Wage and Hour Opinion Letter FLSA2005-41 (Oct. 24, 2005); see also 29 C.F.R. §§ 541.600, 541.602(a); 69 Fed. Reg. 22,122, 22,178 (Apr. 23, 2004) (“[E]mployers, without affecting their employees’ exempt status, may take deductions from accrued leave accounts.”). Therefore, it is our opinion that the employer may require exempt employees to use accrued vacation time for any absence, including one resulting from a plant shutdown, without affecting their exempt status, provided that employees receive a payment in an amount equal to their guaranteed salary. “[A]n exempt employee who has no accrued [vacation] benefits . . . or has a negative balance . . . still must receive the employee’s guaranteed salary for any absence(s) occasioned by the employer or the operating requirements of the business.” Wage and Hour Opinion Letter FLSA2005-41.
It is our opinion that salary deductions due to a reduction of hours worked for short-term business needs do not comply with § 541.602(a) because they result from “the operating requirements of the business.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.602(a). Thus, “[i]f the employee is ready, willing and able to work, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available.” Id. Deductions from the fixed salary based on short-term business needs are different from a reduction in salary corresponding to a reduction in hours in the normal scheduled work week, which is permissible if it is a bona fide reduction not designed to circumvent the salary basis requirement, and does not bring the salary below the applicable minimum salary. See Field Operations Handbook § 22b00; Wage and Hour Opinion Letter FLSA2004-5 (June 25, 2004) (“[R]ecurrent changes in the normal scheduled workweek . . . more likely would appear to be designed to circumvent the salary basis requirement.”).2 Unlike a salary reduction that reflects a reduction in the normal scheduled work week and is not designed to circumvent the salary basis requirement, deductions from salary due to day-to-day or week-to-week determinations of the operating requirements of the business are precisely the circumstances the salary basis requirement is intended to preclude. Therefore, in this instance, salary deductions due to MTO lasting less than a workweek violate the salary basis requirement and may cause the loss of exempt status.3 The employer is not, however, required to pay the salary for MTO of a full workweek. See 29 C.F.R. § 541.602(a) (“Exempt employees need not be paid for any workweek in which they perform no work.”).
Wage and Hour Opinion Letter FLSA2009-14 January 15, 2009
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