Hiring and the Law —
Should You Provide Employees With Paid Sick Days?

Devora L. Lindeman, Esq., Partner at Greenwald Doherty LLP, is providing us with insight and information regarding the hiring process. Ms. Lindeman is a management-side employment lawyer and has exclusively represented managers and companies in federal and state agencies and courts with regard to their labor and employment needs for many years.

Questions addressed to Ms. Lindeman may be addressed in this column.

Hiring and the Law
By Devora L. Lindeman, Esq.*

Question:  An applicant I’m considering hiring asked how many sick days she will get, but my company does not offer paid sick days.  Are we required to do so?

Answer:  Whether a company is required to offer paid sick days depends on a number of factors—the main one being geography.  A number of locations require certain employers to provide paid sick days to their employees.  For example, the state of Connecticut requires that companies with 50 or more employees provide paid sick days.  Philadelphia has a paid sick day requirement for city workers and certain companies that do business with the city, and the city of Seattle also has a paid-sick-day city ordinance.  Although many such laws are pending around the country, few are actually being implemented because they are generally opposed by the business community.  If your business is in a location that does not require you to provide paid sick days, then you are generally not required to do so—but there is a key exception to that rule.

This has to do with the difference between employees who are eligible for overtime pay and those who are not. An earlier tip also addressed this subject.  If an employee is properly classified as being exempt from the regulations that require the provision of overtime pay for work over 40 hours in a work week, then the employee can be paid by the hour for any hours worked and pay can be withheld if the employee does not work.  If, on the other hand, the employee is what is called “exempt” from the overtime pay requirements and paid on a salary basis, federal law requires that the employer pay that employer their entire salary for every week the employee works with only limited exceptions where deductions can be made from that employee’s weekly salary.  For example, if an exempt salaried employee takes a personal day for personal reasons, and you do not provide paid personal days, one day of pay can be deducted from the exempt employee’s weekly salary.  However, if the reason the salaried employee is absent is because the employee is sick, it is not so easy.  The regulation allows employers to deduct absences for illness from the salary of an exempt employee only if (1) the employer has a sick day policy and (2) the employee either is not yet eligible for the sick days or has used up their sick day allotment.

Here’s an example of how this works:  Let’s say that your new exempt salaried employee, Chris, is entitled to 3 sick days per year, but your sick day policy says that employees can’t use sick days until they have been employed for three months.  Chris gets a stomach bug in the second month of employment and needs to stay home.  That day can be unpaid since Chris is not yet entitled to the 3 sick days.  Similarly, if Chris uses the 3 days and then needs another one in the same calendar year, that additional day does not have to be paid either.  Those sick days can be deducted from Chris’s weekly salary.

In the same scenario without a company sick day policy, if Chris takes a sick day in any week in which Chris performs work, the company cannot withhold pay for those sick days—without regard to how many sick days Chris takes in a year.  The only exception would be if Chris is out sick for an entire work week and performs no work in that week.  In that case, only, Chris would not need to be paid.

Because of this legal requirement, we generally recommend that companies offer a minimum number of sick days in a sick day policy so they are not caught in a situation of having to pay an exempt employee who is not coming to work his or her entire salary for the week.


*Ms. Lindeman is a Partner at Greenwald Doherty LLP, a law firm that exclusively represents businesses in all aspects of labor and employment law.  These columns are intended to be general information regarding the topic discussed and are not to be considered legal advice regarding a specific situation. Contact a management-side employment attorney familiar with the law of your jurisdiction for specific advice.  Ms. Lindeman is admitted to practice law in NY and NJ and may be contacted at DL@greenwaldllp.com.  She is under no obligation to respond to reader inquiries personally, but may answer general employment law questions through this column.

© 2011 Greenwald Doherty.  May not be reprinted without permission.



To see how our employee test can help you bring better people on board watch this three minute video.



If you have ever interviewed someone and later discovered a "different" person is working for you, check out our new book How To Hire The Right People.


Hiring and the Law —
Determining Who Can Get Paid On A Salary

Devora L. Lindeman, Esq., Partner at Greenwald Doherty LLP, is providing us with insight and information regarding the hiring process. Ms. Lindeman is a management-side employment lawyer and has exclusively represented managers and companies in federal and state agencies and courts with regard to their labor and employment needs for many years.

Questions addressed to Ms. Lindeman may be addressed in this column.

Hiring and the Law
By Devora L. Lindeman, Esq.*

Question:  I’m hiring a new employee and want to pay her on a salary instead of hourly.  Is that OK?

Answer:  As with many legal questions, the answer is “maybe.”  That is especially the case if what you are really asking is whether you have to pay her for every hour she works, and overtime pay if she works over 40 hours in a work week, or whether you can just pay her a salary without regard to how many hours she works.  It’s a legal question as to whether an employee is entitled to overtime pay.  An employer cannot designate every employee as “salaried” and presume that the company does not need to pay overtime pay.

The way the law works in the U.S., and the way it works generally in the states that have their own overtime pay regulations, is that employers need to pay overtime wages (time-and-one-half their regular hourly rate) to employees who work over 40 hours in a work week, when their jobs fall in certain categories.  It is not how an employee is paid that alone determines whether he or she is entitled to overtime pay.  That entitlement is also based on the employee’s duties and responsibilities.  The way the law reads is that all employees are entitled to overtime pay if they work over 40 hours in a work week—unless the employee fits into one of the listed exemptions from the overtime pay regulations based on the employees’ duties and responsibilities.  Thus, whether the exemptions apply depends on what the employees do all day.

If an employee fits into one of the exemptions, he or she is considered “exempt” from the overtime pay requirements.  In that case, the exempt employee generally can be paid a consistent salary without regard to how many hours the employee works in a work week.   If an employee does not fall into one of the exemptions to the overtime pay regulations, that employee is “non-exempt” and must be paid overtime wages if he or she works overtime hours.  A “non-exempt” employee may be paid by the hour or paid a salary, but if that employee works over 40 hours in a work week the employee is still entitled by law to overtime pay.  It is the extremely rare organization that has no “non-exempt” employees.

Generally employees that are entitled to overtime pay are receptionists, secretaries, administrative clerks, data entry folk, bookkeepers, schedulers, dental assistants, paralegals, warehouse workers, mail room employees, benefits clerks, payroll clerks, stock clerks, cashiers, wait staff, janitors, safety inspectors, messengers, drivers, computer help-desk employees and other non-managers with limited discretion, just to name a few.

There’s often an analysis of a person’s position that needs to be done to determine whether the company has sufficient arguments that the job should be classified as an exempt position.  The main recognized exemptions from overtime pay are:

  1. Executives (those who are senior managers over recognized areas of an organization who supervise two or more full-time employees or 2 full-time-equivalents) who are responsible for the supplies, production, performance, budget etc. of their area; who delegate their work, do performance reviews, etc.
  2. Professionals (with advanced degrees like lawyers, doctors, CPAs, architects, etc.)
  3. Administrative employees – people who are senior employees working on an administrative area of the business (i.e. HR, Marketing, Finance, Legal, Compliance, etc.) who have independent discretion and judgment, who can bind the company, sign checks, direct policy, etc.  There’s another exemption for computer people who are programmers, software and systems designers, and who perform more sophisticated IT tasks, and an exemption for creative professionals (writers, directors, choreographers, etc.).

The above is just a quick overview and by no means discusses all of the factors to consider.

In addition, under federal law, in order for an employee to be considered to be exempt under the executive or administrative exemption, the employee must be paid a regular salary of at least $455.00/week, which amount cannot be lessened in any workweek in which the employee performs work except for some very specific situations. (Could you give an example or two here?) For example, a company cannot deduct amounts for loss or breakage from an employee’s salary, for days the employee is off to serve on jury duty, or for partial day absences for any reason.  A company could lessen the salary if the employee took a whole personal day off, however, or took a sick day beyond the number provided in a company sick-day policy.

So the bottom line is that I cannot tell from the information you provided whether the employee in question is entitled to overtime pay.  However, you are certainly permitted to pay her a salary instead of hourly (i.e. $600.00/week without regard to whether she works 35, 37 or 40 hours in the week).  The issue becomes—what are you required to do under the law if that individual works more than 40 hours in a workweek (which, by the way, is not the same thing as over 80 hours in two weeks)?


*Ms. Lindeman is a Partner at Greenwald Doherty LLP, a law firm that exclusively represents businesses in all aspects of labor and employment law.  These columns are intended to be general information regarding the topic discussed and are not to be considered legal advice regarding a specific situation. Contact a management-side employment attorney familiar with the law of your jurisdiction for specific advice.  Ms. Lindeman is admitted to practice law in NY and NJ and may be contacted at DL@greenwaldllp.com.  She is under no obligation to respond to reader inquiries personally, but may answer general employment law questions through this column.

© 2011 Greenwald Doherty.  May not be reprinted without permission.



To see how our employee test can help you bring better people on board watch this three minute video.



If you have ever interviewed someone and later discovered a "different" person is working for you, check out our new book How To Hire The Right People.


Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep

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Sometimes we like a particular candidate so much, we want to promise them the moon. We’re worried if they don’t commit to working with us, they’ll head down the road and work for another company, possibly a competitor.

Examples of promises could be:

“You’ll have a steady progression of raises.”

“There’s no way we would fire you. As a matter of fact, we rarely fire anyone here.”

“You’ll always make more money than the industry norm for your position.”

“You’ll always have these perks.”

Are you 100% sure of any of those promises?

Your new recruit might do fantastic but if the company hits very hard times, you may not be able to keep that progression of raises intact.

You always want to keep the door open to be able to dismiss ANYONE. Even with the best pre-employment screening,  a new employee may not pan out and may need to be let go at some point up the line. Something could happen in their personal life that adversely affects their work. You may need to downsize. A number of things could happen whereby you’d need to end someone’s employ with you. Do not promise that away.

As far as always paying someone more than the industry norm, well who knows what that industry norm will be six months or two years down the road. Don’t box yourself in.

Promising the person they’ll “always have these perks” is, well, just foolish. Frankly, all of the promises above are foolish. You’ve limited your company’s ability to act with any flexibility up the line.

If you believe the person will be a tremendous asset and you want them to come aboard, there are finite offers you can make that do not restrict your ability to act later on.



To see how our employee test can help you bring better people on board watch this three minute video.



If you have ever interviewed someone and later discovered a "different" person is working for you, check out our new book How To Hire The Right People.


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