Keep an eye on timecards…

The last thing you want to do as an employer is avoid thinking about wage and hour issues. You should always make sure that you have properly classified your employees as exempt or non-exempt and pay them accordingly. Knowing which classification an employee falls into will affect whether and how you pay minimum wage and overtime.

What does “classify employees” mean? Well, it’s just looking at all employees into two different ways — those few folks who are paid a salary of at least $455 a week (around $23,660 a year) and do certain duties in your office. Let’s talk about that low salary threshold first — back in 2004 when Congress changed the laws, that salary was pretty healthy in some circles of our country. Now in 2015, that “salary” is only around two dollars over Oregon’s minimum wage. So the more pressing test, for us here in Oregon, is the “duties test.”

For an employee to be truly exempt under the duties test, he or she must exercise authority to make decisions of significance and then do certain job tasks. There are three times of job tasks — executives, administrative, and professional. Executives, aka supervisors, primarily manage employees at your winery, such as the head of your tasting room. At least half this employee’s worktime must be performing management duties — at least two or more full-time employees. Most often these executive employees have hiring and firing authority. Administrative employees generally perform office or nonmanual work related to management or general business operations. Contrary to popular opinion, the head of your HR office is likely not automatically exempt, but other factors could play in. Finally, a professional employee must perform work as a teacher, highly skilled computer professionals, and learned or artistic professions. An in-house lawyer would likely be considered a professional exempt employee. (If you have a winery that wants in-house counsel, give me a call….!)

Those narrow classes of employees above are exempt from minimum wage and overtime rules, hence the phrase.

Naturally, this leads to a whole other set of non-exempt employees. You should be monitoring their timecards and properly giving overtime. If your tasting room permits tips, you cannot aggregate those tips to raise the tasting room staff’s hourly wage up to Oregon’s minimum wage. Nope, in Oregon, you have to pay at least a base of the minimum wage for those employees.

Furthermore, you must watch to ensure that all non-exempt employees in your winery are properly given overtime. All non-exempt employees get time and a half after 40 hours a workweek. But there is more! Because wineries are manufacturing establishments, there are additional overtime requirements for the non-exempt employees whose primary duty on a particular day is not manufacturing. Those employees still get the time and a half after 40 hours, but they also get overtime for every hour worked over 10 in a day — and the maximum workday is 13 hours altogether. If employees fall in that special category, you have the responsibility of calculating both the daily and the weekly overtime totals and pay the employee the higher of those two amounts.

But, as we’ll discuss on Thursday, there are additional exemptions to minimum wage and overtime laws — exempt non-exempt, as it were.

Sound confusing? Sort of. Just think of it as easier than sorting your hens and chickens! If you have questions about your own winery, feel free to email me at or call me at 503-862-8583. We can do an audit of your operations to ensure you aren’t running afoul of state and federal employment laws.