Docking Pay - Shirking Work

An employee was found to be shirking work in a non-work area by a supervisor and it can be established that the employee was there for one and one half hours. Can or should the employer reduce that employee's worked time by that amount? The employee says there was nothing to do. Can or should we go ahead and pay the employee and proceed with progressive disciplinary action or dock the employee for the unproductive time and discipline? Can is important, but should is as well.


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  • Assuming this is an hourly employee and no union contract exists, at a minimum the employee must be paid minimum wage for all hours worked. (And of course overtime for hours worked over 40 in the work week). If these guidelines are followed, pay may be docked. (NOrmally, the employee must be paid for all working hours, but breaks over 20 minutes do not have to be paid)

    But, generally, it is less risky to handle this as a disciplinary matter. If you dock the pay, the employee can challange your decision with the Department of Labor or the Texas Workforce Commission. Either can invesigate, and order the employer to pay the wages. Here, the employee has a lame excuse, but these agencies are there to help employees, and often rule in the employees' favor. If the employee challenges your decision to dock pay and wins, the employee may feel emboldened and the employee will be protected from retaliation.

    Handling the issue as a disciplinary issue will avoid any argument about whether the employee was paid for all working time.

    Good Luck!

  • Thanks for your reply. I agree with you. Also, the 1 1/2 hours pay is cheaper than the hassle of defending a wage claim. Life is full of mini-compromises.

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