Due to the coronavirus global pandemic, the entire state of California has been under emergency shelter-in-place orders. All non-essential businesses are temporarily shuttered with all employees ordered to work from home, if possible.

These orders, caused by an unprecedented global pandemic, leave many wondering about their rights regarding wage and hour laws with their employer. Wage and hour laws in the time of coronavirus may depend on your classification as an exempt or non-exempt employee. 

Exempt v. Non-Exempt Employees 

The Fair Labor Standards Act defines exempt employees as those that are ineligible for overtime pay. It is at the employer’s discretion whether to pay an exempt employee for overtime. Further, an exempt employee is paid a salary and typically performs administrative, executive, or other professional duties. 

Non-exempt employees are paid hourly and are eligible to earn overtime for hours worked beyond the 40-hour workweek. Employers are required to pay non-exempt employees their hourly wage plus one-half for each hour of overtime worked. 

Employee Classification and Coronavirus 

Exempt employees receive a full salary for any work performed in a workweek. If an exempt employee misses work during the workweek due to coronavirus, the employer may deduct from their salary for those days missed. These deductions may occur from the following: 

  • Workdays missed not due to illness or disability; 
  • Workdays missed due to illness or disability subject to the employer’s sick day policy; 
  • Workdays missed qualifying as unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. 

An exempt employee who performs no work at all during the week may have their salary reduced by their employer. An employer may not deduct from an employee’s salary in the following situations: 

  • An employee misses work due to illness or disability, and the employer has no sick leave policy in place; or 
  • An employee misses work based on employer closure of the workplace, such as many non-essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • With a sick leave policy in place, employers may require employees to exhaust their paid time off or vacation pay during any required closure due to the pandemic.  

For non-exempt employees, the Fair Labor Standards Act is clear: if non-exempt employees have not worked, no obligation exists to pay them any wages.  

Working From Home

If an exempt employee works any hours during the workweek, even if working from home, they will be paid for the entire week. Similarly, in the time of coronavirus and workplace closures, if a non-exempt employee is required to perform work at home, they must be paid for hours worked. 

The Fair Labor Standards Act does not prevent employers from implementing any policy permitting employees to work from home. Employers are still required to maintain accurate records of hours worked by all employees.

Additionally, if an employee is required to provide the tools and equipment necessary to satisfy the requirements of telecommuting, the cost of providing that equipment may not be deducted by the employer.

Have Your Rights Been Violated Due to COVID?

Our Workplace Rights attorneys are here to advocate for you. By offering our clients sophisticated and personalized representation, we fulfill our mission of helping California workers fight back against manipulative employers.

Just because we live in unprecedented times doesn’t mean that your rights change. If you think that your employer is violating your rights, contact us today. During a free consultation, we’ll discuss your situation and the viability of a case.


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