for their employees, they add cumbersome requirements, and many pages of fines and penalties if you do not do it exactly right.  In a more practical world, doing your best should count for something, but not according to our Legislators.  So, every time they add a benefit, many employers remove another benefit so they can afford the one the government wants.  There is only one pot of money, but Legislators think employers can just invent more money like Congress does and it just isn’t the case.

If there is one takeaway from the recent Presidential elections is that middle-America and rural areas are tired of being ignored or shoved aside by our representatives.  If you don’t visit and really listen to their issues, you run the chance of being replaced.  Not all issues affecting business and employees can be handled by looking out the window in Los Angeles or Sacramento or Washington, D.C.  I hope they pay attention or 2018 could be a very turbulent year as well.

BUT THERE IS A RESPONSIBILITY OF THE OWNER\EMPLOYER AS WELL:

In 1999, in California, Governor Gray Davis signed the labor bills establishing daily as well as weekly overtime rules.  It also established a 30 minute employee meal with stern regulations.  Here we are 17 years later and there are still a number of employers who ignore, or do not know of these laws, or simply choose to go their own way.  This affects all of us.  When an employer does not follow the simple laws and refuses to do things like installing a time clock and paying people for the hours they work, they give every employer a black eye and give every Legislator an easy excuse to add new laws and regulations.  In other words, a few stubborn bad employers are making business hard for everyone else.  Instead of just complaining about the State or the Federal government, if  you know an employer that is not following the law, talk to them and let them know they are a big part of the problem.

The easiest way to pay people with the least amount of work on your part is to pay people exactly what they work based on a time clock.  Anything else you are doing is why we keep getting more “wage theft” headlines.  Let’s all resolve in 2017 to pay people for what they work and hold them accountable for the job.  Spend your hard time enforcing your rules instead of working hard to explain a poor payroll practice.  With minimum wages going up and other regulations coming to many States, 2017 is a good year to get on board the right train.  HR Mobile Services, Inc. is there to help you do it, but you have to follow the program to make it successful.

Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!!!

GOV. BROWN SIGNS INDOOR HEAT ILLNESS MANDATE

Yes, you read that correctly.  The State of California feels that people working in-doors deserve the same protections from Heat Illness training as outdoor workers.  Now, on some levels this makes sense.  For instance, a worker in a factory could be exposed to severe heat conditions. Other similar places could be electrical generation areas, greenhouses, building construction, attic insulation installers, electricians, plumbers, etc.  So, this could have some practical applications in the workplace.

That being said, it is a very poorly written bill, SB 1167 (Mendoza; D-Artesia) , which gives almost no direction as to the definition of an “indoor occupation” that would be covered under this act.  In fact, the entire project is left almost completely to Cal\OSHA to write and implement this program.  They have to begin the rule making process in 2017 to submit a proposed rule to the Cal/OSHA Standards Board by January 1, 2019.

This is a stakeholder driven process, so it is very important that your industry is part of the conversation.  If you have an advocacy group, get them involved early to state your position before the rules are written.  It is almost impossible to fight or have them re-written later.

 

GOVERNOR BROWN SIGNS BILL SETTING UP RETIREMENT FUND FOR LOW WAGE WORKERS

 

Before anyone panics, let me say up front that employers do not have to fund any of this with their own money, you just have to set this up in your payroll so that a percentage of an employees check goes to a State run retirement programSo now let me tell you what we know:

Gov. Jerry Brown is scheduled to sign legislation Thursday to automatically enroll nearly 7 million people in a retirement savings account, an attempt to address growing fears that many workers will be financially unprepared to retire.

The legislation creates a state-run retirement program for workers who don’t have an employer-sponsored plan, many of them working in lower-wage positions. It requires employers to automatically enroll their workers and deduct money from each paycheck, though workers can opt out or set their own savings rate. The account could also be carried from job to job.  It is suggested that originally 5% would be deducted and it would go up by 1% per year until it settles at 10%.  I do not know many workers, especially low income people that can afford 10% of their income being taken away for this program.

Supporters of the concept hope that requiring workers to affirmatively opt out will make them less likely to do so, but it is up to employers to make sure all employees will be aware of this program and that they can opt-out.  Experience from the health insurance program is that most employees will opt-out if it involves their own money.

This bill is known as SB1234 by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles.  It will be called SECURE CHOICE.  You may thank him directly if you are so disposed or let him know what you think of his idea at   https://sd24.senate.ca.gov/contact/email

Below are some key points.  This program will not open until the 9 member panel charged with oversight of the program is installed, so this may not start for a year or two.

KEY FEATURES OF THE CALIFORNIA SECURE CHOICE RETIREMENT SAVINGS PROGRAM:

Governing and Oversight Board

The California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Investment Board (https://www.treasurer.ca.gov/scib/) is modeled after ScholarShare, California’s 529 College Savings Plan. The Board is comprised of nine members: the State Treasurer (Chair), State Controller, Director of the Department of Finance, a retirement savings and investment expert appointed by the Senate Rules Committee, an employee representative appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, a small business representative appointed by the Governor, and three additional public members appointed by the Governor. Page 3 of 4

The Board is charged with the administration of the Secure Choice Program, and to date has overseen the completion of the legal analysis and the mandated market analysis and feasibility study. In moving forward with the full implementation of the program, the Board will be the ongoing administrator for the hiring of private firms to manage the investment portfolio and the individual retirement savings accounts.

Disclosures for Employees and Employer Liability Protections

Employees offered the opportunity to participate in the Secure Choice Program will receive a program information packet with a disclosure form that includes the benefits and risks of making retirement contributions, the mechanics of how to participate in or opt out of the program, the process for the withdrawal of retirement savings, and how to obtain additional information about the program.

The disclosure form will clearly inform employees that employers are not liable for their decisions whether to participate in or opt out of the program, or for employee investment decisions, and state that their employer is not a fiduciary of the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust or program, the employer does not bear responsibility for how the program is administered, and the employer is not liable with regard to investment returns and benefits paid to program participants.

In addition, the disclosure form will notify employees that the program is not an employer-sponsored retirement plan, their employers are not in a position to provide financial advice, and that they should contact financial advisors if they want to seek financial advice.

To notify employees that the state is not liable for the retirement savings benefit, the disclosure form will also specify that the Secure Choice program fund is not guaranteed by the State of California.

Employees that choose to participate in the program will be required to acknowledge that they have received and read all of the disclosures.

Employee Participation in the Secure Choice Program

When the Secure Choice Board officially opens the program for enrollment, only employers that do not offer their own employer-sponsored retirement plan (such as a 401(k), SEP, or SIMPLE plan) or automatic enrollment payroll deduction IRA will have to perform the ministerial duty of supplying the information packet and disclosure form, and allow their employees to remit contributions through payroll deduction.

Employees will be automatically enrolled, and employee participation will be phased-in over a three year timeframe, starting with the largest employers:

 Employers with 100+ employees: allow employee participation within 12 months of the Board opening the program for enrollment;

 Employers with 50+ employees: within 24 months;

 All other eligible employers: within 36 months.

Participation by employees will be completely voluntarily, and employees will retain the ability to opt out at any time.

The default employee contribution rate will be set at 3%, with Board authority to adjust the amount between 2-5%. Through regulation, the Board could also establish an auto-escalation contribution rate, capped at 8% of salary with a limitation on increasing the rate no more than 1% annually. Employees will be able to specify their level of contribution if they do not want to contribute the default rate, and could also opt out of auto-escalation at any time. Page 4 of 4

Employees that already have access to a workplace retirement plan could also voluntarily participate in the Secure Choice Program. However, their employer will not be obligated to allow them to use their payroll system to make automatic payroll contributions to the program.

Role of Employers

Employers that opt to make the Secure Choice Program available to their employees will not bear any fiduciary responsibility and will not be required to pay administrative fees or comply with federal quarterly-reporting mandates. The administrative function of employers will be limited to providing employees with the program information packet and disclosure form, and allowing their employees access to their payroll system to make payroll deductions to the program.

Due to current federal prohibitions, voluntary employer contributions to employees’ individual retirement accounts will only be permitted if there is a future change in federal law and employer contributions would not cause the Secure Choice Program to be treated as an employee benefit plan under ERISA.

WE WILL WRITE MORE ON THIS TOPIC WHEN THERE IS MORE INFORMATION AND WE ARE NEARER TO IMPLEMENTATION.

MORE EFFECTS FROM THE CHANGE TO AGRICULTURAL WORK HOURS

With the coming change, beginning in 2019, to lower the hours worked in agriculture from 10 to 8 per day, there are also other changes to consider.  First, right now, we encourage our employers to give their employees 30 hours of sick pay per year.  As the hours drop after 2019, the hours of sick pay should also drop until they reach 8 hours x 3 days or 24 hours.  So employees will lose 6 hours of sick pay over time.  Again, you cannot make that change now, but understand it will be a change in a few years.

Second and more important, vacation hours will change.  In the past, it was not really correct to say you get “one week” of vacation because that does not define an exact number of hours offered.  So, we changed your employee packets to say 1 week (60 hours).  Now, we need to start changing that again and we need to do it soon.  Many customers also offer 2 weeks of vacation (120 hours) after anywhere from 2-5 years later.  So, an employee hired in 2017 may be seeing his hours reduced by as much as 20 hours in a week by the time they get that 2 week vacation.  For that reason, we are proposing a change to employee vacation policy that states the employee will earn the equivalent of one week of vacation based on the consistent average of the work weeks from the previous year.  In other words, if an employee works around 40 hours a week, they will get a 40 hour vacation.  If they average 45 hours a week, it will be 45 hours of vacation.  It does not have to be an exact average, but based on the common hours worked weekly.  The same will stand for the 2 week vacation.

If you are an HR Mobile Services, Inc. full-service customer, we will be working to change these policies over the next year.  We see the employee packet as a living document and we make changes large and small about 3 times a year for our customers.  If you have an employee handbook from an attorney, it may not be as up-to-date as Federal Law and State laws change constantly.

Don’t Touch That Cellphone!!

Californians!  Because our state government feels it must protect everything you do, the governor has signed AB 1785 written by (and you are going to love the name…) Assemblyman Bill Quirk.  It is known as the “Distracted Driving” update.  Originally passed a few years back, the old law said you should not text while driving and it attached a fine if you are caught.  This makes sense, because we have all driven behind some numbskull who is not paying attention to the traffic and playing with their phone.

So, now we have an update to that law and you should bring this to the attention of every employee you have that uses a company vehicle or drives on company business.  Basically, the new law says that if you touch your phone or other electrical device FOR ANY REASON while driving, it is a violation and subject to a ticket and fine.  Specifically, you can mount a phone or GPS device on the windshield and you are allowed to do a “one-swipe” gesture which allows for the use of GPS but does not allow texting or other items.

These changes were proposed to meet the 2014 appeals court decision to move the emphasis from the action (calling or texting) to the devices.

We are not posting this to cause a discussion on whether a change like this will eliminate accidents, but we feel a technological change would be better.  They  have software that can disable cellphone use while driving, but refuse to implement it.  So, please inform your employees so that they and you are not subject to fines or tickets.