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Disciplinary Suspensions – With or Without Pay?

Disciplinary Suspensions – With or Without Pay?

January 24, 2020

by Martin Pringle Employment Attorney Ashlyn Lindskog

The Big 12 Conference issued its formal reprimands in response to this week’s brawl between the Kansas and Kansas State basketball teams, handing down multiple suspensions.  College athletic conferences are not the only entities faced with making disciplinary decisions, as employers must also navigate when it may be appropriate to suspend employees for disciplinary reasons. 

When clients call with disciplinary suspension questions, the analysis traditionally begins with whether the employee in trouble is hourly-compensated or salaried.  Federal and state wage and hour laws will determine when employee suspensions must be paid, with the key component being the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) classification of the position as exempt or nonexempt.

The general rule under the FLSA is that, if a salaried employee works any part of a week, then they have to be paid for the entire week.  As a result, some employers believe that they have to either pay a salaried employee who is on suspension for disciplinary reasons, or suspend them for an entire workweek. If that is the case, then employers who want to use a disciplinary suspension with a salaried employee are essentially punishing troublemakers with paid vacations.  On the flip side, suspension for an entire week may be more discipline than the employer wants to impose.

Fortunately, there is an exception to the FLSA’s general rule about paying the entire week if the salaried employee is being suspended for disciplinary purposes related to serious misconduct.  The employer simply needs to properly document that the days off were for discipline.  For employers, the best defense is a good offense, and Employers should have a written policy for disciplinary suspensions that is applicable to all employees.  If you have any questions regarding disciplinary suspensions, please contact any one of our team of employment law attorneys.

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