For this installment of the HR Base Camp Roundup we’re focusing our attention on a single question that comes up again and again in our HR Solution Center. Here’s this week’s abridged HR Q&A:
Do you have to pay employees for team meetings?
I saw that crazy story in the news about a Chik-Fil-A owner offering to pay people in chicken! So ridiculous. On a totally unrelated note, I can have my team clock out for a team meeting as long as I’m providing lunch, right?
Here’s what the DOL says about paying for time in team meetings: If it’s an entry level employee, a sandwich is fine. But if they’re more senior, they get a side of fries.
If it’s obvious to you that we’re joking, you’re on the right track.
Federal law requires that you pay non-exempt employees for all hours worked. Attending a team meeting is considered part of an employee’s job, so their time in that meeting needs to be paid. Providing lunch is a really nice thing to do, but it does not remove or reduce the obligation to pay for the employees’ time.
It makes no difference if the employee says they’d rather have catered lunch than get paid for that hour, or if you buy a really nice spread. The employees need to be paid in actual wages.
If you’re ever faced with an IRS or DOL audit, the feds aren’t going to ask for your chicken receipts. They’re going to ask for your payroll and timekeeping records. If the employee’s pay doesn’t show up there, then you didn’t pay the employee.
We see something similar happen pretty commonly when employers ask employees to be on-call over a weekend. Many employers get around the issue of figuring out how to track and pay for on-call hours by issuing a gift card as a thank-you..
Just like you can’t pay for a team meeting with food, you can’t pay for on-call work with a gift card. The gift card is a bit better as it’s giving the employee something they can monetarily use. However, it’s still a violation of federal law because the employee’s time is not being tracked. Plus, depending how the weekend goes, the employee may not be making at least minimum wage and more than likely you’re not reporting that gift card as taxable income to the employee.
Tune in to our podcast to hear Paul’s take on being paid with Bojangles chicken instead of Chik-Fil-A, as well as more examples of where we often see employers “paying in chicken” when they should be paying in dollars.