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A lawyer once explained to me that, because an exempt salaried worker may be expected to work more than 40 hrs without additional compensation, the employer can expect a worker to work around 40 hrs/wk, but cannot require specific number of hrs, as long as that person is performing a reasonable amount of work for the workweek--meaning sometimes it might be more, other times less, but overall it will probably average 40+ hrs.

The lawyer clarified that this is the tradeoff an employer makes for paying a salary rather than an hourly wage. Because if the employer can impose a minimum of 40 hours, then a salary is never advantageous over an hourly wage for a worker.

Can anyone substantiate this claim that an employer cannot require a minimum number of hours? What is the specific passage in the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) or other US or state legislation that backs it up?

If it makes any difference, this lawyer is from Iowa, but if I recall correctly, the claim may not be limited to Iowa.

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    While this is question is about employment law and could possibly be answered here, I think it would be better suited at Law. – David K Aug 9 at 18:30
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    Why can't you ask this lawyer for the specific passage? – sf02 Aug 9 at 18:31
  • @sf02 We are not really in touch any more. This question has come up a few times when people at my company have worked fewer than 40 hrs, or when they complained about being required to work extra hours for training, etc., on top of their billable client obligations. – rob Aug 9 at 18:33
  • It appears that this is a specifically legal question. We try not to answer those here. – Ben Barden Aug 9 at 18:41
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    @BenBarden Our general rule on legal questions is that they are okay if an HR professional would be able to answer the question. So asking about an employment law would probably be okay, as in this case. Asking about a specific situation ("is it legal for employer to do this?") would not. – David K Aug 9 at 19:40
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A lawyer once explained to me that, because an exempt salaried worker may be expected to work more than 40 hrs without additional compensation, the employer can expect a worker to work around 40 hrs/wk, but cannot require a minimum of 40 hrs--meaning sometimes it might be more, other times less, but overall it will probably average 40+ hrs.

The lawyer clarified that this is the tradeoff an employer makes for paying a salary rather than an hourly wage. Because if the employer can impose a minimum of 40 hours, then a salary is never advantageous over an hourly wage for a worker.

Your lawyer friend was speaking legalese.

While they may be technically true, your lawyer may have failed to mention that in an at-will state (like Iowa), your employer can fire you for any reason, or for no reason at all, with very few exceptions.

In a company that expects you to work 40 hours or more, working less could easily lead to your dismissal. If someone is expecting the FLSA to protect their ability to work however few hours they prefer, they should proceed with caution.

If someone is looking for an opportunity to work fewer hours, they should investigate the company culture thoroughly before accepting an offer. That would be far more effective.

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    While I appreciate the answer, I can assure you I'm not trying to figure out how few hours I can work, and am somewhat offended at the insinuation. I typically work 45-55 hrs, have gone for weeks at a time at 60+ hrs, and have occasionally hit 80 hrs. – rob Aug 9 at 19:51
  • Yes. If they don't like you working 30 hours they will just fire you and claim it was for any reason except how many hours you worked. Each company/industry have different cultural norms on this. – HenryM Aug 9 at 20:15
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My California-based company (with employees in multiple other states) paid exempt employees hourly. If I remember correctly, you could take unpaid leave (subject to manager approval) by simply not entering hours on your time sheet.

There was a law change. They stated they had to pay us a minimum of 40 hr/wk and you should work at least that much. If you fell below that at the end of year, you'd be having a talk with your manager and HR. They still pay us hourly.

After that change in law, they added a NO PAY option to add to your time sheet if you were taking unpaid leave so a time sheet should always have at least the minimum required hours for the pay period.

A related issue is that many employers establish minimum hours for benefits with full benefits requiring 30 to 35 hours of work.

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This is from the US department of labor: (I bolded the key sentence)

Being paid on a “salary basis” means an employee regularly receives a predetermined amount of compensation each pay period on a weekly, or less frequent, basis. The predetermined amount cannot be reduced because of variations in the quality or quantity of the employee’s work. Subject to exceptions listed below, an exempt employee must receive the full salary for any week in which the employee performs any work, regardless of the number of days or hours worked. Exempt employees do not need to be paid for any workweek in which they perform no work. If the employer makes deductions from an employee’s predetermined salary, i.e., because of the operating requirements of the business, that employee is not paid on a “salary basis.” If the employee is ready, willing and able to work, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available.

I had one job where I was salaried. We were paid monthly and were paid the same amount no matter how many workdays in the month, we had unlimited sick leave.

This isn't about working hard enough to keep your job, this is about how they have to pay you while you are employed as a salaried employee. So if you think the work is done and you only worked 30 hours, you still get your full salary. Of course if your boss is unhappy with your performance, they can fire you.

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California law requires a certain standard to be met before employees can be considered exempted salaried. If the employers deems the employees exempted the pay is rather simple... if the employee works part or all of the day the employee is paid for the entire day. If the employee doesn't work any part of the day..one would turn to the sick or paid leave section to determine if compensation is due.

Of course the attendance policy is always in play and should be considered to avoid discipline action.

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Go to the dol and read fact sheet 17A.

Theres only 7 times shen you can deduct from an exempt persons salary and then only on full day increments...any day no email, texting, phone calls fact sheet 17G

The concept is exempt employees are paid by the job not the hour.

And if you pay them less than the full their regular weekly wage that is "improper docking" which could result in you loosing the exemption for ALL employees in that job description.

If you loose the exemption youll pay all the employees as hourly with a look back period of 2-3 years.

So whats an employer to do. Write them up for not doing their job.

get a written policy requiring the use PTO by the hour.

I teach this...What city are you in? connect with me on linkedin

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