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Groundhog Day for Employers: The Same Mistakes Over and Over and Over…

I still consider Groundhog Day not only a great comedy, but also a great movie.  Twenty-two years ago, the late Harold Ramis graced us with a tale about Phil Connors, a Pittsburgh TV weatherman, who finds himself repeating the same day over and over while on assignment covering Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  (Spoiler alert) Connors, played by fan-favorite Bill Murray, escapes the time loop only after figuring out that the key to freedom lies with self-improvement and acts of kindness.

As the actual Groundhog Day neared this year, I thought about this movie and how sometimes I feel like I am in it when it comes to addressing certain employment law issues.

Nowhere is this truer then when it comes to the issue of overtime.  I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself in a conversation about an employment law issue unrelated to overtime, where all of a sudden the phrase “salaried non-exempts” is causally mentioned.  This always raises a red flag for me, and I will politely interject to ask whether they pay those individuals overtime, to which they typically respond (and confidently so): “we pay them a salary, so we don’t have to pay them overtime.”  It always amazes me that even some of the most sophisticated HR departments miss this issue again and again.  No, no, no – you must pay overtime to your non-exempt employees even if they are salaried.  And so it goes…

Then, coincidentally, just before Groundhog’s Day, I received a call from Law360, which was writing an article that would essentially test employers on their employment law acumen.  They wanted to know what issues I am consistently dealing with.  Of course, the salaried non-exempt issue was the first thing that came to mind.  It served as a perfect opportunity to try and highlight this issue to a larger audience.  I would encourage you therefore, to read the resulting article “10 Tricky Questions to Test Your Employment Law Savvy,” which addresses the aforementioned salaried non-exempt overtime issue along with several other issues I highlighted: (1) required payment of overtime even where unauthorized; (2) extended leave as a potential reasonable accommodation where FMLA leave has expired; and (3) following through with discipline in the face of a disability disclosure.  These four issues, along with several other issues highlighted in the article by other esteemed employment lawyers, repeatedly trip up employers believe it or not.

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