How To Tell Workers They're Losing Their Exempt Status

By Dana Wilkie Jul 1, 2016

Telling a worker who has never had to punch a time card that she is losing her exempt status won’t be easy. But that’s what many HR professionals will soon be required to do.

Here’s some advice from experts on how to communicate the news:

Point out that employees will now be paid time-and-a-half for after-hours work. Making this clear is a good way to soften the blow to employees, says attorney Patricia A. Wise of Niehaus, Wise & Kalas Ltd. in Toledo, Ohio. At organizations that limit overtime, employees may be glad that they don’t have to put in more than 40 hours a week.

Address employees’ concerns about getting their work done. If your organization isn’t planning to pay overtime, work with employees and their managers to figure out how workers can get their jobs done in 40 hours a week. If people need to stay late one night to work on a project, they could leave early another day that week, as long as they record their hours, says Marie LaMarche, labor relations division director for CHI Franciscan Health in Tacoma, Wash.

Don’t wait until the last minute. Although the effective date for the new rule isn’t until Dec. 1, begin explaining the changes now. “Reduce the element of surprise,” advises Christine V. Walters, SHRM-SCP, an independent workplace liability consultant in Westminster, Md. “Share with [employees] not just what may happen, but why it’s happening [so] they understand it’s no reflection on their performance.”

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