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Ask Anne: Exemptions and Excursions

Ask Anne: Exemptions and Excursions


Dear Anne, I read that the Department of Labor is changing the definition of exempt or non-exempt employees, how much they can make, and work with paying overtime. It’s scary. I cannot afford to pay most of my non-exempt people $50,000 a year. What can I do?

I would be petrified, but get prepared! I’ve read a lot of articles about this because I have several exempt employees who fall under the range DOL is proposing too.

First, let me explain. The new regulation will have exempt employees making a threshold of $47,476. Currently, an exempt employee must make at least $23,660 and is allowed to work overtime without being paid extra for the hours. A non-exempt employee is paid hourly and is paid 1.5 times more for any overtime accrued during their pay period.

It is probable that very soon anyone making under the DOL’s proposed threshold of $47,476 per year (salary) will be eligible for overtime pay if they work over 40 hours per week. Most employers know they cannot afford to pay this, but employers do want to pay their people a fair wage and don’t want them to abandon their jobs if they move to hourly status. There are a couple of things I suggest doing now.


First, track the hours of your staff members who make less than the proposed threshold. Make sure to track the hours they work in the office, at community functions, and at home. Remember, any time they open their computer or write a text or an email at home, they are on your clock. After you have determined how many hours in a pay period they are working, consider what their current hourly rate would be if you paid for all their working time on an hourly basis.


More petrified? I’m sure you are. Many employers are taking a look at what they are getting for free. Sit down to list the pros and cons of the work each employee provides and decide whether to pay the overtime or to not allow the non-exempt employee to work any unauthorized overtime. Another alternative is to offer flex hours. When an employee needs to work after regular hours, let them come in late that day.

Our team members range in age from 19 to 67.  I am at wits’ end trying to figure out some ideas to bring the group together for team building. Do you have any ideas all would enjoy?

The short answer is no, but read on. Often, staff members attend team building activities begrudgingly. When they return to the office, they wonder and ask, “Why did we go to that and waste a half-day?” What I have seen is managers who plan an activity with no real thought or goal in mind. They do them because they have heard that activities bond the group or “refresh” the team. No wonder the team goes back to work scratching their heads and wondering, “Why did they waste my time?” With no goal, the activity is generally a waste of time  – and managers risk losing the team’s respect when they plan an exercise or activity that doesn’t actually help.

Team building activities can be a great way to unite a group when done strategically with a purpose in mind. Your purpose might be to bring out the creative side of the team, or to learn to work together better. Whatever the goal, there is an activity for it.

Of course, if your team is a cohesive, bonded group who works well together, are creative, and enjoy having lunch together, they might just want to have more “work family” fun, and that’s great too. Most of the ideas below will work for that.

Team Building Ideas for a Widespread Age Range of Employees:

  • Laser Tag: Some people might not run fast . . . and some will aim better than you.
  • Cook-Offs: Pick teams from a hat — some people cook, others clean.
  • Escape Rooms: Hope I don’t get locked in! It teaches patience and uses logic, leadership, and teamwork.
  • Game Day at the Office: Almost everyone has a game. I love Jenga, Monopoly, and Life. Others love poker.
  • Local Things to Do: Go painting, help Habitat for Humanity, do a scavenger hunt, have an ice cream social at the office, visit a museum, go bowling, have a fundraiser, go to a fundraiser, play softball in the parking lot, have fishing day, or start “teach me day,” where the employees teach one another about their hobbies.

I could go on and on, but I believe the secret is not the activity. I have found that the most successful activities are the ones the team plans. Pick a team, give them a budget and a goal, and let them go!

Anne Williams is not an attorney. All content in this column is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality and is not to be construed as legal advice.

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