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Employers May Deduct From Employee Leave Time To Account for An Employee's Reduced Hours, If Written Employment Policies Authorize Such Deductions

In the COVID-19 emergency, many salaried employees (whom employers have not laid off altogether) face reductions in their weekly scheduled hours. Some employers may seek to take deductions from such employees’ leave time (including vacation or sick time) in order to account for the fact that the employees are not working full-time. Such deductions are potentially permissible, if authorized by a written employment policy.

RSA 275:43-b, I, provides that, “A salaried employee shall receive full salary for any pay period in which such employee performs any work without regard to the number of days or hours worked,” subject to certain exceptions that do not apply in the case of reductions in scheduled hours attributable to the COVID-19 emergency.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has held, however, that an employer may reduce an employee’s leave time for hours the employee is out of the office during the employee’s regularly scheduled hours, if the employer does so pursuant to its published policies. Grimard v. Rockingham County Dep’t of Corrections, 161 N.H. 69, 72 (2010). In Grimard, the county employee was subject to an employment policy under which he accrued eighteen (18) hours of earned time each month. Yet, the employer’s policy also provided that “when [an] employee leaves his office during his regularly scheduled hours, his accrued time credit is deducted accordingly.” “For example,” the Court explained, “if the [employee] leaves the office for a doctor’s appointment and is absent for two hours, his earned time is reduced by two hours.”

The Court rejected the employee’s argument that the employer violated RSA 275:43-b, I, by taking deductions from the employee’s earned time in accordance with its published policies. The employee received his full salary, the Court noted, such that “there was no violation of RSA 275:43-b, I.” The Court’s determination that the employer had acted appropriately in reducing the employee’s leave time hinged on the finding, however, that the employer had done so “in a manner consistent with the employer’s plan or policy.”

If you have a question about employee rights, you should contact an experienced employee rights attorney such as Benjamin T. King, Esquire, at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey. Attorney King’s peers have ranked him in the top 5% of attorneys in New England in representing employees in employee rights litigation, continuously since 2014. Attorney King can be reached at 1-800-240-1988 or fill out our online contact form.

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