The DOL announces a Final Rule to help you offer perks and benefits to your employees and still pay those workers properly

Back in March, when I debated going on the lam after some completely innocent child labor wage-and-hour shenanigans, the United States Department of Labor announced that it was going to work on a new rule to clarify how companies calculate overtime for employees.

Yesterday, in a low-key announcement at which I did not cut the ribbon, the DOL announced a final rule that will allow employers to more easily offer perks and benefits to their employees.

Since that jawn is 162 pages, I’m assuming that you’d rather consult some FAQs and a Fact Sheet, available here. But, let’s crystallize it even further for you.

According to the DOL,  the new rule clarifies the current regulations to confirm that employers may exclude the following from a non-exempt employee’s regular rate of pay:

  • the cost of providing certain parking benefits, wellness programs, onsite specialist treatment, gym access and fitness classes, employee discounts on retail goods and services, certain tuition benefits (whether paid to an employee, an education provider, or a student-loan program), and adoption assistance;
  • payments for unused paid leave, including paid sick leave or paid time off;
  • payments of certain penalties required under state and local scheduling laws;
  • reimbursed expenses including cellphone plans, credentialing exam fees, organization membership dues, and travel, even if not incurred “solely” for the employer’s benefit; and clarifies that reimbursements that do not exceed the maximum travel reimbursement under the Federal Travel Regulation System or the optional IRS substantiation amounts for travel expenses are per se “reasonable payments”;
  • certain sign-on bonuses and certain longevity bonuses;
  • the cost of office coffee and snacks to employees as gifts;
  • discretionary bonuses, by clarifying that the label given a bonus does not determine whether it is discretionary and providing additional examples); and
  • contributions to benefit plans for accident, unemployment, legal services, or other events that could cause future financial hardship or expense.

The final rule also includes additional clarification about other forms of compensation, including payment for meal periods (payment of compensation for bona fide meal periods alone does not convert such time to hours worked unless an agreement or actual course of conduct establish that the parties have
treated the time as hours worked) and “call back” pay.

The Final Rule is effective on January 15, 2020.



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