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Q&A: When an Exempt Employee’s Salary May Be Reduced


I have an exempt employee who only worked one day this week, but claims he needs to be paid for the whole week. Is that right?

Answer: Margaret, PHR, SHRM-CP, one of our HR Pros says…

Quite possibly. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), most exempt employees need to be paid their regular salary each pay period, regardless of the number of hours they put in. However, there are some circumstances in which an exempt employee’s salary may be reduced. Under the FLSA, deductions from exempt employee pay are generally permissible in the following situations:

  • For any workweek in which they perform absolutely no work
  • In the first or last week of employment, if they don’t work the full week
  • For absences of one or more full days for personal reasons other than sickness or disability
  • For absences of one or more full days due to sickness or disability if the deduction is made in accordance with a bona fide sick leave plan (to be bona fide the plan must provide at least five days of paid leave)
  • To offset amounts an employee receives as jury or witness fees, or for military pay
  • For penalties imposed in good faith for infractions of safety rules of major significance
  • For unpaid disciplinary suspensions of one or more full days imposed in good faith for workplace conduct rule infractions
  • When they take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act
    Unless any of the exceptions above apply, your employee should be paid his usual salary, even though he only worked one day during the week. However, if he has a vacation or paid time off bank you can certainly reduce the number of hours he has available for future use by the number of hours he missed during this week (assuming, of course, that this is a standard policy and practice).

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Margaret holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Portland State University and a Professional Certificate in Human Resources Management. She has worked in a variety of HR roles in a multi-state capacity. Margaret regularly attends seminars and other continuing education courses to stay current with new developments and changes that affect the workplace and is active in local and national Human Resources organizations.

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