Ask the Expert series featuring Bent Ericksen & Associates

Feb. 5, 2010

Question: My employee manual states that working 32 hours per week is considered full-time employment and thus entitles employees to benefits such as vacation time. I revised that to 30 hours to accommodate an employee’s schedule a few years back. I now have one employee who works only 30 hours and has been receiving benefits for the past four or five years. My question is: Can I change the requirement back to 32 hours? If so, how should I handle this employee? Should I increase her hours? Should her hours stay the same and her benefits continue? Can I stop the benefits?

Answer: What constitutes full-time employment is not defined by law. It is based solely on the business necessities of the employer. Therefore, you can change the full-time designation back to 32 hours if that is your preference. You would not, however, want to set the number so high that no one qualifies as full-time. It should be attainable, just not by everyone.

As for handling this employee, you can force/allow her to keep her current schedule and, therefore, lose her benefits, or you can give her the option to increase her hours in order to keep her full-time status. If she does not add more hours, then she would be subject to the benefits, or lack thereof, available to part-time employees.

Another option is to change the designation of full-time employees to 32 for all future hires and "grandfather" the current employee in at 30 hours with full-time benefits. You should establish this agreement in writing for your records.

Question: Am I required to pay employees regular pay during their time on jury duty, and if so, do they have to serve a certain amount of time for me to pay them?

Answer: This is a state-specific and sometimes city/county-specific regulation. Many states/cities/counties do regulate that employers must pay for time spent on jury duty. You will need to check with your state/city/county to determine your jury duty pay requirements. In all cases, regardless of compensation issues, an employee cannot be discriminated or retaliated against for participating in jury duty.

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Note: The opinions expressed are based on the writer’s comprehensive background as a Human Resources professional and the policies in our Bent Ericksen & Associates products having been reviewed by legal counsel. The writer is not an attorney and the advice provided in this message should not be construed as a legal opinion. If you have legal questions after considering the advice and reading any materials referenced, it is recommended that you consult with your attorney.