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Can we dock her PTO for taking a long lunch?

Question: We have an exempt employee who has been taking a lot of long lunches and my boss wants to deduct time from her paid time off (PTO) bank. Can we dock her PTO for taking a long lunch?

Answer from Kelley, PHR: You can deduct hours from this exempt employee’s PTO bank for time she was scheduled to work but didn’t work, but if it wasn’t made clear that you expected her to follow a set schedule, you’d only want to do this going forward. However, we’d suggest considering a different approach

First, speak to her about the long lunches. It’s possible she simply misunderstands how long her lunch breaks are supposed to be and is taking what she believes to be the correct amount of time. Ensure she understands what the consequences will be if she continues to take long lunch breaks. This discussion alone might solve the problem.

Second, if the long lunch breaks persist, follow your standard disciplinary process. While PTO deductions are an option, they may not actually discourage the behavior you want to stop. If the employee is willing to use PTO to take long lunches, she may just continue taking them. Additionally, as this employee’s position is classified as exempt, if her PTO bank is exhausted, a deduction from her salary for missed time would not be permissible.

This Q&A does not constitute legal advice and does not address state or local law.

Kelley has experience in human resources focused in Payroll and Benefits Administration and Employee Relations for small businesses. She graduated from Columbia Southern University with a Bachelor of Science in Business and Human Resources. In her free time, Kelley enjoys physical fitness, traveling to new places and spending time outdoors in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains with family.

Legal Disclaimer: On-Time Payroll is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this post should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. OTP cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.


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