Employers must address two important employment law issues before the end of 2019:
- Changing the exempt status of employees making a salary of less than $35,568 per year, and
- Adoption of the new W-4 form.
I’ve previously explained the new salary minimum for exempt (salaried) employees. In summary, for you to legally pay an employee on salary, that employee must perform exempt duties (such as running a division of the company, performing professional work such as a CPA, or performing non-profitable office duties requiring independent discretion and judgment, such as human resources, benefits coordinator, safety director, marketing director, and others, but not secretarial or bookkeeping) and make at least the new salary minimum per week of $684.00.
If an employee of yours does not meet both of these criteria (exempt duties + salary minimum), you must pay that employee by the hour and pay overtime if the employee works more than 40 hours in any one workweek. In other words, you must change the employee to a non-exempt status under the Fair Labor Standards Act and make that person an hourly employee.
There are a few exceptions to this new salary minimum rule: teachers, doctors, lawyers and outside salespersons are not subject to the salary minimum test. There are also some very industry-specific, narrow exceptions for taxi drivers, truck drivers, fisherman and some other strange exemptions from overtime that don’t have salary minimums. But the vast majority of workers paid on salary are affected by the requirements of the exemptions.
If you are having any difficulty deciding whether to change an employee to hourly or determining if their duties meet the tests for executive, administrative or professional jobs, please call your employment lawyer immediately to get you into compliance for the January 1, 2020 effective date on the salary minimum rule.
The other big change you as an employer should be aware of is the new W-4 form that the government released on December 5, 2019. It is supposed to be easier to use for your employees.
Here are the things you need to know about this new W-4 as you start the new year:
- You must use this new W-4 form for any employee you hire beginning on January 1, 2020 and thereafter.
- Any employee who wants to adjust his/her withholding on January 1, 2020 or after must use the new W-4 to make that adjustment.
- Current employees do not have to fill out a new W-4 if they don’t want to make any changes, but should consider filling out a new one if they faced an unexpected penalty of bill last year or will have a change in 2020 such as marital status, a new baby or a change in income.
- Employees filling out the new W-4 must complete steps 1 and 5 on the new form, but may complete steps 2, 3, and/or 4 if applicable. So if you have a new employee fill out the W-4 after New Year’s Day, just check that steps 1 and 5 are complete.
- Because it is an unfamiliar form and because it encourages people to use the IRS’s new online Tax Withholding Estimator, you should allow employees to take the new W-4 form home so they can have some time to understand and complete it.