Friday, April 10, 2015

Employment Law Basics for Employers: Calculating Overtime Pay

When an employee does not meet any exemption from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), an employer must identify the number of hours of overtime worked in any given week.  But this determination involves a very convoluted process.

Calculating Hours Worked in a Given Week – a non-exempt employee is entitled to overtime pay for any “working time” above 40 hours in a given work week. The beginning and end of the work week is set by the employer and generally should not vary from week to week.  For example, you may define a “work week” as Sunday through Saturday, Monday through Sunday, or any other combination of seven days that makes business sense in your industry. 

In calculating working time, an employer is generally not required to include:

  •        Waiting or “on call” time unless the employee is unable to use such time for his or her own purposes.  If employees are expected to be “on call,” you should consider a written policy or agreement detailing the way such time must be recorded/reported and how you will determine whether that time is compensable.

  •         Meal breaks that are at least 30 minutes long, provided the employee is completely relieved of duties during their break. However, rest or “coffee” breaks of 20 minutes or less are usually considered as part of the employee’s working time.

  •         Paid or Unpaid Holidays unless the employee was actually working.

  •         Paid or Unpaid Time Off (such as sick leave, vacations, furloughs or suspensions).

  •         Normal travel time spent commuting from the employee’s residence to their designated workplace.

  •      Travel time spent as a passenger outside normal working hours, even if that travel is required to attend a business conference or sales meeting, unless that employee serves as the driver for other employees or the employer has a written agreement concerning compensable travel time.

However, each of the foregoing scenarios are subject to change based on specific facts and circumstances.  When in doubt, you should contact an attorney or human resources professional, as well as consult the US Department of Labor’s website for specific regulations and guidance.

Friday, March 20, 2015

OSHA Compliance Saves Employer’s Money!

A new study conducted by business school economists and published in Science magazine came up with some surprisingly good news for even small and mid-sized employers – engaging in randomized OSHA inspections not only reduced workplace injury claims, it saved the employers an average of 26% on workers’ compensation costs (or $355,000 on average). 

The study looked at over 800 companies in the state of California and found “no evidence that these improvements [to employee health and safety] came at the expense of employment, sales, credit ratings, or firm survival.”

A link to the study itself:

By: Cynthia W. Veidt (

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How Should a Texas Employer Handle a Wage Withholding Order/Notice?

You’ve just received a document entitled “Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support,” or some similar title, related to one of your employees.  Now what?

First, do not ignore this document! A Texas employer who knowingly fails to withhold court-ordered child support may be subject to a $200 fine for each pay period during which it failed to withhold income and remit child support to the appropriate agency. You are required to begin deducting for child support during the first pay period following your receipt of this Order/Notice.

Under Section 158.206 of the Texas Family Code, you are NOT LIABLE to your employee if you comply with the Order/Notice. In fact, you could be liable to your employee for the amounts you failed to withhold if you do not comply with the order. So put this document on the top of your “to do” list.

Next, read the Order/Notice carefully. In Texas, almost every child support payment must be made through the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, Child Support Division’s State Disbursement Unit (“SDU”). You may, on occasion, be ordered to remit payment to another government agency. It is extremely unlikely that you will be ordered to make child support payments directly to an individual or his/her attorney. Follow the directions concerning the amount to be withheld, the place to remit payment, and the information to be provided. If you employ more than 50 persons, you may be required to remit payment by electronic funds transfer.

Next, check your payroll records. In Texas, you cannot withhold more than 50% of your employee’s “disposable earnings” – which means the part that remains after mandatory deductions for social security, medicare, federal income taxes, union dues, nondiscretionary retirement contributions, and medical/hospitalization/disability insurance coverage for the employee and the employee’s children. If the Order/Notice is close to or exceeds that amount, seek guidance from your friendly neighborhood employment law attorney or another Human Resources professional.

As an employer, you can also deduct a $10 per month processing fee, in addition to the amount to be withheld as child support.

Withholding orders for child support have priority over any other garnishments, attachments, writs of execution or other judgments affecting the employee’s disposable earnings. If you have received multiple orders related to an employee’s wages, seek guidance.

Special rules also apply for withholding from an employee’s workers’ compensation benefits, severance pay, and any lump-sum payments (such as bonuses or payment in lieu of accrued leave). In these situations, you should also seek further guidance.

By:  Cynthia W. Veidt,

Monday, April 28, 2014


We all love our pets, but what happens when you find a dog and then keep it as your own and another owner shows up?  What about a cat that was a gift from a significant other or spouse that later becomes an ex-significant other?  Who gets the pet?  How does the law treat pets in those circumstances?
 Pets – all animals owned by humans, in fact – are considered personal property or “chattel” as it is legally described.  Ownership is established the same as any personal property – by title, by ownership mark, or by a showing of ownership.  So what would be evidence of ownership?  A microchip and registration in your name, a tattoo, a particularly specific “ear notch”, a registered brand, or a registration that lists you as an owner and specifically identifies the animal by any of the proceeding.

 But what if both you and the “ex” are on the documentation of registration or ownership?  Unless you have a document or witnessed agreement to give you ownership, you each own ½.  What if you have paid for care and medical costs that exceed the value of the animal?  You might have an argument to receive either ½ of those costs or the other half of the animal as compensation, but to get there, you would have to go to court….

 The bottom line is, identify your animals with something permanent and specific such as a microchip and/or a tattoo.  If you own the animal with someone else, and they give up their ownership, document it with a signed document and have the registration of the animal changed to reflect the sole ownership.

 Otherwise, you might end up in court.

Blog By: Maura Phelan, Attorney