It is really unfortunate when you have to discipline a good manager for bad decisions based on good intentions. What follows are two common examples and how to address them without dampening your manager's enthusiasm for his/her employees.


Who doesn't want to be exempt? There is a certain status associated with not having to punch in and out, and many employees look at that as an achievement in and of itself.

Managers love the idea because changing an employee's classification from nonexempt to exempt makes the employee happy while eliminating overtime, reducing costs and allowing them to get more hours out of their staff. Plus, there is the nice bonus of not having the administrative hassle of managing time cards. And if the employee — who may have even asked for the status change is happy, then what is the problem anyway?

Well, the short version is as soon as that employee or any other employee in the organization raises any concerns about their FLSA status, it can open a can of worms that can be extremely costly. Misclassification is one of the most common ways employers of any size get into legal trouble.

So what do you do? In addition to seeking assistance from legal counsel, it is important to avoid the issue by ensuring job descriptions are accurate and are tested against government guidelines to determine the appropriate status. This fact sheet by the U.S. Department of Labor is a good place to start.

If it turns out there may be a misclassification, rectifying it quickly again with the assistance of counsel will help minimize potential risks. The best way to ensure any of this gets done is by educating managers on the impact of misclassification and the importance of doing it correctly. Armed with this knowledge, managers are better prepared to own the classification process in their departments.

Secret files

Good managers are often proud of their commitment to documentation, which frequently includes keeping files on their employees. Again, this is a great idea with great intentions that can cause problems for the organization.

Any and all files should be kept in one centralized place and managed by a position that keeps the files up to date and compliant and manages access as appropriate. Files that are not managed according to best practices can contain information that is inappropriate. Again, if employees ever raise concern about documentation about them that they do not have access to, it can lead to bigger legal problems.

The best thing to do is provide managers with options for capturing the information they want to in an appropriate way. Again, help them understand why separate files can expose the organization to unnecessary risk and give them the tools to manage their staff.

Next steps

Get your head out of the sand and acknowledge any practices that could be problematic, even if they are done with the best intentions. Work with your managers to understand their needs (why they are doing it in the first place) and give them the tools to address those needs appropriately.

Ensuring managers understand the risks and are involved in the solution will not only help you address the problems you know about, it will create an atmosphere that encourages them to raise other potential issues that you can then address proactively.