Cameras for Security, Keeping Hygienists on Staff, and Vacation Advances

It’s that time again! Every other week, we take the most popular submitted questions from our HR BaseCamp Facebook group and go more in-depth on the answer. Join the over 10,000 other office managers and business owners in the group here to submit your questions and participate in the discussion!

I’m putting up cameras in my office for security reasons. They’ll be located at the front door, near the front desk, and in the break room. I was planning on recording video and audio, but my office manager says that’s not allowed. Is this true?

The legal side of things: The kind of recording that is allowed is dictated by state law. It varies from state to state and some require consent from both parties that are being recorded. As you can imagine, that gets tricky when cameras are located in areas that might pick up on customer interactions.

On top of that, audio recording brings major HIPAA concerns. What happens if those recordings are accidentally shared and protected health information is revealed? We’ve had many members ask us about audio recording and our guidance is always to steer clear. The potential risks and intricate laws you need to navigate are not worth it.

Now for the human approach: We recommend taking a step back and identifying the “why” behind the recording. Is it purely for security reasons? Are you concerned about what a particular employee is saying or doing? Is there something specific you’re trying to catch on tape/audio? Your answer will determine if the camera placement and activity make sense.

Employers often think that installing recording devices will help solve an issue but actually, it can create a bigger issue that wasn’t there before. Check out the extra credit listening below for an in-depth look at the pros and cons of monitoring and what employers should consider when installing cameras.

Extra credit listening: Episode 514: The Challenge in Employee Monitoring

Keeping a hygienist has been an ongoing struggle. We hired someone new a few months ago and they’ve been great, but now they’re asking to be paid salary instead of hourly. Does this mean I should change their status from non-exempt to exempt? What happens to overtime?

The legal side of things: The number one thing that all employers should know about employee classifications is that salary ≠ exempt. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for employers to assume that because an employee is being paid on salary they should automatically be classified as exempt. This is a costly mistake! Pay is only one (very small) factor when it comes to classifying an employee.

The safest choice is to always default to a non-exempt classification, which includes tracking all hours worked and paying overtime. If an employee requests a change or you think they should actually be classified as exempt, do not make any changes until you have gone through the tests that must be met for an employee to qualify as exempt

Hygienist misclassification is a common issue we see in dental offices. Surely their training is enough to qualify under the “Professional” exemption, right? Not quite. The Department of Labor has repeatedly found that hygienists’ work does not meet this threshold, meaning a hygienist could only be exempt if they met the requirements under another category, which is unlikely.

Now for the human approach: If we were answering this question for a member, what we would really want to know is the reason behind the employee’s request. Just as employers can get confused about classifications, employees do too. It’s a complicated topic! The employee may be under the impression that being salaried means they won’t have to track hours, or that they won’t be required to work overtime.

You can pay them a salary even if they are non-exempt, so the choice is ultimately yours. But since they’re still non-exempt, the employee still needs to clock in and out and you still need to be paying overtime when it’s worked.

We recommend talking to them about why they want to make the switch and clarifying what will and won’t change before making any decisions. Of course, if salary pay isn’t something that works for your business, you’re absolutely not required to change how they’re paid.

You can read more about the ins and outs of employee classification in our Wage Compliance Guide.
An employee asked for an advance on their vacation. I’ve never had this happen before. I don’t have an issue with them taking the time off, but I’m also skeptical about providing the advance in pay. Can I deduct the time from their paycheck to guarantee that I will get the money back?

The legal side of things: First things first: check your state law. Not all states allow employers to deduct pay for vacation advances. If that’s the case, providing an advance is especially risky since you would have to count on the employee making separate payments to you or hoping that they end up working for you long enough to have “earned” the advanced paid time.

Even if your state allows deductions, it’s not as simple as advancing the time and assuming you’ll be able to get it back whenever you want. You need to get written authorization from the employee and some states have additional rules about what the authorization form has to include (i.e. a payment schedule).

CEDR members can reach out to the Solution Center for a form to use when advancing time off benefits and advisors will always double-check state law to make sure you’re complying with any rules the state has.

Now for the human approach: It’s okay for you to feel skeptical about providing an advance. The fact is that even if you have the correct paperwork and go through all the right steps, there’s still a chance the employee could separate before the time is repaid. Sure, you can go after them for the money, but that can be a taxing process.

Keep in mind that granting an advance (even once) sets a precedent. You’ll need to allow other employees in similar situations to do the same in the future. You can always set guidelines, like basing eligibility for an advance on length of employment or being in good standing, but you need to be consistent.

If an advance isn’t something your business can handle, you’re concerned it will be abused, or you don’t want to set the precedent, you can deny their request and simply offer them unpaid time off.

Feb 19, 2024

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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