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Travel Pay, Data Security, Lines of Authority
Q: We are sending a nonexempt employee to mandatory off-site training. What hours do we pay for?
A: The quick answer is that under the Fair Labor Standards Act, you generally do not have to pay a nonexempt employee for the time he or she spends traveling from home to work. And you generally do not have to pay for the time the employee spends traveling from work back home.
You will have to pay for the time spent at the meeting, however, because the meeting is mandatory. The section of the Code of Federal Regulations that contains the rules on “hours worked” is 29 CFR 785.
There are additional factors to be aware of, however, and one is travel time. Traveling from home to work is typically not compensable time. But if the off-site training involves travel that keeps the employee away from home overnight, all the time spent traveling should be considered as time worked unless the travel is on public transportation or the employee was offered and refused travel on public transportation. Weekends and holidays that correspond to an employee’s normally scheduled work time on other days of the week must also be counted as work time. The time that cuts across the employee’s regular work hours is time that should be paid.
In other words, normal home-to-work commuting is not compensable, but overnight travel is.
Another consideration is special one-day assignments. When employees who normally work at one location are given a special one-day assignment that requires them to travel to another city and back in one day—for example, from Washington, D.C., to New York—most, if not all, of the travel time that day would be considered time worked. You would have to pay the employee for the time that you would ordinarily pay that employee on a regular workday.
The only time that can be deducted during a special one-day assignment would be meal periods and the time spent traveling between the worker’s home and the point of departure, such as an airport or a train station.
Q: What actions can a company take to try to make certain it is doing a good job of maintaining the confidentiality of employees personal data?
A: A company should take steps to ensure that it has reasonable safeguards in place to protect personal employee information from inadvertent leaks to anyone, particularly those outside the organization. Thus, it is incumbent on employers to develop policies and processes that govern the handling and sharing of personal employee information that is in their possession.
Every employer maintains records that would be of great potential value to those who would engage in identity theft, a crime that has become the country’s top consumer fraud issue and that has been elevated to felony status. Thus, given the seriousness of identity theft, employers should audit the processes that are designed to protect the confidentiality of such employee records.
Where processes are found to be deficient, new protections should be implemented and security measures undertaken to periodically evaluate the safeguarding of these records.
As part of this audit process, employers should include a review of what employee information is maintained, how it is shared with others—both internally and externally—and whether there are other nonpersonal identifiers that could be used as alternatives.
Concurrently, the audit should look at whether such employee information is really required for business operations or is merely “nice to have.” In the latter instances, employers should take every opportunity to eliminate information that is found to be unnecessary to the operating effectiveness of the organization.
As a final piece of the audit process, an organization should communicate to employees the processes that govern such information.
Employers also should remain abreast of developments in state legislatures that affect their employee recordkeeping responsibilities. A few states have enacted laws related to the protection of Social Security numbers and/or personnel files.
In addition, some states have placed restrictions on private-sector entities’ use of Social Security numbers. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) provides a review of these states in its report on testimony last year before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee.
For international employers, the European Union (EU) has enacted new data standards that include the protections of employee records.
Finally, several bills designed to safeguard employees’ financial privacy and identity have been introduced in both houses of Congress.
For links to the GAO report and the new EU data standards, as well as to a checklist of employer safeguards in combating identity theft, see this item in the online version of HR Solutions at
Q: When we review the companys organizational chart during new employee orientation, how do I explain the difference between a solid line and a dotted line on the chart?
A: Organizations often use a chart to graphically represent the flow of responsibility and authority within the organization. Lines connect managers and employees, with supervisors normally above their employees.
A solid line is used to identify a direct reporting authority and responsibility; it would be used, for example, to connect an employee with his immediate supervisor.
A dotted line in the organizational reporting structure describes a situation in which the individual at the bottom of the dotted line reports to the person at the top of the dotted line for a specified project. However, the overall supervision, management and evaluation of the employee rests with the employee’s permanent, immediate supervisor, which is reflected by a solid line.
Ruhal Dooley, SPHR, John Sweeney, GPHR, and Deb Levine, PHR, are information specialists in SHRMs Information Center.
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