Flextime can be a great way for small businesses to retain key employees, increase productivity, and boost employee morale. However, employers must take care when implementing flexible work hours because missteps could lead to liability.
Most importantly, employers should adopt a formal flextime policy. Without clear guidelines in place regarding flextime eligibility requirements and procedures, employers could be open to discrimination lawsuits based on age, sex, race, ethnicity, disability, etc. and suits for wage violations.
The policy should set out objective standards for determining whether an employee can work flexible hours, including specific positions that are and are not eligible. The policy should also outline the procedures for requesting flextime, scheduling hours, and ensuring adequate staffing levels.
The next step is to ensure that you maintain compliance with labor laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Requests for flextime are common among workers with disabilities. With respect to the ADA, it is important to remember that flextime is often a reasonable accommodation even if the employer does not have a formal flextime program.
When employees do not work traditional hours, the risk for wage and hour disputes also increases. For non-exempt (hourly) employees, it is important to have in place a time keeping system so that the company is not blind-sided by a claim where the employee claims they regularly worked in excess of 40 hour weeks and are therefore due overtime. Another suggestion to avoid a wage claim for overtime is to confirm any salaried employee is truly exempt (exempt employees are not eligible for overtime but non-exempt employees are).
Finally, it is important to monitor the flextime program to make sure it is meeting your goals. While most employees will continue to work hard outside the confines of a traditional 9-5 workday, these programs can be prone to abuse. Therefore, you may need to adopt additional flextime policies or reconsider the program altogether. While many employers find the arrangement works well, it is certainly not for everyone.
Beth Lincow Cole is committed to helping employers comply with federal and state employment law and avoid potential business-wrecking lawsuits. If your company needs guidance regarding flexible hour policies, contact employment law attorney Beth Lincow Cole today.