Can Exempt Employees Work While on Vacation?

by Shannon Webster; Updated September 26, 2017
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Many of us have had a boss who asked us to do some urgent task even though we were on vacation. Just answering a call about a work matter while you're on vacation can be considered working, and you might be entitled to compensation for your effort under the Fair Standards Labor Act, or FSLA.

Exempt Employees

By definition, an exempt employee is one who is not covered by all of the FSLA protections. To be an exempt employee, one must be a manager of at least two employees, work on the day-to-day operations of a company, be paid a salary and have the ability to hire and fire. If one does not meet all of these conditions, he is not considered an exempt employee.

The FLSA on Vacations

The FSLA states that employees on vacation are not paid regular salary or wages for those days. They are paid under vacation pay, if they are entitled to paid vacation. For unpaid vacation, the day off is given without financial compensation, and no work is to be conducted. If work is done on a paid vacation day, the FSLA has left the interpretation to human resource managers to make the determination of what constitutes reimbursable work.

Definition of Work

The FSLA doesn't define work, leaving it instead to human resource managers to determine. The industry standard among human resource managers is that if an individual performs tasks, regardless of where they're done -- such as reading and preparing emails, making business phone calls, preparing reports and presentations -- this is considered working. Technology has allowed people to perform more of these tasks away from the office and has led to situations where people are supposed to be on vacation yet are performing work at the same time.

Compensation

The FSLA does not regulate compensation for work that's done while on vacation. The human resource standard, however, is that if someone performs his job, even in a limited capacity, during a vacation day, the employee should be compensated for the day as a normal work day and be credited for the vacation day.

About the Author

Shannon Webster is a professional writer based in Hagerstown, Md. She has worked with the U.S. Air Force and several state governments since beginning her career in 2001. Webster currently serves as a writer with Decoded Science, specializing in cognitive and social sciences.

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