Posted on November 7, 2016

Ask HR: My employee is having difficulty handling the transition from exempt to non-exempt status. Can I discipline the individual?

With new overtime regulations set to take effect on December 1, 2016, employers have been forced to evaluate their affected employees' status to stay compliant.Reclassifying employees has been a hot-button topic for the pros at HR Support Center. Read below for how they recommend responding to an employee who struggles with the transition.

Question:

One of our employees who is moving from exempt to non-exempt is taking the change in classification personally. Even after a company-wide meeting with those affected where everything was clearly explained, this employee insisted on having one-on-one follow up meetings with five different managers. We would like to write him up due to the excessive amount of time he has taken from his work and the work of the managers. Do you have any suggestions for the best way to handle this?

Answer:

I’m sorry this employee is not taking the change well. We anticipated that some employees would be resistant to reclassification and require more convincing that everything will be okay.

I recommend against disciplining the employee for his behavior thus far. The managers granted all the meetings that the employee requested. Retroactively punishing him for these agreed-to meetings would send a mixed message and be perceived as grossly unfair.

Assuming the employee has had all of his questions answered clearly, in a way that he should be able to understand, I suggest telling him that the topic is now closed for discussion and additional working time should not be spent on it. This conversation (or e-mail) should not come across as discipline or even a warning to the employee, but you should document it in case the situation escalates further.

The employee's classification is squarely within his "terms and conditions of employment," and discussing those terms and conditions is the right of all employees protected by the National Labor Relations Act. As a result, you can't stop him from—or punish him for—talking about this issue during lunches, breaks, or outside of work. That said, you can deny requests for any additional meetings and require that he stay on task during his regular working hours.

This content came from a team of HR professionals at HR Support Center. Organizations like yours can pay a yearly fee for HR Support Center and receive awesome subscription perks like these:
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If your organization is experiencing challenging conversations with your affected employees, we're here to help. Download our Essential Employer Conversation Guide to help make the discussion easier.

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