Fall 2016 Newsletters

Negativity in the Workplace – Part I – Why So Prevalent?

Posted on: September 28th, 2016 by Katrina Murphy No Comments

By Cami McLaren

This will be a 3-part series on the topic of negativity in the workplace – seeing it for what it is; deciding what to do; and a case study.

Part I – Why it is Contagious

When I teach classes to management, often I hear about the negativity that exists in the workplace.  This can be true no matter the company size or industry.  Law firms, banks, grocery stores – all have the same complaint:  too many complaints.

My first question is always why does it bother you?  And the answers typically include the following:

  • because it makes me feel bad too
  • a little bit of negativity brings everyone down
  • it spreads
  • it’s not fun to work here any more

From this we can see the two basic problems that arise from negativity in the workplace:  (1) it saps your energy, brings you down, makes you not want to do your job; and (2) it is contagious.

Study after study has shown in recent years that employee engagement is pretty low.  (One study states that only 30% of employees are truly engaged in their jobs.)  Our employees don’t really want to be there and don’t often see the point in their jobs.  I think a part of this is the negativity that pervades some workplaces.   But it’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it?  If I don’t like my job, I am going to come across as negative and the more negative I am the more I don’t like my job.

Why is negativity so contagious?  I think it comes back to the concept of rapport.  Rapport is something that comes naturally to human beings.  When I use “rapport” in this context, I am talking about the human desire to be with others like ourselves.  I am talking about the fact that you often are far more comfortable around people with whom you have something in common – gender, beliefs, hobbies, history.  For more in-depth treatment of the concept of rapport – specifically, consciously gaining rapport in order to win people over to your way of thinking and behaving – see other blog posts under “enrollment.”  [http://www.mclarencoaching.com/sell-without-selling-part-ii/]

Why is this rapport concept important in talking about negativity in the workplace?  People like to be in rapport.  This means that we naturally seek out others like us.  Look at your friends and notice what you have in common with them.  But it also means we become like the people we are around.  Look at your immediate family, especially your spouse, especially if you have been married for a significant amount of time.  What attitudes do you share, particularly attitudes you hold now that you may not have come into your marriage with?  Do you use similar language?  Do you have similar behaviors?  Do you (gulp) dress alike?

We become like that which we associate with.  This is the bad news and the good news.  Actually, it’s only bad news for you up to the point that you read this.  Because up until this point, you were likely unconscious of the fact that you were becoming like the people around you or maybe, that you had a choice in the matter.  The good news is now you know.  And now that you know, you can do something about it.  Not only can you choose not to get sucked in to the negativity around you, but you can also start to change things. 


Parts 2 and 3 of this article are available at:




For further information or to contact Cami McLaren you may reach her at


Certified Professional Performance Coach



When is Travel Time Paid?

Posted on: September 28th, 2016 by Katrina Murphy No Comments

By Stacey Sommerhauser, SPHR-CA, SHRM- SCP

We often receive questions from CA employers regarding when to pay non-exempt (hourly) employees for travel time.  Here’s a “quick and dirty” reference to begin to understand the complexities of this additional compensation requirement.

With the exception of travel from home to work and back, most travel time is considered work time. However, because traveling does not require the employee to employ his/her skills, pay for travel time may be at a rate of pay that is less than the employee’s normal rate of pay. The employer is permitted to pay the employee as little as the minimum wage for travel pay, subject to the following conditions:

  • Travel time is counted as work time, and thus overtime may be due for travel;
  • Travel time pay, if less than the employee’s normal earnings, is clearly outlined to all employees in advance, preferably as part of your personnel policy; and
  • You reimburse the employee for all out-of-pocket travel expenses in addition to the hourly rate of pay.

If travel time in either direction or travel time plus work time exceeds eight hours in a workday, the employee must receive travel pay at one and one-half times the regular pay rate.  This regular rate of pay overtime calculation can be tedious if the employee is paid at different rates of pay in the pay week.  You may save money paying travel at a lower rate, but the overtime calculation may cause you to rethink that strategy.

The following shows what travel time is and is not considered “work time” for non-exempt employees and if it will be paid:

Travel Time For CA Non-Exempt Employees
Travel to and from regular place of employment at beginning or end of workday Not work time — Not paid
Travel to and from alternate worksite if employee regularly works at one site Employee is paid for work time for the travel time that exceeds the usual home-to-work commute time
Travel to and from worksite at the beginning and end of the day within normal service area for employees who regularly work at different sites Not work time — Not paid
Travel back and forth to places of employment or alternative worksite when required after a day’s work, including air, auto or train time Work time — Paid
Travel to airport, train depot, etc., when in lieu of normal home-to-office commute at beginning or end of day Work time — Paid
Travel to airport, trait depot, etc., when part of workday, i.e., travel from one worksite to another Work time — Paid
Travel as part of a workday, i.e., travel from one worksite to another Work time — Paid
Travel from airport, train depot, etc., to hotel or home after arrival in/from an alternative worksite city Work time — Paid


And if you haven’t had enough – here’s more research from the desk of an HR Nerd….

Exempt employees are not paid beyond their weekly salary for travel time.

When an employee is required to travel to distant work locations, the time spent traveling is compensable.  Even in circumstances where there is some reasonable expectation that the job will require some travel, unreasonable extended travel is usually compensable.  In some circumstances you can deduct an employee’s regular commute time from total travel time (See Silvers HR Travel Time chart attached)  The Department of Labor Standards and Enforcement’s (DLSE) Opinion Letter “Travel Time Pay for Employee with Alternative Worksites” dated April 22, 2003 is a helpful reference.  Page 3 of the Opinion Letter specifically references construction worksites that are in distant locations. 

Additionally, we recently spoke with a Deputy Labor Commissioner who stated the employer will want to consider if the employee has been instructed to use a company vehicle. In those cases, all time spent traveling is compensable time and there is not credit to the employer for the regular commute.  However, if the employee has an option to drive a company vehicle or use his/her personal vehicle, commute in the regular commute area is not compensable. 

In addition, the Department of Labor Standards and Enforcement Manual offers further guidance from the DLSE as it relates to travel time:


46.2 Travel Time. If an employee is required to report to the employer’s business premises before proceeding to an off-premises work site, all of the time from the moment of reporting until the employee is released to proceed directly to his or her home is time subject to the control of the employer, and constitutes hours worked. (O.L. 1994.02.16; Morillion v. Royal Packing Co. (2000) 22 Cal.4th 575).

46.3 Extended Travel Time. The California rule requires wages to be paid for all hours the employee is engaged in travel. The state law definition of “hours worked” does not distinguish between hours worked during “normal” working hours or hours worked outside “normal” working hours, nor does it distinguish between hours worked in connection with an overnight out-of-town assignment or hours worked in connection with a one-day out-of-town assignment. These distinctions, and the treatment of some of this time as non-compensable, are purely creatures of the federal regulations, and are inconsistent with state law. (O.L. 2002.02.21).

46.3.1 Under state law, if an employer requires an employee to attend an out-of-town business meeting, training session, or any other event, the employer cannot disclaim an obligation to pay for the employee’s time in getting to and from the location of that event. Time spent driving, or as a passenger on an airplane, train, bus, taxi cab or car, or other mode of transport, in traveling to and from this out-of-town event, and time spent waiting to purchase a ticket, check baggage, or get on board, is, under such circumstances, time spent carrying out the employer’s directives, and thus, can only be characterized as time in which the employee is subject to the employer’s control. Such compelled travel time therefore constitutes compensable “hours worked.” On the other hand, time spent taking a break from travel in order to eat a meal, sleep, or engage in purely personal pursuits not connected with traveling or making necessary travel connections (such as, for example, spending an extra day in a city before the start or following the conclusion of a conference in order to sightsee), is not compensable. If the employee’s travel from his home to the airport is the same or substantially the same as the distance (and time) between his home and usual place of reporting for work, the travel time would not begin until the employee reached the airport. The employee must be paid for all hours spent between the time he arrives at the airport and the time he arrives at his hotel. No further “travel” hours are incurred after the employee reaches his hotel and is then free to choose the place where he will go. (O.L. 2002.02.21)

46.3.2 Different Pay Rate For Travel Time Permissible. The employer may establish a different pay scale for travel time (not less than minimum wage) as opposed to the regular work time rate. The employee must be informed of the different pay rate for travel before the travel beings. For purposes of determining the regular rate of pay for overtime work under the circumstances where a different rate is applied to travel time, the State of California adopts the “weighted average” method. (See Section 49.2.5 of this Manual; see also O.L. 2002.02.21).

We encourage you to contact your employment attorney or HR consultant when setting up a travel time policy.

© 2016 Silvers HR, LLC     All Rights Reserved.


HR Travel Time

Hold ‘em or Fold ‘em… Are You Ready for the New Exempt Salary Increase?

Posted on: September 28th, 2016 by Katrina Murphy No Comments

By Kim Silvers, SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP,

Should California employers put the brakes on preparing for the December 1, 2016, new exempt salary increase threshold?

You may have heard that 21 state attorneys general and governors filed a lawsuit against the Department of Labor last week claiming that the new minimum salary changes are unconstitutional. Led by Nevada’s Attorney General, Adam Laxalt, the states claim the Obama Administration has overreached its authority in an attempt to “dictate how state and local governments allocate their budgets and provide service to their citizens and constituents.”

As you’ll recall from several other articles we’ve written leading up to this big event, the recent DOL rule requires that on December 1, 2016 all public and private employers must pay at least $913 per week (or $47,476 annually) for employees classified as exempt from overtime in the executive, administrative or professional classifications. Individuals in these classifications earning less than the new minimum salary must be paid overtime. Estimates are that about 4 million U.S. employees may be affected by the new rules.

California employers must not only pay weekly overtime, but are also required to pay daily overtime for time worked beyond eight hours/day. (There are very few exceptions. Do not assume you’re exempt from this daily overtime rate.) Employers are urged to assess the impact of the new minimum for their current exempt employees and determine if they will raise the employee’s salary to the new minimum or reclassify these employees to non-exempt and begin paying an hourly wage along with overtime. (We addressed several of the options in our spring 2016 HR Wise e-zine and suggest you check it out or call your HR consultant or employment attorney for further discussion.)

In addition, the new DOL rules require an automatic ratchet (that would be a ratchet “up”) in the exempt salary minimum every three years based on an automatic indexing mechanism.

Attorney General Laxalt and the 20 other states 1 (California is not on this bandwagon) are suing the Department of Labor on the grounds that the new rule overrides congressional authority by implementing a minimum-salary threshold that omits the “white-collar exemption”; that it violates the Tenth Amendment by forcing states to pay their workforces a specific amount, indirectly controlling their budgets; and that it violates the Administrative Procedure Act by revising the salary threshold every three years.

So, should California employers delay in hopes of a stay? Burying our collective heads in the sand is not our recommendation. This could be a significant budget adjustment for many employers. Employers should continue to plan and budget for the decisions that may result from these new rules. Although the changes may not be communicated to potentially affected employees early this fall, we’ll have more to base this action on after early November. Hang in there and plan for the impact.

New Exempt Salary Increase



1  Other plaintiffs include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin, and the governors of Iowa, Maine and New Mexico.