WHD Issues Final Rule on Bonuses for Fluctuating Workweek Employees

Vicki Lambert's Profile

On May 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a final rule that allows employers to pay bonuses or other incentive-based pay to salaried, nonexempt employees whose hours vary from week to week. The final rule clarifies that payments in addition to the fixed salary are compatible with the use of the fluctuating workweek method under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

In the final rule, the Department:

  • Adds language to 29 CFR 778.114(a) to expressly state that employers can pay bonuses, premium payments, or other additional pay, such as commissions and hazard pay, to employees compensated using the fluctuating workweek method of compensation. (The rule also states that such supplemental payments must be included in the calculation of the regular rate unless they are excludable under FLSA sections 7(e)(1)–(8)). The rule grants employers greater flexibility to provide bonuses or other additional compensation to nonexempt employees whose hours vary from week to week, and eliminates any disincentive for employers to pay additional bonus or premium payments to such employees.

  • Addresses the divergent views expressed by the Department and courts―and even among courts―that have created legal uncertainty for employers regarding the compatibility of various types of supplemental pay with the fluctuating workweek method.

  • Adds examples to 29 CFR 778.114(b) to illustrate these principles where an employer pays an employee, in addition to a fixed salary (1) a nightshift differential and (2) a productivity bonus.

  • Revises the rule in a non-substantive way to make it easier to read, so employers will be able to better understand the fluctuating workweek method. Revised 29 CFR 778.114(a) lists each of the requirements for using the fluctuating workweek method, and duplicative text is removed from revised 29 CFR 778.114(c).

  • Changes the title of the regulation from “Fixed salary for fluctuating hours” to “Fluctuating Workweek Method of Computing Overtime.”

Example 1: Suppose an employee were paid $491 in fixed weekly salary plus an $8 per hour nightshift premium. In a week in which the employee works 50 hours, including 4 hours for which the employee receives the nightshift premium, the employee’s straight time pay is $523 ($491 salary plus $32 nightshift premium), and the regular rate is $10.46. The employer need only pay an additional $5.23, half time the regular rate, for each of the 10 overtime hours, for a total of $52.30. The payment of the $8 nightshift premium is reflected in this fluctuating workweek method computation. The fluctuating workweek method therefore correctly computes overtime pay owed under the FLSA when an employee receives a fixed salary and hours based premiums that compensate him or her for all hours worked.

 

For a complete text of the rule proposal visit the DOL website.