How to Comply With the EEO-1’s Proposed New Hours Reporting Requirements

By Valerie Dutton Kahn

As you may have heard, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released revised EEO-1 reporting guidelines on July 13, 2016 (for an overview of the new guidance in its entirety, see EEOC Issues Revised EEO-1 Proposal).  These new guidelines apply to employers with 100 or more employees and require them to report, among other things, hours worked by exempt and non-exempt employees, subdivided by gender, race, ethnicity, job classification, and pay band.  For an example of the proposed new reporting form, click here.  Although employers and other members of the public will have until August 15, 2016 to comment on the revised proposal, it is unlikely that any further substantive revisions will be made. Currently, it appears that employers will be required to submit the new EEO-1 form on March 31, 2018, giving them approximately a year and a half to prepare their recordkeeping systems to capture the newly required data.  Therefore, employers are advised to review, and update if necessary, internal recordkeeping systems to be prepared to report hours worked, and pay data, for calendar year 2017 when filing the EEO-1 on March 31, 2018.

What Are “Hours Worked” And Why Does The EEOC Want Them?

In response to employer requests for guidance concerning the definition of “hours worked,” the EEOC has specified that, for employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), their hours should be recorded as follows:

Non-exempt Employees: The EEOC should report “hours worked” as defined by the FLSA.  “Hours worked” includes time when the employee is actually working (either at the employer’s premises or remotely).  Therefore, “hours worked” would not include meal time, vacation, PTO or other leave, even if the non-exempt employee is paid for that time off, and even though the compensation for those hours will be reflected in the W2 data provided on the EE0-1 form.

Exempt Employees. Employers have two options: (1) provide the actual hours of work of exempt employees if the employer already maintains accurate records of this information, or (2) report a proxy of 40 hours per week for full time exempt employees and 20 hours per week for part-time exempt employees, multiplied by the number of weeks the individuals were employed during the reporting year.

The EEOC provides a few reasons for requiring disclosure of hours worked. First, if the EEOC discovers a pay disparity, it intends to use this information to it assess whether a disparity is caused by the part-time or full-time status of the respective employees, rather than by gender, race, or ethnicity.  Second, the EEOC intends to use the hours worked data to assess whether employees in protected classes are subject to discrimination in terms of hours instead of pay, with an employer habitually assigning more hours and overtime to some employees while denying it to others.

Next Steps For Employers

Employers are well-served to apply the same analysis that the EEOC intends to use while doing internal audits to determine if there are statistical concerns, and the reasons behind the patterns.  The employer can then consider if actions are warranted now to remediate any issues before 2017, or, be able to explain the legitimate business reasons for any disparities if called upon to defend pay practices.

Employers should also audit time-keeping protocols and policies to be sure that non-exempt employees are accurately recording “hours worked”.  Employers should also confirm that their HRIS systems can run reports of hours worked, that do not include paid time off.  Additionally, if employers intend to report actual hours worked for exempt employees, rather than the 40 hour proxy for full time employees, then the same recommendations apply.

For assistance with an employee payroll audit or advice concerning EEO-1 forms or other federal or state fair pay act requirements, contact Valerie Kahn, Kate Gold, Lynne Anderson,  or any member of the Drinker Biddle & Reath’s Labor & Employment Group.

Seventh Circuit: Tipped Employees Can Perform Limited Non-Tipped Work At The Tip Credit Rate Of Pay

By William R. Horwitz

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a significant decision last week addressing the compensation of tipped employees who perform non-tipped work.  In Schaefer v. Walker Bros. Enterprises, 2016 WL 3874171 (7th Cir. July 15, 2016), a restaurant server in Illinois pursued a class and collective action alleging, among other things, that his employer violated state and federal wage and hour laws by failing to pay servers minimum wage for the time they spent on non-tipped duties.  The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment dismissal of the lawsuit.  The Court held that an employer may compensate a tipped employee at the reduced “tip credit rate” of pay for:  (1) limited non-tipped work incidental or related to tipped work; and (2) other negligible non-tipped work.  The decision provides helpful guidance to restaurant employers regarding the types of duties that tipped employees may perform at a reduced rate of pay.

The Facts

Robert Schaefer worked as a server at three Original Pancake House restaurants in Illinois.  Schaefer and other servers spent most of their time performing tipped work, such as “taking customers’ orders and delivering food.”  However, they also “spent some of their time doing non-tipped duties.”  In this regard, “[t]hey were required to wash and cut strawberries, mushrooms, and lemons; prepare applesauce and jams by mixing them with other ingredients; prepare jellies, salsas, and blueberry compote for use; restock bread bins and replenish dispensers of milk, whipped cream, syrup, hot chocolate, and straws; fill ice buckets; brew tea and coffee; wipe toasters and tables; wipe down burners and woodwork; and dust picture frames.”

According to Schaefer, these non-tipped tasks rotated among the servers.  Overall, servers estimated spending between 10 and 45 minutes daily on these tasks, depending on which tasks were assigned on a given day and the server’s “experience and aptitude” at performing them.  Because Schaefer and other servers were tipped employees, the restaurants paid them below the standard minimum wage.  Schaefer argued that the restaurants were required to pay the servers at least the standard minimum wage for the time they spent performing non-tipped work.

The Lawsuit

Schaefer filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, asserting claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law.  He sought to pursue the FLSA claims as a collective action and the state law claims as a class action under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  The District Court certified the lawsuit as a class action on behalf of about 500 servers and conditionally certified the collective action.  However, the District Court ultimately granted the defendants summary judgment and dismissed the lawsuit.  Schaefer appealed.

The Law

Employers must generally pay non-exempt employees at least the standard minimum wage.  However, both Illinois and federal law allow employers to pay employees who customarily receive tips a reduced minimum wage (known as the “tip credit rate”) with the expectation that tips will make up the difference.  Under Illinois law, an employer must pay tipped employees at least 60% of the regular minimum wage.  (The current tip credit rate in Illinois is $4.95 per hour.  The current tip credit rate under federal law is $2.13 per hour.)

With respect to the work that tipped employees perform, U.S. Department of Labor regulations distinguish between “dual jobs” and “related duties.”  See 29 C.F.R. §531.56.  According to the regulations, an employee who is dual-employed in a tipped occupation and a non-tipped occupation is entitled to receive the regular minimum wage when performing the non-tipped occupation but is only entitled to the reduced minimum wage – or “tip credit rate” – when performing the tipped occupation.  In contrast, an employee who performs non-tipped duties incidental to his or her tipped occupation is not deemed to have “dual jobs” and, as long as the non-tipped duties do not exceed 20% of his or her total work time, is only entitled to receive the tip credit rate.

The Department of Labor’s Field Operations Handbook states that an employer may pay the tip credit rate for time that tipped employees spend on duties related to their tipped occupation, even if that time is not spent on work that produces tips.  For example, a server who occasionally spends time washing dishes may be compensated at the reduced minimum wage, as long as that duty is incidental to the regular duties of the employee and the employee spends no more than 20% of his or her time performing that work.

The Decision

The Schaefer Court observed that the 10 to 45 minutes that servers spent on work other than serving customers amounted to between 2% and 9.4% of their time, far less than the 20% maximum permitted for non-tipped work incidental or related to tipped work.  Schaefer argued that the time he and other servers spent on work other than serving customers was not incidental or related to the tipped worked.  In support of this argument, Schaefer asserted that, at other restaurants, untipped personnel perform this work.  The Seventh Circuit rejected this argument.

According to the Seventh Circuit, “making coffee, cleaning tables,” “ensuring that hot cocoa is ready to serve and that strawberries are spread on the waffles” are generally the type of activities that both the regulations and the Department of Labor handbook deem to be related to a tipped server’s work.  The Seventh Circuit further stated that the fact that untipped employees at other restaurants perform some of these tasks does not necessarily render them unrelated to tipped work.

Nonetheless, the Seventh Circuit characterized certain duties that Schaefer and other servers performed as “problematic.”  In this regard, the Court focused on “wiping down burners and woodwork and dusting picture frames.”  The Court explained that “cleanup tasks cannot be categorically excluded” from tipped work, but acknowledged that these particular tasks “do not seem closely related to tipped duties.”  In any event, the Court quoted the U.S. Supreme Court’s assertion that the FLSA does not convert judges into “time-study professionals.”  The Seventh Circuit explained that Schaefer and other servers spent “negligible” time on these duties.  According to the Court, “the possibility that a few minutes a day were devoted to keeping the restaurant tidy does not require the restaurants to pay the normal minimum wage rather than the tip‑credit rate for those minutes.”[1]

Thus, the Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

Conclusion

Restaurant employers often face lawsuits alleging wage and hour violations, frequently involving the compensation of tipped employees.  Although potential exposure in this area is usually small on an individual employee basis, plaintiffs typically pursue these lawsuits as class and collective actions, driving potential exposure vastly higher.  The Schaefer decision demonstrates that employers can minimize their risk by limiting the non-tipped duties that tipped employees perform.


[1] Schaefer also challenged the notice that the restaurants provided to tipped employees regarding their compensation, but that challenge, which the Court rejected, offers little guidance to employers today because it focused on the law before the Department of Labor issued a May 2011 regulation clarifying the requirements.  See 29 C.F.R. §531.59(b).

EEOC Issues Revised EEO-1 Proposal

By Lynne Anderson

The EEOC published its revised proposal for the new EEO-1 report today. The revised proposal came after extensive, and polarized, comments on the EEOC’s prior proposal this Spring. The prior proposal revised the existing EEO-1 report to require disclosure of data on pay ranges and hours worked in addition to the already required reporting on workforce profiles by race, ethnicity and gender. The revised proposal released today still requires reporting of this data. The EEOC has not changed course on its plan to use the data to identify discriminatory pay practices and target companies for investigations and class action equal pay lawsuits – without having to identify an injured party plaintiff. The primary change in the revised proposal is that the first date by which employers will have to submit the new EEO-1 report has been moved from September 2017 to March 31, 2018. In addition to allowing more time for employers to prepare for the new report, the EEOC made this change to simplify reporting by allowing employers to use existing W-2 data from the 2017 calendar year for the 2018 report. The EEOC also provided options for calculating “hours worked” for exempt employees, and will not require employers to collect hours worked for exempt workers if they do not already track those hours.

The revised proposal does not provide further clarification to address employers’ concerns that the EEOC has not provided clear guidance on how the data will be analyzed. Employers also voiced legitimate concerns about the data being misinterpreted, since the summary wage data will be reported using ten broad and generic job categories that group together employees with very different job descriptions, responsibilities, qualifications, experience, etc. – all legitimate reasons for pay disparities. Also, employers should take note of EEOC Commissioner Jenny Yang’s recent public statements cautioning employers against using salary negotiations or prior salary as an explanation for gender pay gaps.

Employers and others have until April 15, 2016, to submit written comments on the revised proposal. However, it is unlikely there will be substantive revisions. Employers can expect an increase in individual and class action litigation once the EEOC starts collecting the data in the new EEO-1 report. The EEOC has repeatedly stated that enforcement of equal pay laws is an agency priority. In addition, many states have either passed, or are considering, new aggressive equal pay laws, following the lead of California’s Fair Pay Act. As a result, employers will be well-served by conducting privileged internal audits now to assess whether significant pay disparities exist. Given that the 2018 EEO-1 report will be based on 2017 pay data, employers should ideally conduct audits prior to making final compensation decisions effective in 2017. There may be legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for pay disparities, but employers must understand those reasons in order to explain them to the EEOC. In addition, proactive audits allow employers the opportunity to address unintended pay disparities for workers in substantially similar jobs before the reporting obligations become effective.