Regular Rate Under the Fair Labor Standards Act

 
CONTENT
Federal Register, Volume 84 Issue 241 (Monday, December 16, 2019)
[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 241 (Monday, December 16, 2019)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 68736-68776]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-26447]
[[Page 68735]]
Vol. 84
Monday,
No. 241
December 16, 2019
Part III
Department of Labor
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Wage and Hour Division
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29 CFR Parts 548 and 778
Regular Rate Under the Fair Labor Standards Act; Final Rule
Federal Register / Vol. 84 , No. 241 / Monday, December 16, 2019 /
Rules and Regulations
[[Page 68736]]
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DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Wage and Hour Division
29 CFR Parts 548 and 778
RIN 1235-AA24
Regular Rate Under the Fair Labor Standards Act
AGENCY: Wage and Hour Division, Department of Labor.
ACTION: Final rule.
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SUMMARY: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA or Act) generally requires
that covered, nonexempt employees receive overtime pay of at least one
and one-half times their regular rate of pay for time worked in excess
of 40 hours per workweek. The regular rate includes all remuneration
for employment, subject to the exclusions outlined in section 7(e) of
the FLSA. In this final rule, the Department of Labor (Department)
updates a number of regulations on the calculation of overtime
compensation both to provide clarity and to better reflect the 21st-
century workplace. These changes will promote compliance with the FLSA,
provide appropriate and updated guidance in an area of evolving law and
practice, and encourage employers to provide additional and innovative
benefits to workers without fear of costly litigation.
DATES: This final rule is effective on January 15, 2020.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Amy DeBisschop, Division of
Regulations, Legislation, and Interpretation, Wage and Hour Division,
U.S. Department of Labor, Room S-3502, 200 Constitution Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20210; telephone: (202) 693-0406 (this is not a toll-
free number). Copies of this final rule may be obtained in alternative
formats (Large Print, Braille, Audio Tape or Disc), upon request, by
calling (202) 693-0675 (this is not a toll-free number). TTY/TDD
callers may dial toll-free 1-877-889-5627 to obtain information or
request materials in alternative formats.
    Questions of interpretation and/or enforcement of the agency's
regulations may be directed to the nearest WHD district office. Locate
the nearest office by calling WHD's toll-free help line at (866) 4US-
WAGE ((866) 487-9243) between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. in your local time
zone, or visit WHD's website for a nationwide listing of WHD district
and area offices at http://www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
I. Executive Summary
    The FLSA generally requires covered employers to pay nonexempt
employees overtime pay of at least one and one-half times their regular
rate for hours worked in excess of 40 per workweek. The FLSA defines
the regular rate as ``all remuneration for employment paid to, or on
behalf of, the employee''--subject to eight exclusions established in
section 7(e).\1\ Part 778 of CFR title 29 contains the regulations
addressing the calculation of the regular rate of pay for overtime
compensation under section 7 of the FLSA.
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    \1\ See 29 U.S.C. 207(e).
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    The Department promulgated the majority of part 778 of CFR title 29
more than 60 years ago, when typical compensation often consisted
predominantly of traditional wages, paid time off for holidays and
vacations, and contributions to basic medical, life insurance, and
disability benefits plans.\2\ Since that time, the workplace and the
law have evolved, but the Department has only made minor updates to
part 778 since 1950.\3\
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    \2\ See U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, An Overview of Employee
Benefits, Occupational Outlook Quarterly (U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics), Summer 2005, at 20, available at https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2005/summer/art02.pdf.
    \3\ See, e.g., 33 FR 986 (Jan. 26, 1968) (codified at 29 CFR
778.0 through 778.603); 36 FR 4699 (Mar. 11, 1971) (updating 29 CFR
778.214 to clarify that advance approval by the Department is not
required for plans providing benefits within the meaning of 29
U.S.C. 207(e)(4)); 36 FR 4981 (Mar. 16, 1971) (updating 29 CFR
778.117 to clarify commission payments that must be included in the
regular rate); 46 FR 7308 (Jan. 23, 1981) (updating 29 CFR part 778
to increase the dollar amounts used as examples in the regulations,
to respond to statutory amendments affecting other parts of the
FLSA, and to modify Sec.  778.320 to clarify that pay for nonworking
time does not automatically convert such time into hours worked); 46
FR 33515-2 (June 30, 1981) (correcting errors in the January 1981
update in 29 CFR 778.323, 778.327, 778.501, 778.601); 56 FR 61100
(Nov. 29, 1991) (updating 29 CFR 778.603 to address statutory
amendment adding section 7(q) regarding maximum-hour exemption for
employees receiving remedial education); 76 FR 18832 (Apr. 5, 2011)
(updating Sec. Sec.  778.110, 778.111, 778.113, and 778.114 to
reflect statutory changes to the minimum wage; updating Sec.
778.200 to reflect amendments made by the Worker Economic
Opportunity Act; updating Sec.  778.208 from ``seven'' to ``eight''
types of remuneration excluded when computing the regular rate).
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    First, employee compensation packages, including employer-provided
benefits and ``perks,'' have expanded significantly. The Bureau of
Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that fringe benefits comprised only 5
percent of employees' total compensation in 1950.\4\ Today, such
benefits make up approximately one-third of total compensation.\5\ Many
employers, moreover, now offer various wellness benefits or perks, such
as fitness classes, nutrition classes, weight loss programs, smoking
cessation programs, health risk assessments, vaccination clinics,
stress reduction programs, and training or coaching to help employees
meet their health goals.
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    \4\ Yung-Ping Chen, The Growth of Fringe Benefits Implications
for Social Security, Monthly Labor Review Vol. 104 No. 11, November
1981, https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1981/11/art1full.pdf (``cash
payroll as a percentage of total compensation declined steadily over
the last 30 years, falling from 95 percent in 1950, to 92.2 percent
in 1960, 89.7 percent in 1970, and 84.2 percent in 1980'').
    \5\ Bureau of Labor Statistics News Release, Employer Cost for
Employee Compensation--March 2019, June 18, 2019, (``Wages and
salaries cost employers $25.22 [per hour] while benefit costs were
$11.55.''), https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecec.pdf.
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    Both law and practice concerning more traditional benefits, such as
sick leave, have likewise evolved in the decades since the Department
first promulgated part 778. For example, instead of providing separate
paid time off for illness and vacation, many employers now combine
these and other types of leave into paid time off plans. Moreover, in
recent years, a number of state and local governments have passed laws
requiring employers to provide paid sick leave. In 2011, for example,
Connecticut became the first state to require private-sector employers
to provide paid sick leave to their employees.\6\ Today, several
states, the District of Columbia,\7\ and various cities and counties
\8\ require paid sick leave, and many other states are considering
similar requirements.
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    \6\ See 2011 Conn. Legis. Serv. P.A. 11-52 (West).
    \7\ See Ariz. Rev. Stat. secs. 23-364, 23-371 et seq.; Cal. Lab.
Code secs. 245, 2810.5; 2011 Conn. Legis. Serv. P.A. 11-52 (West);
D.C. Code sec. 32-131.01 et seq.; Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 26, sec.
636 (2019) (effective Jan. 1, 2021); Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl.
section 3-1301 et seq. (West 2019); Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, sec.
148C, 148D; Mich. Comp. Laws secs. 408.961-974; 2019 Nev. Legis.
Serv. 592 (West) (to be codified at Nev. Rev. Stat. Ch. 608 (2019)
(effective Jan. 1, 2020); N.J. Stat. Ann. sec. 34:11D-1 et seq.; Or.
Rev. Stat. sec. 653.601 et seq.; 28 R.I. Gen. Laws sec. 28-57-1 et
seq.; 21 Vt. Stat. secs. 384, 481-485, 345; Wash. Rev. Code secs.
49.46.005, 49.46.020, 49.46.090, 49.46.100.
    \8\ See, e.g., Austin, Tex., City Code ch. 4-19 (2018); Chi.,
Ill., Code ch. 1-24 (2017); Minneapolis, Minn., Admin. Code title 2,
sec. 40.10 et seq. (2016); Phila., Pa., Code ch. 9-4100 (2015);
N.Y.C., N.Y., Admin. Code sec. 20-911 (2013); Seattle, Wash., Mun.
Code ch. 14.16 (2011); Westchester County, N.Y., Laws of Westchester
County ch. 585 (2018).
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    Recently, several states and cities have also begun considering and
implementing scheduling laws. In the last 5 years, for example, New
York, San Francisco, Seattle, and other cities have enacted laws
imposing penalties on employers who change employees' schedules without
the requisite notice, and various state governments are considering and
beginning to pass
[[Page 68737]]
similar scheduling legislation.\9\ Some of these laws expressly exclude
these penalties from the regular rate under state law,\10\ but
questions remain for employers determining how these and other
penalties may affect regular rate calculations under federal law.
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    \9\ See Chi., Ill., Fair Workweek Ordinance (July 24, 2019)
(effective July 1, 2020); N.Y.C., N.Y., Admin. Code 20-1222 (2017);
Phila., Pa., Code ch. 9-4600 (2018) (effective Jan. 1, 2020);
Seattle, Wash., Mun. Code ch. 14.22.050 (2017); SB 828, 79th Leg.
Assemb., 2017 Reg. Sess. (Or. 2017); see also Emeryville, Cal., Mun.
Code 5-39.01 (2017); S.F., Cal., Police Code art. 33G (2015).
    \10\ See, e.g., Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. sec. 653.412(7)(d)
(``Regular rate of pay'' does not include ``[a]ny additional
compensation an employer is required to pay an employee under ORS
653.442 [right to rest between work shifts] or 653.455 [compensation
for work schedule changes].'').
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    The Department published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in
the Federal Register on March 29, 2019 (84 FR 11888 (Mar. 29, 2019)),
inviting comments about proposed updates to its regulations in part 778
to reflect changes in the modern workplace and to provide
clarifications that reflect the statutory language and WHD's
enforcement practices. Additionally, the Department proposed minor
clarifications and updates to part 548 of title 29, which implements
section 7(g)(3) of the FLSA. Section 7(g)(3) permits employers, under
specific circumstances, to use a basic rate to compute overtime
compensation rather than a regular rate.\11\ Comments were initially
due on or before May 28, 2019. In response to a request for an
extension of the time period for filing written comments, the
Department extended the deadline to June 12, 2019 (84 FR 21300 (May 14,
2019)). The Department received approximately 80 timely comments.
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    \11\ See 29 U.S.C. 207(g)(3).
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    After considering the comments, the Department has decided to adopt
the NPRM's proposed changes with some modifications. The final rule
clarifies when payments for forgoing unused paid leave, payments for
bona fide meal periods, reimbursements, benefit plan contributions, and
certain ancillary benefits may be excluded from the regular rate. The
final rule also revises certain sections of the existing regulation to
more closely align with the Act. Additionally, the final rule
incorporates, with modification, the proposed clarifications and
updates to part 548. The final rule incorporates numerous suggestions
from commenters, including adding examples of excludable state and
local scheduling law payments to Sec.  778.222, which addresses ``other
payments similar to call-back pay''; providing additional guidance in
the preamble about how to determine whether a bonus is discretionary or
nondiscretionary; revising language at Sec. Sec.  778.202 and 778.205
to reflect that excludable overtime premium payments may be made
pursuant to a ``written or unwritten employment contract, agreement,
understanding, handbook, policy, or practice''; and referencing state
or local minimum wage laws as well as Federal law in the regulations at
part 548 of title 29 discussing the basic rate.
    The Department's estimated economic impact of this final rule
follows below. The Department qualitatively estimates the potential
benefits associated with reduced litigation at $281 million over 10
years, or $28.1 million per year. The Department quantitatively
estimates the one-time regulatory familiarization cost of this final
rule at $30.5 million, which results in a 10-year annualized cost of
$3.6 million at a discount rate of 3 percent or $4.3 million at a
discount rate of 7 percent.
    This final rule is considered an Executive Order (E.O.) 13771
deregulatory action. Details on the estimated reduced burdens and cost
savings of this final rule can be found in the rule's economic
analysis.
II. Background
A. The FLSA and Regular Rate Regulatory History
    Congress enacted the FLSA in 1938 to remedy ``labor conditions
detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standard of living
necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being of
workers[,]'' which burdened commerce and constituted unfair methods of
competition.\12\ In relevant part, section 7(a) of the FLSA requires
employers to pay their employees overtime at one and one-half times
their ``regular rate'' of pay for time worked in excess of 40 hours per
workweek.\13\ When enacted, however, the FLSA did not define the term
``regular rate.''
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    \12\ 29 U.S.C. 202(a); see Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938,
Public Law 75-718, ch. 676, 52 Stat. 1060 (codified as amended at 29
U.S.C. 201-219).
    \13\ 29 U.S.C. 207(a). The statutory maximum in 1938 was 44
hours per workweek; in 1939, it was 42 hours per workweek; and in
1940, it was 40 hours per workweek. See Public Law 75-718, 52 Stat.
at 1063.
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    Later that year, WHD issued an interpretive bulletin addressing the
meaning of ``regular rate,'' which WHD later revised and updated in
1939, and again in 1940. The 1940 version of the bulletin stated, among
other things, that an employer did not need to include extra
compensation paid for overtime work in regular rate calculations.\14\
It also specified that the regular rate must be ``the rate at which the
employee is actually employed and paid and not . . . a fictitious rate
which the employer adopts solely for bookkeeping purposes.'' \15\
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    \14\ See Interpretive Bulletin No. 4 ] 13 (Nov. 1940).
    \15\ Id. ] 18.
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    In 1948, the Supreme Court in Bay Ridge Operating Co. v. Aaron, 334
U.S. 446, addressed whether specific types of compensation may be
excluded from the regular rate, or even credited towards an employer's
overtime payment obligations. The Court held that an overtime premium
payment, which it defined as ``[e]xtra pay for work because of previous
work for a specified number of hours in the workweek or workday whether
the hours are specified by contract or statute,'' could be excluded
from the computation of the regular rate.\16\ Permitting an ``overtime
premium to enter into the computation of the regular rate would be to
allow overtime premium on overtime premium--a pyramiding that Congress
could not have intended.'' \17\ The Court also held that ``any overtime
premium paid, even if for work during the first forty hours of the
workweek, may be credited against any obligation to pay statutory
excess compensation.'' \18\ By contrast, the Court noted, ``[w]here an
employee receives a higher wage or rate because of undesirable hours or
disagreeable work, such wage represents a shift differential or higher
wages because of the character of work done or the time at which he is
required to labor rather than an overtime premium. Such payments enter
into the determination of the regular rate of pay.'' \19\
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    \16\ 334 U.S. at 450 n.3, 465-66.
    \17\ Id. at 464.
    \18\ Id. at 464-65.
    \19\ Id. at 468-69.
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    Following the Bay Ridge decision, in 1948, the Department
promulgated 29 CFR part 778, concerning the regular rate.\20\ This
regulation codified the principles from Bay Ridge that extra payments
for hours worked in excess of a daily or weekly standard established by
contract or statute may be excluded from the regular rate and credited
toward overtime compensation due, and that extra payments for work on
Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, or at night that are made without regard
to the number of hours or days previously worked in the day or workweek
must be included in the regular rate and may not be credited toward the
overtime owed.\21\
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It noted, however, that when extra payments for work on Saturdays,
Sundays, holidays, or nights are contingent on the employee having
previously worked a specified standard number of hours or days, such
payments are true overtime premium payments that may be excluded from
the regular rate and credited toward overtime compensation due.\22\ The
Department also explained that payments ``that are not made for hours
worked, such as payments . . . for idle holidays or for occasional
absences due to vacation or illness or other similar cause'' may be
excluded from the regular rate, but could not be credited against
statutory overtime compensation due.\23\
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    \20\ See 13 FR 4534 (Aug. 6, 1948).
    \21\ See 29 CFR 778.2 (1948).
    \22\ See id.
    \23\ Id.
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    In 1949, Congress responded to the Bay Ridge decision by amending
the FLSA to identify two categories of payments that could be both
excluded from the regular rate and credited toward overtime
compensation due.\24\ The first category was extra compensation for
work on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, or the sixth or seventh day of
the workweek paid at a premium rate of one and one-half times the rate
paid for like work performed in nonovertime hours on other days. The
second category was extra compensation paid pursuant to an applicable
employment contract or collective bargaining agreement for work outside
of the hours established therein as the normal workday (not exceeding
eight hours) or workweek (not exceeding 40 hours) at a premium rate of
one and one-half times the rate paid for like work performed during the
workday or workweek.\25\
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    \24\ See Public Law 81-177, ch. 352, 63 Stat. 446 (July 20,
1949). These provisions are currently codified at 29 U.S.C.
207(e)(6)-(7).
    \25\ See id.
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    On October 26, 1949, Congress again amended the FLSA.\26\ The
amendments added, among other things, a comprehensive definition of the
term ``regular rate.'' \27\ ``Regular rate'' was defined to include
``all remuneration for employment paid to, or on behalf of, the
employee[,]'' \28\ with the exception of an exhaustive list of seven
specific categories of payments that could be excluded from the regular
rate.\29\ Those categories of excludable payments were: (1) Gifts and
payments on special occasions; (2) payments made for occasional periods
when no work is performed such as vacation or sick pay, reimbursements
for work-related expenses, and other similar payments that are not
compensation for hours of employment; (3) discretionary bonuses,
payments to profit-sharing or thrift or savings plans that meet certain
requirements, and certain talent fees; (4) contributions to a bona fide
plan for retirement, or life, accident, or health insurance; (5) extra
compensation provided by a premium rate for certain hours worked in
excess of eight in a day, 40 hours in a workweek, or the employee's
normal working hours; (6) extra compensation provided by a premium rate
for work on Saturdays, Sundays, regular days of rest, or the sixth or
seventh days of the workweek; and (7) extra compensation provided by a
premium rate pursuant to an employment contract or collective
bargaining agreement for work outside of the hours established therein
as the normal workday (not exceeding eight hours) or workweek (not
exceeding 40 hours).\30\ The October 1949 amendments also added a
provision specifying that the last three of these categories are
creditable against overtime compensation due.\31\
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    \26\ See Fair Labor Standards Amendments of 1949, Public Law 81-
393, ch. 736, 63 Stat. 910.
    \27\ Id. Sec. 7, 63 Stat. at 913-14. This provision is currently
codified at 29 U.S.C. 207(e).
    \28\ Id.
    \29\ See id. 63 Stat. at 913-14. These provisions are currently
codified at 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(1)-(7).
    \30\ See id. The excludable categories of payments in sections
7(d)(6) and (7) in the October 1949 amendments were essentially the
same as those that had been added in the July 1949 amendments as
sections 7(e)(1) and (2); the October 1949 amendments eliminated
them from section 7(e).
    \31\ See id. Public Law 81-393, 63 Stat. at 915. This provision
is currently codified at 29 U.S.C. 207(h) (payments described in
sections 7(e)(5)-(7) are creditable).
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    In 1950, the Department updated part 778 to account for the 1949
amendments to the FLSA.\32\ These regulations explained general
principles regarding overtime compensation and the regular rate,
including the principle that each workweek stands on its own for
purposes of determining the regular rate and overtime due.\33\ The
regulations also provided methods for calculating the regular rate
under different compensation systems, such as salary and piecework
compensation.\34\ They further elaborated on the seven categories of
payments that are excludable from regular rate calculations, and
provided several examples.\35\ The regulations also addressed special
problems and pay plans designed to circumvent the FLSA.\36\
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    \32\ See 15 FR 623 (Feb. 4, 1950) (codified at 29 CFR 778.0
through 778.27).
    \33\ See 29 CFR 778.2 (1950).
    \34\ See 29 CFR 778.3(b) (1950).
    \35\ See 29 CFR 778.5 through 778.8 (1950).
    \36\ See 29 CFR 778.9.17, 778.21 through 778.23 (1950).
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    In 1961 and 1966, Congress made a few minor, non-substantive
language changes and redesignated certain sections.\37\ In 1968, the
Department updated part 778, principally to clarify the statutory
references, update the amounts used to illustrate pay computations, and
reorganize the provisions in part 778.\38\ Over the next several
decades, the Department periodically made minor changes and updates to
part 778.\39\
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    \37\ In 1961, Congress made non-substantive language changes to
sections (d)(5) and (7). See Fair Labor Standards Amendments of
1961, Public Law 87-30, sec. 6, 75 Stat. 65, 70. In 1966, Congress
redesignated section 7(d) as section 7(e). See Fair Labor Standards
Amendments of 1966, Public Law 89-601, Title II, sec. 204(d)(1), 80
Stat. 830, 836. Additionally, section 7(g), which provided that
extra compensation paid pursuant to sections 7(d)(5), (6), and (7)
could be credited against overtime compensation due under section
7(a), was moved to section 7(h). See id.
    \38\ See 33 FR 986 (Jan. 26, 1968) (29 CFR 778.0 through
778.603).
    \39\ See 36 FR 4699 (Mar. 11, 1971) (updating Sec.  778.214 to
clarify that advance approval by the Department is not required for
plans providing benefits within the meaning of section 7(e)(4)); 36
FR 4981 (Mar. 16, 1971) (updating Sec.  778.117 to clarify
commission payments that must be included in the regular rate); 46
FR 7308 (Jan. 23, 1981) (updating part 778 to increase the dollar
amounts used as examples in the regulations, to respond to statutory
amendments affecting other parts of the FLSA, and to modify Sec.
778.320 to clarify that pay for nonworking time does not
automatically convert such time into hours worked); 46 FR 33515-02
(June 30, 1981) (correcting errors in the January 1981 update in
Sec. Sec.  778.323, 778.327, 778.501, 778.601); 56 FR 61100 (Nov.
29, 1991) (updating Sec.  778.603 to address statutory amendment
adding section 7(q) regarding maximum-hour exemption for employees
receiving remedial education).
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    In 2000, Congress added another category of payments that could be
excluded from the regular rate, currently contained in section
7(e)(8).\40\ This amendment permitted an employer to exclude from the
regular rate income derived from a stock option, stock appreciation
right, or employee stock purchase plan, provided certain restrictions
were met.\41\ Congress also amended section 7(h) to state that, except
for the types of extra compensation identified in sections 7(e)(5),
(6), and (7), sums excluded from the regular rate are not creditable
toward minimum wage or overtime compensation due.\42\ In 2011, the
Department updated part 778 to reflect the 2000 statutory amendments
and to modify the wage rates used as examples to reflect the current
minimum wage.\43\
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    \40\ See Worker Economic Opportunity Act, Public Law 106-202,
sec. 2(a)(3), 114 Stat. 308 (2000).
    \41\ See id.
    \42\ See id.
    \43\ See 76 FR 18832 (Apr. 5, 2011) (updating Sec. Sec.
778.110, 778.111, 778.113, 778.114, 778.200, 778.208).
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    Currently, the FLSA's definition of ``regular rate'' and the eight
categories of
[[Page 68739]]
excludable payments are contained in section 7(e) of the Act.\44\ The
Department's regulations concerning the regular rate requirements are
contained in 29 CFR part 778. As noted above, the last comprehensive
revision to part 778 was in 1968.\45\
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    \44\ See 29 U.S.C. 207(e). Additionally, section 7(h) states
that only payments excludable from the regular rate pursuant to
sections 7(e)(5), (6), and (7) may be credited against the
employer's overtime obligation and that all other excludable
payments (i.e., payments that qualify as excludable under sections
7(e)(1), (2), (3), (4), and (8)) are not creditable). See 29 U.S.C.
207(h).
    \45\ See 33 FR 986 (29 CFR 778.0 through 778.603).
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    While section 7(a) defines the general overtime entitlement in
terms of an employee's regular rate, under certain circumstances, the
FLSA permits employers to use a ``basic rate,'' rather than the regular
rate as defined in section 7(e), to calculate overtime
compensation.\46\ Congress added this provision, currently contained in
section 7(g), in 1949--at the same time that Congress added the
definition of ``regular rate'' to the FLSA.\47\ The requirements an
employer must meet to use a basic rate are set forth in that same
section 7(g).\48\
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    \46\ 29 U.S.C. 207(g).
    \47\ See Public Law 81-393, 63 Stat. at 914-15. In 1966,
Congress redesignated section 7(f) as section 7(g), with section
numbers (1)-(3) remaining the same; no substantive changes were
made. See Public Law 89-601, 80 Stat. at 836.
    \47\ 29 U.S.C. 207(g)(1)-(3).
    \48\ See id.
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    In 1955, the Department promulgated 29 CFR part 548 to establish
the requirements for authorized basic rates under section 7(g)(3).\49\
It amended various sections of the part 548 regulations several times
over the next 12 years to reflect statutory amendments to other parts
of the FLSA, including increases to the minimum wage.\50\ The
Department has not updated any of the regulations in part 548 since
1967, more than a half-century ago.
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    \49\ See 20 FR 5678 (Aug. 6, 1955). The regulations interpreting
sections 7(g)(1)-(2) are at 29 CFR 778.415 through 778.421.
    \50\ See 21 FR 338 (Jan. 18, 1956); 26 FR 7730 (Aug. 18, 1961);
28 FR 11266 (Oct. 22, 1963); 31 FR 6769 (May 6, 1966); 32 FR 3293
(Feb. 25, 1967).
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B. The Department's Proposal
    On March 29, 2019, the Department issued its proposal to update and
revise a number of regulations in parts 548 and 778.\51\ The
Department's proposal focused primarily on clarifying whether certain
kinds of ``perks,'' benefits, or other miscellaneous payments must be
included in the regular rate. These clarifications included confirming
that the cost of providing wellness programs, onsite specialist
treatment, gym access and fitness classes, employee discounts on retail
goods and services, and payments for tuition programs, such as
reimbursement programs or repayment of educational debt, may be
excluded from an employee's regular rate of pay. The Department also
proposed to clarify that payments for unused paid leave, including paid
sick leave, may be excluded from an employee's regular rate of pay;
that reimbursed expenses need not be incurred ``solely'' for the
employer's benefit for the reimbursements to be excludable from an
employee's regular rate and that reimbursed travel expenses that do not
exceed the maximum travel reimbursement permitted under the Federal
Travel Regulation System and meet other regulatory requirements may be
excluded from an employee's regular rate of pay; that employers do not
need a prior formal contract or agreement with the employee(s) to
exclude certain overtime premiums described in sections 7(e)(5) and (6)
of the FLSA; and that pay for time that would not otherwise qualify as
``hours worked,'' including bona fide meal periods, may be excluded
from an employee's regular rate unless an agreement or established
practice indicates that the parties have treated the time as hours
worked. Additionally, the Department proposed to provide examples of
discretionary bonuses that may be excluded from an employee's regular
rate of pay under section 7(e)(3) of the FLSA and to clarify that the
label given to a bonus does not determine whether it is discretionary.
The Department also proposed to provide additional examples of benefit
plans, including accident, unemployment, and legal services, that may
be excluded from an employee's regular rate of pay under section
7(e)(4) of the FLSA.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \51\ 84 FR 11888.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department proposed two substantive changes to the existing
regulations. First, the Department proposed to eliminate the
restriction in 29 CFR 778.221 and 778.222 that ``call-back'' pay and
other payments similar to call-back pay must be ``infrequent and
sporadic'' to be excludable from an employee's regular rate, while
maintaining that such payments must not be so regular that they are
essentially prearranged. Second, the Department proposed to update its
``basic rate'' regulations, which are authorized under section 7(g)(3)
of the FLSA, as an alternative to the regular rate under specific
circumstances. Under the current regulations, employers using an
authorized basic rate may exclude from the overtime computation any
additional payment that would not increase total overtime compensation
by more than $0.50 per week on average for overtime workweeks in the
period for which the employer makes the payment. The Department
proposed to update this regulation to change the $0.50 limit to 40
percent of the Federal minimum wage--currently $2.90.
    In developing this rule, the Department was mindful of the Supreme
Court's recent guidance that, to determine the scope of an exemption
under the FLSA, the statutory text must be given a ``fair reading''
rather than a narrow reading because the FLSA's exemptions are ``as
much a part of the FLSA's purpose as the [minimum wage and] overtime-
pay requirement[s].'' Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro, 138 S. Ct.
1134, 1142 (2018). As the Third Circuit recently noted in a regular
rate case, ``that is as should be expected, because employees' rights
are not the only ones at issue and, in fact, are not always separate
from and at odds with their employers' interests.'' U.S. Dep't of Labor
v. Bristol Excavating, Inc., 935 F.3d 122, 135 (3d Cir. 2019).
    Approximately 80 individuals and organizations timely commented on
the NPRM during the 75-day extended comment period that ended on June
12, 2019. The Department received comments from a broad array of
constituencies, including small business owners, employer and industry
associations, individual workers, worker advocacy groups, unions, non-
profit organizations, law firms, professional associations, and other
interested members of the public. The majority of comments supported
the Department's efforts to clarify the regular rate regulations. All
timely received comments may be viewed on www.regulations.gov, docket
ID WHD-2019-0002.
    Some commenters appear to have mistakenly filed comments intended
for this rulemaking into the dockets for the Department's rulemakings
concerning overtime (docket ID WHD-2019-0001) or joint employer status
(docket ID WHD-2019-0003) under the FLSA. The Department did not
consider these misfiled comments in this rulemaking.
    The Department has carefully considered the timely-submitted
comments on the proposed changes. Some of the comments were general
statements of support or opposition. See Bloomin' Brands; International
Bancshares Corporation (IBC); Independent Bakers Association (IBA);
National Demolition Association (NDA); National Federation of
Independent Businesses (NFIB); International Association of
Firefighters (Association
[[Page 68740]]
of Firefighters); and various individual commenters.
    The Department received a number of comments that are beyond the
scope of this rulemaking. These include, for example, a request to
address whether restricted stock units are excludable under 29 U.S.C.
207(e)(8) of the Act, which permits an employer to exclude from the
regular rate income derived from a stock option, stock appreciation
right, or employee stock purchase plan. See Semiconductor Industry
Association (SIA); National Association of Manufacturers (NAM); the
Chamber of Commerce (Chamber); Partnership to Protect Workplace
Opportunity (PPWO); ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC); American Benefits
Council. Similarly, some commenters urged the Department to require
that any payment that must be included in the regular rate must count
towards the overtime salary threshold under 29 CFR part 541. See
American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA); PPWO; College and
University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR). The
Department did not raise these issues in its proposal, and they are
therefore out of scope of this rulemaking.
    Some commenters raised issues that are the subject of other on-
going rulemaking efforts by the Department. For example, commenters
raised concerns regarding the fluctuating workweek regulation at 29 CFR
778.114. See Associated Builders and Contractors; AHLA; Chamber. The
Department is currently engaged in rulemaking to revise this specific
regulation.\52\ Therefore, the Department does not address these issues
in this final rule.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \52\ See Fluctuating Workweek Method of Computing Overtime,
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 84 FR 59590 (Nov. 5, 2019).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Significant issues raised in the comments on the Department's
proposal are discussed below, along with the Department's response to
those comments.
III. Final Regulatory Provisions
    The Department finalizes its proposals to update the regulations in
parts 778 and 548 to clarify the Department's interpretation in light
of modern compensation and benefits practices. The sections below
discuss, in turn, each category of excludable compensation that the
Department has addressed in this final rule.
A. Excludable Compensation Under Section 7(e)(2)
    Many of the Department's regulatory updates in this final rule
clarify the type of compensation that is excludable from the regular
rate under FLSA section 7(e)(2). Section 7(e)(2) permits an employer to
exclude from the regular rate three distinct categories of payment:
First, ``payments made for occasional periods when no work is performed
due to vacation, holiday, illness, failure of the employer to provide
sufficient work, or other similar cause''; second, ``reasonable
payments for traveling expenses, or other expenses, incurred by an
employee in the furtherance of his employer's interests and properly
reimbursable by the employer''; and third, ``other similar payments to
an employee which are not made as compensation for his hours of
employment.'' \53\ In this Preamble, these clauses are referred to as:
The ``occasional periods when no work is performed'' clause; the
``reimbursable expenses'' clause; and the ``other similar payments''
clause. The Department's regulations interpreting section 7(e)(2) are
contained in Sec. Sec.  778.216 through 778.224.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \53\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(2).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Pay for Forgoing Holidays or Leave
    The initial clause of section 7(e)(2) of the FLSA permits an
employer to exclude ``payments made for occasional periods when no work
is performed due to vacation, holiday, illness, failure of the employer
to provide sufficient work, or other similar causes'' from the regular
rate.\54\ Section 778.218 addresses this statutory provision and
provides that payments for such time that ``are in amounts
approximately equivalent to the employee's normal earnings'' are not
compensation for hours of employment and are therefore excludable from
the regular rate.\55\
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    \54\ See id.
    \55\ 29 CFR 778.218; see FOH 32d03g (``Payment for absences
charged against leave under a bona fide plan granting the employee a
specified amount of annual, vacation, or sick leave with pay need
not be included in the regular rate of pay, if the sum paid is the
approximate equivalent of the employee's normal earnings for a
similar period of working time. Payments for such absences may be
excluded regardless of when or how the leave is taken.'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Section 778.219 addresses a related issue: The exclusion of
payments for working on a holiday or forgoing vacation leave, as
distinct from the exclusion of payments for using leave.\56\ It
explains that if an employee who is entitled to ``a certain sum as
holiday or vacation pay, whether he works or not,'' receives additional
pay for each hour worked on a holiday or vacation day, the sum
allocable as the holiday or vacation pay is excluded from the regular
rate.\57\ In other words, when an employee works instead of taking a
holiday or using vacation leave, and receives pay for both the hours of
work performed as well as the holiday or vacation leave that he or she
did not take, the amount paid for the forgone holiday or vacation leave
may be excluded from the regular rate. In its current form, Sec.
778.219 addresses only pay for forgoing holidays and vacation leave but
does not address sums paid for forgoing the use of other forms of
leave, such as leave for illness. As explained in the NPRM, WHD has
addressed payments for forgoing sick leave in its Field Operations
Handbook (FOH). The FOH states that the same rules governing exclusion
of payments for unused vacation leave also apply to payments for unused
sick leave.\58\ Therefore, when ``the sum paid for unused sick leave is
the approximate equivalent of the employee's normal earnings for a
similar period of working time,'' such payments are excludable from the
regular rate.\59\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \56\ See 29 CFR 778.219.
    \57\ 29 CFR 778.219(a).
    \58\ See FOH 32d03e(b).
    \59\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    To clarify and modernize the regulations, the Department proposed
to update Sec.  778.219 to address payments for forgoing both holidays
and other forms of leave. The Department noted in the NPRM that it is
aware that many employers no longer provide separate categories of
leave based on an employee's reason for taking leave--such as sick
leave and vacation leave. Instead, employers provide one category of
leave, which is commonly called paid time off. The Department explained
that it saw no reason to distinguish between the types of leave when
determining whether payment for forgoing use of the leave is excludable
from the regular rate. Rather, the central issues are whether the
amount paid is approximately equivalent to the employee's normal
earnings for a similar period of time, and whether the payment is in
addition to the employee's normal compensation for hours worked.
    Accordingly, the Department proposed to clarify that occasional
payments for forgoing the use of leave are treated the same regardless
of the type of leave. The Department therefore proposed to revise the
title of Sec.  778.219, clarify in Sec.  778.219(a) that payments for
all forms of unused leave are treated the same for purposes of
determining whether they may be excluded from the regular rate, and add
an example concerning payment for forgoing the use of paid time off.
The NPRM noted that the proposed changes reflected the
[[Page 68741]]
Department's longstanding practice of applying the same principles to
payments of unused holiday, vacation, and sick leave.\60\ The NPRM
stated that the proposed changes would ensure the consistent
application of the same principles across differing leave
arrangements.\61\ The Department also proposed to clarify that payments
for forgoing the use of leave are excludable from the regular rate
regardless of whether they are paid during the same pay period in which
the previously scheduled leave is forgone or during a subsequent pay
period as a lump sum.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \60\ See FOH 32d03e.
    \61\ See, e.g., Balestrieri v. Menlo Park Fire Prot. Dist., 800
F.3d 1094, 1103-04 (9th Cir. 2015) (holding that annual leave
comprised of both sick and vacation leave need not be included in
the regular rate under section 7(e)(2)). The NPRM explained that
such payments need not be included in the regular rate under section
7(e)(2) for the same reason that payments for unused vacations or
holidays need not be included; it makes no difference that payments
for unused annual leave or paid time off may include unused sick
leave. See also WHD Opinion Letter FLSA2006-18NA, 2006 WL 4512960
(July 24, 2006) (holiday payments made to employees when they forgo
holidays need not be included in the regular rate pursuant to
section 7(e)(2)); WHD Opinion Letter FLSA2004-2NA, 2004 WL 5303030
(Apr. 5, 2004) (cashed-out accrued vacation time need not be
included in regular rate pursuant to section 7(e)(2)).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A number of commenters representing both employers and employees
addressed this proposal. See, e.g., Center for Workplace Compliance
(CWC); International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA); Wood Floor
Covering Association (WFCA); National Public Labor Employer Relations
Association (NPELRA); Chamber; National Employment Law Project (NELP);
Association of Firefighters; the American Federation of Labor and
Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Many supported the
changes as proposed. See, e.g., Associated Builders and Contractors;
Seyfarth Shaw (Seyfarth); PPWO; Society for Human Resource Management
(SHRM); National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA); Society of
Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA); NDA. SHRM stated
that the proposal harmonizes the regulation ``with the realities of the
modern workplace'' by treating all forms of leave in the same manner.
NPELRA commented that the proposal ``makes common sense.'' NELP
expressed general agreement with the proposal.
    WFCA asked that the regulation specify that the payout of unused
leave is still excludable from the regular rate even if the amount of
leave accrued is based on the number of hours worked. Rather than
accruing leave on a periodic basis (e.g., per pay-period), WFCA noted
that many employees accrue leave based on the number of hours worked
and that some states require the calculation of leave to be based on
hours worked. In response to this comment, the Department notes that
neither WHD in its guidance, nor the courts that have addressed this
issue, have determined that pay for forgoing leave is excludable or not
excludable on the basis of how the paid leave was accrued.
Additionally, the Department recognizes that employers may use a
variety of bases for determining leave amounts, such as hours or days
worked or length of service. Therefore, the Department has concluded
that the proposed regulatory language need not be modified as
suggested. The method of computation or accrual of paid leave is not
determinative. Under the language in the regulation finalized in this
rule, the fact that paid leave may be accrued on an hourly basis would
not disqualify pay for forgoing such leave from being excludable from
the regular rate.
    NELP, while generally agreeing with the Department's proposed
amendments to Sec.  778.219, requested clarification that regardless of
the type of leave, it still must comply with the statutory requirements
that it be ``occasional'' and ``similar to vacation, holiday or
illness'' in order to be excluded from the regular rate. The Department
acknowledges NELP's concern but does not believe that any modification
to the proposed regulatory text in Sec.  778.219 is necessary. Given
the statutory language in section 7(e)(2) that, to be excludable, this
form of payment must be made ``for occasional periods when no work is
performed due to vacation, holiday, illness, . . . or other similar
cause,'' \62\ the Department believes that this is already clear and
therefore further clarification in the regulation is unnecessary.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \62\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(2); see also 29 CFR 778.218.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    CWC suggested that the Department add an example illustrating the
difference between attendance-based incentive bonuses, which must be
included in the regular rate, and valid payments for forgoing leave,
which can be excluded. The Department declines to modify the regulatory
text as suggested. As discussed in the NPRM, in some situations,
employers may make payments to encourage attendance at work rather than
compensating employees for forgoing the use of leave. Attendance
bonuses are typically non-discretionary bonuses that must be included
in the regular rate because they are made ``pursuant to [a] contract,
agreement, or promise causing the employee to expect such payments[.]''
\63\ An important distinction between an excludable leave buy-back
payment and a non-excludable attendance bonus is that an excludable
buy-back payment results in the employee no longer having that leave
available to use, i.e., the employee's leave balance is diminished by
the amount of leave ``bought back.'' In contrast, where an employee
receives an additional payment that does not affect his or her leave
balance, or the payment is otherwise tied to factors that are not
related to the holiday, vacation, or illness period, such payment may
be an attendance bonus that is not excludable from the regular rate. As
CWC noted in its comment, the distinction between an excludable payment
for forgoing leave and an attendance bonus is usually very fact
specific.\64\ Because this issue is more appropriately addressed
through subregulatory guidance, the Department declines to amend the
regulation as suggested. The Department notes, however, that Sec.
778.219(a), as adopted in this final rule, does not affect Sec.
778.211(c), which addresses the exclusion of discretionary bonuses from
the regular rate pursuant to FLSA section 7(e)(3)(a).\65\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \63\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(3); see 29 CFR 778.211(c); see also 84 FR
11888, 11892 n. 57.
    \64\ See WHD Opinion Letter FLSA2009-19, 2009 WL 649021 at *4
(Jan. 16, 2009) (concluding that vacation buy-back payments were
excludable, but stipends for nonuse of sick leave encouraged
employees not to use or abuse sick leave and therefore were a form
of attendance bonus that was not excludable); WHD Opinion Letter
FLSA2006-18NA, 2006 WL 4512960, at *2 (July 24, 2006) (holiday
payments made to employees when they forgo holidays need not be
included in the regular rate because the employees continued to
receive compensation at their customary rate for hours worked in
addition to receiving holiday pay); WHD Opinion Letter FLSA2004-2NA
(April 5, 2004) (cashed-out accrued vacation time need not be
included in the regular rate because such payments were made at
employees' applicable hourly rate and in addition to receiving their
customary payment for hours worked).
    \65\ See 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(3)(a); 29 CFR 778.211(c).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A few commenters addressed the requirement that the pay for
forgoing the leave be approximately equivalent to the employee's normal
earnings. See Chamber; NPELRA; Association of Firefighters. The Chamber
asserted that there was no statutory basis for requiring that the
payment for the forgone leave be approximately equivalent to the
employee's normal earnings for the amount of time covered by the
forgone leave and therefore argued that this requirement be removed
entirely. NPELRA requested that the proposed regulatory language in
Sec.  778.219 be modified to permit exclusion of a payment for an
employee's unused leave where that
[[Page 68742]]
payment is a percentage of the amount that would normally be paid to
the employee when using the leave. NPELRA stated that instead of paying
100 cents on the dollar, employers should be permitted to pay a
percentage of accrued leave, which is often based on a calculation
negotiated with union representatives and takes into account time-in-
service and the total amount of sick leave that an employee has
accrued. NPELRA provided an example in which an employee with 20 or
more years of service would be paid out for his or her unused sick
leave at 20 percent if the employee had accrued between 1 and 125 hours
of leave, 40 percent for 126 to 255 hours, 60 percent for 256-380
hours, and 80 percent for 381-607 hours. By contrast, Association of
Firefighters commented that the Department did not provide any
definition of what constitutes an ``approximate equivalent'' amount and
expressed concern that buy-back payments at ``sub-premium'' rates will
now be permitted.
    The Department declines to modify the language in proposed Sec.
778.219 to either remove the requirement that payments be made in
amounts ``approximate[ly] equivalent'' or to provide a formulaic
definition as to what constitutes an ``approximate equivalent.'' As an
initial matter, the Department notes that this requirement is currently
required under Sec.  778.218, which addresses the statutory provision
providing for exclusion of payments for occasional periods when no work
is performed due to vacation, holiday, and illness. Section 778.218 has
long provided that payments for such time that ``are in amounts
approximately equivalent to the employee's normal earnings,'' are not
compensation for hours of employment and are therefore excludable from
the regular rate.\66\ Given that Sec.  778.219's exclusion of pay for
forgoing leave is derived from Sec.  778.218, the well-established
inclusion of this requirement in the latter warrants its inclusion in
the former. Additionally, requiring excludable payments for forgoing
leave to be approximately equivalent to the employee's normal earnings
helps ensure that the payments are true leave buy-back payments rather
than attendance bonuses, which are generally considered to be non-
discretionary bonuses that must be included in the regular rate. The
example provided by NPELRA, which results in buying back sick leave in
amounts that are not approximately equivalent to the employee's normal
earnings for a similar period of working time, illustrates why this
requirement is necessary. In that example, some of the forgone sick
leave is ``bought back'' at only 20 percent of the dollar value of that
leave. For these reasons, the Department has decided to adopt Sec.
778.219 as proposed.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \66\ 29 CFR 778.218; see FOH 32d03g (``Payment for absences
charged against leave under a bona fide plan granting the employee a
specified amount of annual, vacation, or sick leave with pay need
not be included in the regular rate of pay, if the sum paid is the
approximate equivalent of the employee's normal earnings for a
similar period of working time. Payments for such absences may be
excluded regardless of when or how the leave is taken.'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Association of Firefighters and the AFL-CIO contended that the
Department's proposal to permit the exclusion of pay for forgoing sick
leave is contrary to two appellate cases.\67\ First, the court in
Chavez relied on Sec.  778.219--and in particular, its explicit
reference to pay for vacation leave but lack of reference to pay for
sick leave--to conclude that vacation-leave buy-back payments were
excludable, but that sick-leave buy-back payments must be included in
the regular rate.\68\ In characterizing the Department's position on
this issue, however, the court did not acknowledge WHD's statement in
the FOH that the same rules governing exclusion of payments for unused
vacation leave also apply to payments for unused sick leave.\69\
Moreover, in citing a 2009 WHD opinion letter,\70\ the court did not
consider the fact-specific nature of the buy-back program at issue
there, which, as discussed above, functioned as an attendance bonus.
Nothing in the current language in Sec.  778.219 or the 2009 opinion
letter state that a sick-leave buy-back payment can never be excluded
from the regular rate. In the second case, Acton, the court neither
cited nor discussed the language in section 7(e)(2) that permits
exclusion of payments for occasional periods when no work is performed
due to vacation, holiday, or illness, or Sec.  778.219, which
interprets this statutory provision. Instead, the court mistakenly
applied Sec.  778.223 to determine whether buy-back payments were
similar to call-back pay, and ultimately concluded that the sick-leave
buy back must be included in the regular rate as it constitutes
compensation for the general work duty of regular attendance over a
significant period of an employee's work tenure.\71\ Thus, the court's
decision in Acton does not inform the proper interpretation of the
statutory exclusion of payments for occasional periods when no work is
performed due to vacation, holiday, or illness contained in section
7(e)(2) and explained in Sec.  778.219.\72\ Contrary to these two
cases, the Department agrees with both the conclusion and underlying
reasoning in Balestrieri v. Menlo Park Fire Protection District.\73\
There, the court held that buy back payments for annual leave, which
included both sick and vacation leave, need not be included in the
regular rate. While acknowledging that some sick-leave buy-back
programs, such as the one at issue in the 2009 WHD opinion letter,
could function like an attendance bonus and therefore require their
inclusion in the regular rate, the annual leave that was bought back in
Balestrieri did not differentiate between sick leave and vacation
leave. As a result, any portion of the annual leave that could be
attributed to sick leave did not function as an attendance bonus.\74\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \67\ See Chavez v. City of Albuquerque, 630 F.3d 1300, 1309
(10th Cir. 2011); Acton v. City of Columbia, 436 F.3d 969, 977-78
(8th Cir. 2006).
    \68\ See 630 F.3d at 1308-09.
    \69\ See FOH 32d03e.
    \70\ WHD Opinion Letter FLSA2009-19, 2009 WL 649021 (Jan. 16,
2009).
    \71\ See 436 F.3d at 977.
    \72\ See 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(2); 29 CFR 778.219.
    \73\ See 800 F.3d 1094, 1103 (9th Cir. 2015).
    \74\ See 800 F.3d at 1102-04.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Lastly, IMLA requested that the Department provide an additional
example to Sec.  778.219(a) concerning the excludability of ``holiday-
in-lieu'' pay from the regular rate. IMLA notes that some employees,
particularly public sector emergency response personnel, work a set
schedule without regard to holidays. Due to the nature of their work,
such employees may be called upon to forgo a recognized holiday if
their schedule requires them to work that day or if an emergency
arises. IMLA states that the current regulations permit the
excludability of such payments, but that several courts have
nevertheless held that similar forms of ``holiday-in-lieu'' payments
must be included in the regular rate.\75\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \75\ See Hart v. City of Alameda, No. C-07-5845MMC, 2009 WL
1705612, at *3 (N.D. Cal. June 17, 2009) (holiday pay received by
city police officers every pay period must be included in the
regular rate); Lewis v. County of Colusa, No. 2:16-cv-01745-VC, 2018
WL 1605754, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 3, 2018) (defendant did not meet
burden to show that biannual lump-sum holiday in-lieu payments to
safety officers and dispatchers fall squarely within section
7(e)(2)); McKinnon v. City of Merced, No. 118CV01124LJOSAB, 2018 WL
6601900, at *5-8 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 17, 2018) (finding that payments
are not excludable where it was ``not apparent that Plaintiffs are
in fact entitled to paid time off at the holidays which they are
able to forego'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Current Department regulations support excluding holiday-in-lieu
pay from the regular rate. Under 29 CFR 778.219, where an employee
forgoes his
[[Page 68743]]
or her holiday and works, and is paid for his or her normal work plus
an additional amount for the holiday, the additional amount paid for
working the holiday is not included in the regular rate. The Department
applied this principle in a 2006 opinion letter concluding that
holiday-in-lieu pay could be excluded from the regular rate where the
employer provided nine ``recognized'' holidays and two ``floating''
holidays paid in a lump sum, and on occasion when employees forgo a
holiday and work they received both pay for the hours worked and
holiday pay.\76\ The Department notes that it does not matter whether
the employee voluntarily forgoes the holiday to work or is required to
work the holiday by the schedule set for the employee. Nothing in this
regulation makes the excludability of such payments dependent on the
employee having the option to work or not work on the holiday. All that
is required for the holiday-in-lieu pay to be excludable is that the
employee is paid an amount for the holiday, in addition to being paid
for his hours worked on the holiday.\77\ In response to IMLA's
comments, the Department has added an additional example to Sec.
778.219(a) involving employees who work a set schedule irrespective of
holidays to clarify the regulation.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \76\ FLSA2006-18NA, 2006 WL 4512960 (July 24, 2006). Cf. WHD
Opinion Letter FLSA, 1999 WL 1788163, at *2 (Sept. 30, 1999)
(payments received by employees were required to be included in the
regular rate where employees were not entitled to take leave on
holidays and instead received an additional 5 percent of base pay
each pay period as ``in lieu of holiday pay.'').
    \77\ Thus, the Department disagrees with the McKinnon court's
reliance on the word ``forgo'' in Sec.  778.219 to mean that the
employee must have the option of not working on the holiday for the
holiday-in-lieu pay to be excludable. See McKinnon, 2018 WL 6601900
at *5.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
2. Exclusion of Compensation for Bona Fide Meal Periods
    Section 778.218 addresses the clause of FLSA section 7(e)(2)
concerning payments made for occasional periods when no work is
performed and provides that when payments for such time ``are in
amounts approximately equivalent to the employee's normal earnings,''
they are not compensation for hours of employment and may be excluded
from the regular rate.\78\ Section 778.218(b) states that this clause
``deals with the type of absences which are infrequent or sporadic or
unpredictable'' and ``has no relation to regular `absences' such as
lunch periods nor to regularly scheduled days of rest.'' \79\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \78\ 29 CFR 778.218; see 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(2).
    \79\ 29 CFR 778.218(b).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Section 778.320 addresses ``[h]ours that would not be hours worked
if not paid for,'' and identifies ``time spent in eating meals between
working hours'' as an example.\80\ Section 778.320(b) further states
that even when such time is compensated, the parties may agree that the
time will not be counted as hours worked.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \80\ See 29 CFR 778.320.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department proposed to remove the reference to ``lunch
periods'' in Sec.  778.218(b) to eliminate any uncertainty about its
relation to Sec.  778.320 concerning the excludability of payments for
bona fide meal periods from the regular rate. As one court noted, the
existing regulations in Sec. Sec.  778.218 and 778.320 ``appear
somewhat inconsistent'' on the excludability from the regular rate of
compensation for bona fide meal periods.\81\ In 1986, WHD acknowledged
in an opinion letter ``that the reference to meal periods in section
778.218(b) of Part 778 may not be compatible with the position which is
contained in section 778.320(b),'' and indicated that the issue was
under review.\82\ The Department subsequently clarified in a 1996
opinion letter that pay provided for a bona fide meal period is
excludable from the regular rate under Sec.  778.320(b).\83\ As
explained in the NPRM, while the Department clarified its position in
an opinion letter more than 20 years ago, it is nonetheless concerned
that the language in Sec.  778.218(b) may cause confusion concerning
the excludability of pay for bona fide meal periods. Thus, to remove
any ambiguity and to codify its interpretation in regulation, the
Department proposed to delete the reference to ``lunch periods'' from
Sec.  778.218(b).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \81\ Smiley v. E.I. Dupont De Nemours & Co., 839 F.3d 325, 331
n.5 (3d Cir. 2016).
    \82\ WHD Opinion Letter FLSA-937 (July 22, 1986).
    \83\ See WHD Opinion Letter FLSA, 1996 WL 1031805 (Dec. 3,
1996); see also Ballaris v. Wacker Siltronic Corp., 370 F.3d 901,
909 (9th Cir. 2004) (holding that pay for a bona fide lunch period
was ``properly excluded from the calculation of the regular rate
under 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(2) as interpreted by revised Sec.
778.320''); WHD Opinion Letter FLSA, 1997 WL 998021 (July 21, 1997)
(stating that pay for bona fide meal periods need not be included in
the regular rate).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Bona fide meal periods are not considered ``hours worked'' for
purposes of the FLSA's minimum wage or overtime requirements, and
employers are not required to pay for such time.\84\ The Department
proposed changing Sec.  778.320 to clarify that the payment of
compensation for bona fide meal periods alone does not convert such
time to hours worked unless agreement or actual course of conduct
establish that the parties have treated the time as hours worked. The
Department explained in the NPRM that, in the Department's enforcement
experience, the treatment of bona fide meal breaks is frequently not
subject to formal agreement and is often established by informal policy
or course of conduct. Payments for such periods need only be included
in the regular rate when it appears from all the pertinent facts that
the parties have treated compensated bona fide meal periods as hours
worked. The NPRM noted that the proposal would clarify the existing
requirements and not substantively change either the calculation of the
regular rate or the determination of hours worked.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \84\ See 29 CFR 785.19.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department received many comments supporting these changes and
no comments opposed to the changes. See, e.g., NDA; Associated Builders
and Contractors; NADA; CWC; SHRM; PPWO. Accordingly, the Department
adopts the changes to Sec. Sec.  778.218(b) and 778.320 as proposed.
3. Additional Examples of ``Other Similar Causes''
    As noted above, Sec.  778.218 addresses the clause of FLSA section
7(e)(2) that permits employers to exclude certain payments for
occasional periods when no work is performed ``due to vacation,
holiday, illness, failure of the employer to provide sufficient work,
or other similar cause.'' \85\ Section 778.218(d) lists examples that
qualify as ``other similar causes,'' including ``absences due to jury
service, reporting to a draft board, attending a funeral of a family
member, [and] inability to reach the workplace because of weather
condition.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \85\ 29 CFR 778.218; see 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(2).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Chamber requested that the Department ``add paid family medical
leave as an example in Sec.  778.218(d), and paid leave for military
service; voting; attending child custody or adoption hearings;
attending school activities; donating organs, bone marrow, or blood;
voluntarily serving as a first responder; and any other paid leave
required under state or local laws.'' Upon review, the Department
believes these are all examples of non-routine absences that fall
within the meaning of ``other similar causes'' in FLSA section 7(e)(2).
Accordingly, the Department is adding these causes for absences in the
list of examples of ``other similar causes.'' The Department further
believes that attending any funeral, not just the funeral of a family
member, is an ``other similar cause'' under FLSA section 7(e)(2).
Therefore, the Department is
[[Page 68744]]
deleting ``of a family member'' from the text of Sec.  778.218(d).
4. Reimbursable Expenses
    The second clause of section 7(e)(2) excludes from the regular rate
``reasonable payments for traveling expenses, or other expenses,
incurred by an employee in the furtherance of his employer's interests
and properly reimbursable by the employer[.]'' \86\ Section 778.217
currently states that ``[w]here an employee incurs expenses on his
employer's behalf or where he is required to expend sums solely by
reason of action taken for the convenience of his employer, section
7(e)(2) is applicable to reimbursement for such expenses.'' \87\ The
Department promulgated this section in February 1950.\88\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \86\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(2).
    \87\ 29 CFR 778.217(a).
    \88\ See 15 FR 623.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    While Sec.  778.217, in its current form, limits reimbursable
expenses to those ``solely'' in the interest of the employer, the
statutory language does not include this limitation. Instead, the FLSA
simply excludes all expenses incurred ``in the furtherance of [the]
employer's interests[,]'' \89\ and, as explained further below, neither
the Department nor the courts have since restricted excludable expenses
to only those that ``solely'' benefit the employer. As explained in the
NPRM, the Department is concerned that this single use of the word
``solely'' in Sec.  778.217 may be interpreted as more restrictive than
what the FLSA actually requires. The Department therefore proposed to
remove the word ``solely'' from Sec.  778.217(a) to clarify its
interpretation of the reimbursable expenses clause of section 7(e)(2).
The Department noted that this proposed clarification was consistent
with the other subsections of Sec.  778.217, as well as court rulings
and the Department's opinion letters--which have not required that
excludable expenses solely benefit the employer.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \89\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(2).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Section 778.217(d) also discusses expenses that are excludable from
the regular rate. The Department explained in the NPRM that this
paragraph emphasizes only whether such payments benefit the employer or
the employee; it does not require them to ``solely'' benefit one party
or the other. Thus, payments for expenses that are ``incurred by the
employee on the employer's behalf or for his benefit or convenience''
merit exclusion from the regular rate, but reimbursements for expenses
``incurred by the employee for his own benefit,'' such as ``expenses in
traveling to and from work, buying lunch, paying rent, and the like,''
are not excluded from the regular rate under the ``reimbursable
expenses'' clause of section 7(e)(2).\90\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \90\ 29 CFR 778.217(d). The NPRM noted that this is consistent
with the illustrative examples in Sec.  778.217(b) of reimbursable
expenses that may be excluded from the regular rate, which include
``purchasing supplies, tools, materials, or equipment on behalf of
his employer,'' travel expenses, including living expenses away from
home, incurred while traveling for work for the employer's benefit,
and the cost of ``supper money'' to an employee in a situation where
``he or she would ordinarily leave work in time to have supper at
home, but instead must remain to work additional hours for the
employer's benefit.'' See 29 CFR 778.217(b)(1), (2), (4).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Similarly, as the NPRM explained, the Department's opinion letters
do not analyze whether an expense is incurred solely for the employer's
convenience when discussing whether it may be excluded from the regular
rate. Instead, the opinion letters analyze simply whether expenses
benefit the employer.\91\ Furthermore, since 1955, the Department's
policy in WHD's FOH has mirrored the statutory requirement that
``expenses incurred by an employee in furtherance of his/her employer's
interests'' may be excluded from the regular rate, regardless of
whether they ``solely'' benefit one party or the other.\92\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \91\ For example, the cost of food for eating meals during
travel out of town for work is for the employer's benefit;
therefore, such reimbursement may be excluded from the regular rate.
See WHD Opinion Letter FLSA2004-3, 2004 WL 2146923 (May 13, 2004);
see also WHD Opinion Letter FLSA-828 (July 19, 1976)
(``[r]eimbursement to an employee for expenses incurred on behalf of
an employer'' would not become part of the regular rate); WHD
Opinion Letter FLSA-940 (Mar. 9, 1977) (regular rate shall not
include ``reimbursement for expenses where an employee incurs out of
pocket expenses on the employer's behalf''); WHD Opinion Letter
FLSA, 1985 WL 1087356, at *2 (July 12, 1985) (reimbursement must be
for ``expenses incurred by the employee on the employer's behalf or
convenience'').
    \92\ FOH 32d05a(a).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In the NPRM, the Department pointed out that, consistent with the
Department's practice and guidance, courts have not analyzed whether
the expenses at issue were incurred solely for the employer's
convenience when determining whether they are excludable from the
regular rate. Instead, courts have emphasized the statutory requirement
that the expenses need only benefit the employer.\93\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \93\ See, e.g., Berry v. Excel Grp., Inc., 288 F.3d 252, 253-54
(5th Cir. 2002) (concluding that reimbursements of travel expenses
were primarily for the employer's benefit; therefore, such expenses
were excluded from the regular rate); see also Sharp v. CGG Land,
Inc., 840 F.3d 1211, 1215 (10th Cir. 2016) (``[T]he proper focus
under Sec.  778.217(b)(3) is whether the $35 payments are for
reimbursement of travel expenses incurred in furtherance of the
employer's interests . . . .''); Brennan v. Padre Drilling Co.,
Inc., 359 F. Supp. 462, 465 (S.D. Tex. 1973) (per diem for traveling
expenses is ``expended by the employee in the furtherance of his
employer's interest'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    All of the comments regarding this proposal were supportive and
agreed that the limitation imposed by the word ``solely'' in the
current regulation could be overly restrictive and is not required by
the FLSA. See Associated Builders and Contractors; CWC; Chamber; Fisher
Phillips; NADA; PPWO; Seyfarth; SHRM; SIGMA. Two of these commenters
also asked that the Department add a new sentence explicitly stating
that ``business expenses need not be solely or primarily incurred for
the employer's benefit.'' See Associated Builders and Contractors;
Chamber.
    The Department has decided to finalize its proposal to remove the
word ``solely'' from Sec.  778.217(a) to better align the regulations
with the FLSA. As explained above, the FLSA does not impose a
limitation on the proportion of benefit to the employer in order for
reimbursed expenses to be excludable. The Department does not believe
it is necessary to further add a sentence stating that business
expenses need not be ``solely or primarily incurred for the employer's
benefit'' in order to be excludable. The removal of the term ``solely''
adequately aligns the regulations with the statute.
    The Department also proposed to clarify section 7(e)(2)'s
requirement that only ``reasonable'' and ``properly reimbursable''
expenses may be excluded from the regular rate when reimbursed. Current
Sec.  778.217(b)(3) permits employers to exclude from the regular rate
``[t]he actual or reasonably approximate amount expended by an employee
who is traveling `over the road' on his employer's business, for
transportation . . . and living expenses away from home, [or] other
[such] travel expenses[.]'' Section 778.217(c) cautions that ``only the
actual or reasonably approximate amount of the expense is excludable
from the regular rate. If the amount paid as `reimbursement' is
disproportionately large, the excess amount will be included in the
regular rate.''
    Two commenters asked the Department to clarify that specific
reimbursable expenses are excludable from the regular rate. See NADA;
AHLA. These requests included ``cell phone reimbursement,'' ``non-
mandatory credentialing exam fees,'' ``organization membership dues,''
and reimbursements for the cost of tools. These are clearly not
compensation for hours of employment, but instead are expenses taken on
by employees for the employer's convenience or benefit.
[[Page 68745]]
Because ``[t]he actual amount expended by an employee in purchasing . .
. tools'' is already included in the regulation's illustrations of
excludable reimbursements, the Department believes sufficient guidance
is available regarding tool reimbursements.\94\ However, to provide
additional clarity regarding cell phone reimbursement, exam fees, and
membership dues, the Department has decided to revise the language of
the illustration provided at Sec.  778.217(b)(1) to make clear that
these too are excludable reimbursements.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \94\ See 29 CFR 778.217(b)(1).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The NPRM proposed additional explanation of what is
``reasonable''--and thus not ``disproportionately large''--by referring
to the Federal Travel Regulation. The Department explained that it
believes that the amounts set in the Federal Travel Regulation are not
excessive and are easily ascertained, given its ``two principal
purposes'' of ``balanc[ing] the need to assure that official travel is
conducted in a responsible manner with the need to minimize
administrative costs'' and ``communicat[ing] the resulting policies in
a clear manner to Federal agencies and employees.'' \95\ The Department
thus proposed to add regulatory text explaining that a payment for an
employee traveling on his or her employer's business is per se
reasonable if it is at or beneath the maximum amounts reimbursable or
allowed for the same type of expense under the Federal Travel
Regulation and meets Sec.  778.217's other requirements. Those other
requirements include that the reimbursement be for the ``actual or
reasonably approximate amount'' \96\ of the expense, that the expense
be incurred on the employer's behalf, and that the expense not vary
with hours worked.\97\ The proposed regulatory text also clarified that
a reimbursement for an employee traveling on his or her employer's
business exceeding the Federal Travel Regulation limits is not
necessarily unreasonable. As the NPRM explained, a payment may be more
than that required ``to minimize administrative costs'' yet still
within the realm of reasonable business and industry norms.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \95\ 41 CFR 300-1.2. Those amounts are published online annually
by the General Services Administration. See Plan and Book, GSA,
www.gsa.gov/travel/plan-and-book (last visited Aug. 23, 2019).
    \96\ Gagnon v. United Technisource, Inc., 607 F.3d 1036, 1041-42
(5th Cir. 2010), provides a helpful contrast to a properly
excludable reimbursement. There, multiple facts indicated that the
employee's purported ``per diem'' was simply a scheme to avoid
paying overtime. Those facts included the per diem's rise over time
without any clear connection to travel or other expenses, its
variance by the hour, its cap at 40 hours per week, and its payment
in combination with a well-below-market wage.
    \97\ See, e.g., Baouch v. Werner Enters., Inc., 908 F.3d 1107,
1116 (8th Cir. 2018) (``Per diem payments that vary with the amount
of work performed are part of the regular rate.''), petition for
cert. filed, (U.S. June 13, 2019) (No. 18-1541).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A number of commenters supported the Department's proposal to state
in the regulatory text that reimbursements for travel expenses are per
se reasonable if they do not exceed the rates in the Federal Travel
Regulation. See, e.g., NDA; PPWO; SIGMA; SHRM; Chamber. Several
commenters noted that the Federal Travel Regulation rates are below
market rate, and that in many cases expenses exceeding that amount may
still be reasonable. To address this issue, some commenters recommended
that the Department finalize proposed paragraph (c)(3) stating that
costs exceeding the Federal Travel Regulation may still be reasonable,
and two recommended that the Department develop additional guidance
about the Federal Travel Regulations after issuance of the final rule.
See AHLA; CWC; Chamber; SIGMA; SHRM. Two commenters noted that many
employers use Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidelines for
reimbursement of employee travel expenses, and suggested that the final
rule also state that expenses not exceeding the IRS's guidelines for
reimbursement of employee travel expenses are per se reasonable. See
NDA; PPWO.
    The Department has decided to modify the language in proposed Sec.
778.217(c)(2) to state that payments equal to or less than the Federal
Travel Regulation rates or the substantiation amounts for travel
expenses permitted by the IRS under 26 CFR 1.274-5(g) and (j) are per
se reasonable and not disproportionately large.\98\ The Department has
also decided to finalize the regulatory language in proposed Sec.
778.217(c)(3) noting that Sec.  778.217(c)(2) does not create an
inference that amounts in excess of the Federal Travel Regulation rates
or the rates set by the IRS on travel expenses are per se
unreasonable.\99\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \98\ Under the authority of 26 U.S.C. 274(d), 26 CFR 1.274-5(g)
and 26 CFR 1.274-5(j), the IRS Commissioner has prescribed special
per diem methods under which a taxpayer may use a specified amount
in lieu of substantiating the actual costs of certain travel while
away from home. IRS guidelines regarding special per diem and meals
and incidental expenses (M&IE) methods are set forth in Revenue
Procedure 2011-47, 2011-42 I.R.B. 520, 2011 WL 4503974 (Oct. 17,
2011). The IRS publishes the special per diem rates in an annual
notice. See Notice 2019-55 (2019-42 IRB 937) (or successor),
available at: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-19-55.pdf. Revenue
Procedure 2011-47 provides optional substantiation methods (for
example, meal and incidental expenses only per diem allowance,
special rules for the transportation industry, and the high-low
substantiation method).
    \99\ See id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
5. Other Similar Payments
    Section 7(e) requires ``all remuneration for employment'' be
included in the regular rate, subject to that section's eight listed
exclusions. Section 7(e)(2) consists of three clauses, each of which
address a distinct category of excludable compensation. As discussed
above, the first excludes ``payments made for occasional periods when
no work is performed due to vacation, holiday, illness, failure of the
employer to provide sufficient work, or other similar cause.'' The
second excludes ``reasonable payments for traveling expenses, or other
expenses, incurred by an employee in the furtherance of his employer's
interests and properly reimbursable by the employer.'' The third clause
of section 7(e)(2) excludes from the regular rate ``other similar
payments to an employee which are not made as compensation for his
hours of employment.''
    As explained in the NPRM, ``[o]ther . . . payments'' are
``similar'' to those in the first two clauses of section 7(e)(2)
because they are ``not made as compensation for [an employee's] hours
of employment.'' The first two clauses share the essential
characteristic of having no connection to the quantity or quality of
work performed. The ``other similar payments'' clause thus excludes
payments not tied to an employee's hours worked, services rendered, job
performance, or other criteria linked to the quality or quantity of the
employee's work.\100\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \100\ See Reich v. Interstate Brands Corp., 57 F.3d 574, 578
(7th Cir. 1995) (``The word `similar' then refers to other payments
that do not depend at all on when or how much work is performed.'');
Minizza v. Stone Container Corp., 842 F.2d 1456, 1461 (3d Cir. 1988)
(``[W]e interpret the phrase `other similar payments' by reading
each clause of section 207(e)(2) separately. The phrase `other
similar payments . . . not made as compensation for hours of
employment' does not mean just other payment for idle hours or
reimbursements, the two types of payments set forth in the two
preceding clauses of the section, but payments not tied to hours of
compensation, of which payments for idle hours and reimbursements
are only two examples.''). But see Flores v. City of San Gabriel,
824 F.3d 890, 899 (9th Cir. 2016) (``the `key point' '' for
exclusion under the third clause ``is whether the payment is
`compensation for work' '' (quoting Local 246 Utility Workers Union
of Am. v. S. Cal. Edison Co., 83 F.3d 292, 295 (9th Cir. 1996));
Acton, 436 F.3d at 976 (``Section 207(e)(2), properly understood,
operates not as a separate basis for exclusion, but instead
clarifies the types of payments that do not constitute remuneration
for employment for purposes of section 207.'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The NPRM explained that, in a sense, every benefit or payment that
an employer gives an employee is
[[Page 68746]]
``remuneration for employment.'' \101\ Certainly benefits like paid
vacation or sick leave are seen as such by many employers and
employees. But the section 7(e)(2) exclusions make clear that whether
or not they are remuneration, they are ``not made as compensation for
[the employee's] hours of employment'' because they have no
relationship to the employee's hours worked or services rendered. This
interpretation gives meaning to the third clause. It allows employers
to provide benefits unconnected to the quality or quantity of work,
even if those benefits are remuneration of a sort.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \101\ Cf. Minizza, 842 F.2d at 1460 (``Employers have a finite
amount to spend for the labor component of their product or service.
This sum can be allocated solely as compensation on an hourly basis
(in which event the payment would be fully includable in the
`regular rate'), or it can assume any number of other forms . . .
(in which case the payments may or may not be includable), in any
ratio the parties care to set.''); Sec'y U.S. Dep't of Labor v.
Bristol Excavating, Inc., No. 17-3663, 2019 WL 3926937, at *3 (3d
Cir. Aug. 20, 2019) (clarifying that not all payments relating to
employment, regardless of source, qualify as remuneration for
employment and that, in the context of third-party payments, a
``payment qualifies as remuneration for employment only when the
employer and employee have effectively agreed it will.'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The NPRM further explained that interpreting the third clause as
simply a restatement of the ``remuneration'' requirement would
contravene basic principles of statutory interpretation. Such an
interpretation would equate the unique phrases ``all remuneration for
employment'' and ``compensation for [the employee's] hours of
employment,'' even though Congress used different words and thus,
presumably, meant different things. This is especially so when
considering that one phrase uses the word ``employment'' when the other
uses the term ``hours of employment.'' Such an interpretation would
also render the third clause redundant, another disfavored result. And
it would be difficult to reconcile with the first clause of section
7(e)(2), in which the payments are clearly remuneration yet excludable
from the regular rate.
    The NPRM also explained that payments to employees are not
excludable under the ``other similar payments'' clause merely because
the payments are not specifically tied to an employee's hours of
work.\102\ ``Other similar payments'' cannot be simply wages in another
guise. When a payment is a wage supplement, even if not tied directly
to employee performance or hours worked, it is still compensation for
``hours of employment.'' For example, payments such as production
bonuses,\103\ and the cost of furnished board, lodging, or
facilities,\104\ which ``though not directly attributable to any
particular hours of work are, nevertheless, clearly understood to be
compensation for services'' \105\ are not excludable under this
provision. Similarly, payments that differ only in form from regular
wages by, for instance, being paid in a monthly lump sum or as hardship
premiums, are better characterized as wages or bonuses than as ``other
similar payments'' excludable from the regular rate. The other similar
payments clause cannot be interpreted so broadly as to ``obliterate[ ]
the qualifications and limitations'' placed on excludable payments
specifically addressed in section 7(e)'s various other sections, which
could render such limits ``superfluous.'' \106\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \102\ See Local 246, 83 F.3d at 295 n.2 (``Even if payments to
employees are not measured by the number of hours spent at work,
that fact alone does not qualify them for exclusion under section
207(e)(2).''); Featsent v. City of Youngstown, 70 F.3d 900, 904 (6th
Cir. 1995) (``7(e)(2) does not exclude every payment not measured by
hours of employment from the regular rate.''); Reich, 57 F.3d at 577
(``We cannot read Sec.  7(e)(2) in isolation . . . . It is one among
many exemptions, and a glance at a few of the others shows that
Sec.  7(e)(2) cannot possibly exclude every payment that is not
measured by the number of hours spent at work.'').
    \103\ See 29 CFR 778.211(c).
    \104\ See 29 CFR 778.116.
    \105\ 29 CFR 778.224(a).
    \106\ Reich, 57 F.3d at 578.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The NPRM stated that the Department's interpretation has
considerable support in the case law, citing multiple decisions. First,
the Third Circuit held in Minizza v. Stone Container Corp. that two
lump sums paid to select employees to induce them to agree to a
collective-bargaining agreement were excludable as an ``other similar
payment'' because they were not compensation for hours worked or
services rendered.\107\ The court interpreted the clause to exclude
``payments not tied to hours of compensation, of which payments for
idle hours and reimbursements are only two examples.'' \108\ The
court's decision that these payments were not compensation for
employment rested in part on the fact that the ``eligibility
requirements were not meant to serve as compensation for service, but
rather to reduce the employers' costs,'' but also in part on the fact
that ``the eligibility terms themselves [for the lump sums] [did] not
require specific service''--it did ``not matter how many hours an
employee worked during that period, nor how many hours he might work in
the future.'' \109\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \107\ Minizza, 842 F.2d at 1461-62.
    \108\ Id. at 1461.
    \109\ Id. at 1460-61; see also id. at 1462 (``If the payments
were made as compensation for hours worked or services provided, the
payments would have been conditioned on a certain number of hours
worked or on an amount of services provided.'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Second, the Seventh Circuit espoused a similar understanding in
Reich v. Interstate Brands Corp. \110\ There, the court held that
regular, planned $12 payments to bakers who worked weeks without two
consecutive days off could not be excluded from the regular rate under
section 7(e)(2). The court reasoned that the payments were materially
no different from a higher base rate to compensate the bakers for
taking on an unpleasant schedule.\111\ ``Other similar payments'' are
different, wrote the court. ``The word `similar' . . . refers to other
payments that do not depend at all on when or how much work is
performed.'' \112\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \110\ 57 F.3d 574.
    \111\ See id. at 578-79.
    \112\ Id. at 578.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Similarly, the Sixth Circuit has held that pay differentials based
on employees' education level, shift differentials, and hazardous pay
are compensation for services rendered, unlike payments that ``are
unrelated to [employees'] compensation for services and hours of
service.'' \113\ Some circuit courts have interpreted the ``other
similar payments'' not to exclude payments that are ``compensation for
work.'' \114\ The Department concurs with these courts to the extent
that they have used these or similar phrases to capture the idea that
the regular rate includes payments tied to work performance or that
function as a wage supplement. But insofar as these courts have equated
``compensation for work'' with ``remuneration for employment,'' \115\
that is difficult to reconcile with the text of the FLSA. As explained
above, the FLSA uses two different phrases, ``remuneration for
employment'' and ``compensation for hours of employment,'' each of
which should be given distinct content. And just as importantly, the
first clause of section 7(e)(2) excludes vacation and sick leave, which
is clearly remunerative; ``other similar payments'' to employees can be
remunerative too.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \113\ Featsent, 70 F.3d at 904-06.
    \114\ See, e.g., Flores, 824 F.3d at 899.
    \115\ See Acton, 436 F.3d at 976 (``the language `not made as
compensation for [the employee's] hours of employment' posited in
Sec.  207(e)(2) is but a mere re-articulation of the `remuneration
for employment' requirement set forth in the preambulary language of
Sec.  207(e)'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Accordingly, the NPRM explained, the proposed clarifications would
promote a clear yet flexible standard for employers and employees to
order their affairs. Payments are ``other similar payments'' when they
do not function as formulaic wage supplements and are not tied to hours
worked, services
[[Page 68747]]
rendered, job performance, or other criteria linked to the quality or
quantity of the employee's work, but are conditioned merely on one
being an employee. Conditions not tied to the quality or quantity of
work performed, such as a reasonable waiting period for eligibility
\116\ or the requirement to repay benefits as a remedy for employee
misconduct, are permitted. This standard also clarifies that there is
space for a variety of creative benefits offerings, and encourages
their provision to wide groups of employees instead of reserving them
only for FLSA-exempt employees.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \116\ See Minizza, 842 F.2d at 1460 (``A review of the
eligibility terms reflects a requirement only that a payee achieve
the status of an active employee for a specified period of time
prior to receipt. It does not matter how many hours an employee
worked during that period, nor how many hours he might work in the
future.'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Section 778.224 addresses miscellaneous items that are excludable
from an employee's regular rate under the ``other similar payments''
clause of section 7(e)(2) because they are ``not made as compensation
for . . . hours of employment[.]'' \117\ Section 778.224(b) currently
provides a brief, nonexhaustive set of examples of ``other similar
payments'' excludable from an employee's regular rate: ``(1) Sums paid
to an employee for the rental of his truck or car[;] (2) Loans or
advances made by the employer to the employee[;] [and] (3) The cost to
the employer of conveniences furnished to the employee such as parking
space, restrooms, lockers, on-the-job medical care and recreational
facilities.'' \118\ The NPRM noted that the Department added this set
of examples to the part 778 regulations in 1950,\119\ and has not
substantively amended them since. The regulation makes clear that ``it
was not considered feasible'' to provide an exhaustive list of
excludable ``other similar payments'' given the ``variety of
miscellaneous payments [that] are paid by an employer to an employee
under peculiar circumstances.'' \120\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \117\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(2).
    \118\ 29 CFR 778.224(b).
    \119\ See 15 FR 623 (1950) (codified at 29 CFR 778.7(g);
relocated in 1968 to 29 CFR 778.224(b)).
    \120\ 29 CFR 778.224(a).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department explained in the NPRM that it continues to believe
that providing a comprehensive list of all ``other similar payments''
excludable under section 7(e)(2)'s third clause is infeasible.
Nonetheless, the Department recognized that an updated list would
further help employers understand their legal obligations by addressing
some of the innovative changes in compensation practices and workplace
environments that have occurred since the Department added this set of
examples in 1950. Therefore, the Department proposed clarifying in
Sec.  778.224(b) that the following items may be excluded from an
employee's regular rate under the ``other similar payments'' clause of
section 7(e)(2).
a. Specialist Treatment Provided Onsite; Gym Access, Gym Memberships,
and Fitness Classes; Wellness Programs; Discounts on Retail Goods and
Services
    The Department proposed clarifying in Sec.  778.224(b)(3) that
employers may exclude from the regular rate the cost of providing
onsite treatment from specialists such as chiropractors, massage
therapists, personal trainers, counselors, Employment Assistance
Programs, or physical therapists.\121\ As explained in the NPRM, such
specialist treatment resembles ``on-the-job medical care,'' which Sec.
778.224(b)(3) already identifies as an excludable ``convenience
furnished to the employee.'' \122\ Employers that provide onsite
specialist treatment do so for a variety of reasons, including to raise
workplace morale, promote employee health, and reduce healthcare costs.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \121\ This proposal is not intended to affect the circumstances
under which receiving medical attention at the direction of the
employer is considered to be hours worked. See 29 CFR 785.43.
    \122\ 29 CFR 778.224(b)(3).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department also proposed clarifying in Sec.  778.224(b)(3) that
the cost of providing employees with gym access, gym memberships, and
fitness classes, whether onsite or offsite, is excludable from the
regular rate.\123\ These fitness benefits, the Department explained,
resemble ``recreational facilities,'' which Sec.  778.224(b)(3) already
identifies as an excludable convenience provided to employees.
According to one survey, a substantial number of employers provided
fitness benefits.\124\ Employers may provide such conveniences for many
reasons, including to raise workplace morale, promote employee health,
and reduce healthcare costs.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \123\ In circumstances where maintaining a certain level of
physical fitness is a requirement of the employee's job, the cost to
the employer of providing exercise opportunities is a facility
furnished ``primarily for the benefit or convenience of the
employer,'' as described in Sec.  531.3(d). Facilities furnished for
the employer's benefit do not qualify as wages or remuneration for
employment and thus need not be included in the regular rate.
    \124\ See Soc'y for Human Res. Mgmt., 2018 Employee Benefits:
The Evolution of Benefits 23 (2018), available at https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2018%20Employee%20Benefits%20Report.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department proposed adding an example in Sec.  778.224(b)(4) to
clarify that employers may exclude from the regular rate the cost of
providing certain health promotion and disease prevention activities,
often known as wellness programs. The NPRM noted that examples of some
common wellness programs include health risk assessments, biometric
screenings, vaccination clinics (including annual flu vaccinations),
nutrition classes, weight loss programs, smoking cessation programs,
stress reduction programs, exercise programs, and coaching to help
employees meet health goals.\125\ Wellness programs are often provided
to employees enrolled in an employer-sponsored health insurance plan,
but some employers offer wellness programs to employees regardless of
their health insurance coverage. The NPRM stated that workplace
wellness programs are similar to ``on-the-job medical care'' and
``recreational facilities,'' conveniences that the regulations already
specify are excludable from an employee's regular rate.\126\ Employers
may provide such programs to, for example, reduce health care costs,
reduce health-related absenteeism, and improve employee health and
morale.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \125\ See, e.g., Soc'y for Human Res. Mgmt., ``How to Establish
and Design a Wellness Program,'' https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/pages/howtoestablishanddesignawellnessprogram.aspx (last accessed Aug. 26,
2019).
    \126\ 29 CFR 778.224(b)(3).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department also proposed adding an example in Sec.
778.224(b)(5) to confirm that discounts on retail goods and services
may be excluded from the regular rate of pay as long as they are not
tied to an employee's hours worked or services rendered. The NPRM cited
a survey that indicated that many employers provide employees with an
option to purchase these types of goods or services at a discounted
price relative to their full retail value.\127\ Such discounts are
commonly available to employees regardless of their quality or quantity
of work, and it is solely the employees' choice whether to purchase
anything under the discount. When these discounts are available to
employees regardless of their hours worked or services rendered, and
are not tied to any duties performed, they qualify as ``other similar
payments''
[[Page 68748]]
under section 7(e)(2).\128\ The NPRM pointed out that more than 50
years ago, the Department stated that such employee discounts are not
included in the regular rate of pay. In a 1962 opinion letter, the
Department found that the value of ``concessions granted to employees .
. . on charges for telephone service'' was ``not part of wages
includible in the regular rate of pay''--in part because ``[s]uch
concessions appear to be similar to discounts on merchandise offered by
many retail establishments to their employees which [the Department]
do[es] not regard as wages.'' \129\ The NPRM explained that discounts
like these are not fungible cash but merely a lower price on the
employer's offerings. They appeal only to the employees who want to use
them and are limited to the offered selection of goods or services.
Employees must expend their own funds to avail themselves of the
discounts. The discounts are presumably limited in their value, since
employers likely do not offer discounts that would materially harm
their business. And employers may also place conditions on the
discounts to protect their interests by, for instance, requiring that
discounted restaurant meals be eaten on the premises to prevent abuse.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \127\ See Soc'y for Human Res. Mgmt., ``2018 Employee Benefits:
The Evolution of Benefits,'' at 31 (June 2018), https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2018%20Employee%20Benefits%20Report.pdf (from 2014 to
2018, employers offering an employee discount on company services
ranged from 31 percent to 34 percent, and employers offering
employer-sponsored personal shopping (e.g., retail) discounts ranged
from 11 percent to 19 percent).
    \128\ See Reich, 57 F.3d at 578 (payments under section 7(e)(2)
are those ``that do not depend at all on when or how much work is
performed''); Minizza, 842 F.2d at 1462 (payments under section
7(e)(2) all ``share the essential characteristic . . . of not being
compensation for hours worked or services rendered'').
    \129\ WHD Opinion Letter FLSA, 1962 DOLWH LEXIS 217 (Oct. 31,
1962).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department received numerous comments in support of these
clarifications, with many commenters noting that the additional clarity
provided by the additional examples in Sec.  778.224(b) will allow
employers to provide these types of benefits to employees more
frequently. See, e.g., Chamber; National Association of Health
Underwriters (NAHU); HR Policy Association (HR Policy); SHRM; Seyfarth;
NFIB. By contrast, a few commenters expressed concerns with this
proposed clarification. See, e.g., National Employment Lawyers
Association (NELA); NELP. NELA opposed this proposed clarification,
suggesting that the Department instead state that such payments ``may
be excluded from the regular rate only after a case by case analysis
using applicable principles.'' NELP similarly expressed concern that
the added examples created per se categorical exclusions of types of
benefits.
    The Chamber asked the Department to add the following language to
Sec.  778.224(a): ``Payments are `similar' when the amount of the
payment is not dependent on hours worked, production, or efficiency and
when the amount of the payment is unaffected by the quantity or quality
of work performed.'' The Department agrees that such a statement would
provide further clarity and notes that the NPRM defined ``other similar
payments'' in a comparable manner as ``payments not tied to an
employee's hours worked, services rendered, job performance,
credentials, or other criteria linked to the quality or quantity of the
employee's work.'' \130\ Three items in the NPRM's list of criteria not
linked to the quality or quantity of work--``hours worked, services
rendered, [and] job performance''--closely correspond with ``hours
worked, production, or efficiency'' from the Chamber's proposal. The
NPRM also listed ``credentials.'' But upon further reflection, the
Department believes that, unlike the other listed criteria, credentials
are not necessarily linked to the quality or quantity of an employee's
work.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \130\ 84 FR 11894.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Additional pay for education credentials is generally connected
with work quality or quantity, and therefore not excludable under Sec.
778.224, as ``education advancement . . . enhances the quality of an
employee's job performance.'' \131\ However, because the connection
between an employee's education credentials and his or her quality or
quantity of work may vary, the Department declines to include
``credentials'' in the regulatory text as an example of a criterion
inextricably linked to the quality or quantity of the employee's
work.\132\ In contrast, hours worked, services rendered, and job
performance are necessarily linked to work quality or quantity, and
therefore, these are appropriate examples for the regulatory text.
Accordingly, the Department has revised Sec.  778.224(a) using language
adapted from the NPRM to clarify that ``other similar payments'' are
``payments that do not depend on hours worked, services rendered, job
performance, or other criteria that depend on the quality or quantity
of the employee's work.'' The Department has also revised Sec.
778.224(b)(5) to remove language similar to that added in Sec.
778.224(a) so as to avoid duplicative text.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \131\ See Featsent v. City of Youngstown, 70 F.3d 900, 904 (6th
Cir. 1995) (additional pay for education degrees was not excludable
under Sec.  778.224).
    \132\ See, e.g., Duplesse v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 714 F. Supp.
2d 1045, 1053-54 (C.D. Cal. 2010) (additional pay for credentials
were excludable from the regular rate for firefighters who were not
regularly assigned to positions involving those credentials).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    To provide additional clarity, the Department is adding to Sec.
778.224(a) two examples of conditions identified in the NPRM as being
unconnected to the quality or quantity of work performed: ``reasonable
waiting period for eligibility'' and ``the requirement to repay
benefits as a remedy for employee misconduct.'' \133\ The Department is
also adding an additional example of a condition that is unconnected to
the quality or quantity of work to Sec.  778.224(a): ``limiting
eligibility on the basis of geographic location or job position.''
Payments that depends on location--for instance, offering benefits for
employees in certain states or cities--are not related to work quality
or quantity. Nor do payments that depend on an employee's job
position--for instance, offering a signing bonus to engineers but not
salespersons.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \133\ 84 FR 11895.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Relatedly, in response to NELA's and NELP's comments, the
Department believes that the addition of the above language to Sec.
778.224(a) makes clear that the proposed examples in Sec.  778.224(b)
do not change the existing statutory analysis that the Department uses
for determining whether a payment is properly excluded, but instead
simply add examples of categories of payments that may be excluded as
``other similar payments.'' The Department will still look to see if a
benefit plan labeled a ``wellness plan,'' for example, meets the
statutory requirements of section 7(e)(2) and corresponding regulatory
requirements to determine whether the benefit is tied to hours worked,
services rendered, job performance, or other criteria linked to the
quality or quantity of the employee's work. The benefit must be
conditioned only on being an employee, although conditions unconnected
to the quality or quantity of work, such as a reasonable waiting period
for eligibility, are permissible. Furthermore, as explained in the
NPRM, the benefit cannot be simply wages in another guise. When a
payment is a wage supplement, even if not tied directly to employee
performance or hours, it is still compensation for ``hours of
employment.'' The additional examples that the Department has added to
Sec.  778.224(b) do not change these requirements or the Department's
analysis regarding the appropriate treatment of these benefits.
    Commenters also identified numerous commonly provided employee
perks and asked the Department to clarify whether these items would be
excludable under section 7(e)(2). The
[[Page 68749]]
Department believes several of the items raised would be excludable and
are consistent with the Department's proposal. These include discounts
on employer-provided hotel rooms and travel, and non-mandatory
credentialing classes. See AHLA; NADA.
    AHLA asked the Department to clarify that beverage discounts, food
discounts, hotel room discounts, and travel discounts are excludable
from the regular rate as an ``other similar payment.'' In the NPRM, the
Department proposed that discounts on employer-provided goods and
services are excludable from the regular rate as ``other similar
payments.'' As noted in the NPRM, such discounts are not fungible
cash--they offer a lower price on certain offerings and are typically
non-transferable. Further, employees have discretion as to whether or
not to purchase anything under a discount, thereby receiving the
benefit. Provided these beverage discounts, food discounts, hotel room
discounts, and travel discounts are not tied to an employee's hours
worked, services rendered, or other conditions related to the quality
or quantity of work performed, they are excludable from the regular
rate under the proposed language in Sec.  778.224(b)(5). NADA asked the
Department to clarify that the cost to the employer of paying for non-
mandatory credentialing classes for employees is excludable from the
regular rate under section 7(e)(2). To be excludable as an ``other
similar payment'' under section 7(e)(2), these non-mandatory
credentialing classes may not be compensation for hours worked,
services rendered, or other conditions related to the quality or
quantity of work performed. The Department believes the language
proposed in the NPRM sufficiently addresses this issue, and as a result
does not modify its proposal. As such, no further changes to Sec.
778.224 have been made to address these comments.
    However, the Department found that modifications would be helpful
to add clarity with regards to the exclusion of other items raised by
the commenters. For example, some commenters asked the Department to
clarify in the final rule that the cost to employers of providing
mental health wellness programs and financial wellness programs are
excludable along with the cost of providing physical wellness programs.
See ERIC; HR Policy. As ERIC noted in its comment, ``many employers . .
. offer mental health and financial wellness plans as an integrated
package with physical wellness plans.'' Further, HR Policy's comment
stated that such benefits ``assist the employee in managing work-life
balance . . . and are to the mutual benefit of both the employer and
the employee.'' The NPRM explained that workplace wellness programs are
similar to ``on-the-job medical care'' and ``recreational facilities,''
conveniences that the regulations already specify are excludable from
an employee's regular rate. The Department finds no meaningful
difference between mental health and financial wellness programs and
the wellness programs included in the NPRM. Accordingly, the Department
clarifies in the final rule that the cost of providing such mental
health and financial wellness programs are excludable from the regular
rate as an ``other similar payment.''
    AHLA asked the Department to clarify that parking benefits, in
addition to the parking spaces explicitly listed under Sec.
778.224(b)(3)(i), are excludable from the regular rate. Parking
benefits provide parking spaces for employees near the business
premises of their employer. As explained under Sec.  778.224(a),
section 7(e)(2) of the FLSA does not ``permit the exclusion from the
regular rate of payments such as . . . the furnishing of facilities
like board and lodging . . . .'' The Department interprets facilities
to include certain ``transportation furnished employees between their
home and work.'' \134\ Accordingly, the Department has long
acknowledged that employer-provided parking spaces are excludable from
the regular rate but commuter subsidies are not. It is the Department's
view that parking benefits are analogous to an employer-provided
parking space, and distinguishable from commuter subsidies. Parking
benefits are conveniences provided by an employer so that the employee
may have a parking spot near the business premises of the employer. The
employee still bears the cost of the actual transportation between
their home and work--purchasing and maintaining a vehicle, insurance,
and gasoline, etc. To remove ambiguity, the Department modifies its
proposal to clarify in the final rule that parking benefits, like
parking spaces, are excludable from the regular rate.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \134\ 29 CFR 531.32(a).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Some of the items identified by commenters fit within statutory
exclusions other than section 7(e)(2). First, a few commenters asked
the Department to clarify whether adoption or surrogacy assistance
benefits are excludable from the regular rate. See Chamber; SHRM;
Seyfarth; PPWO. The term ``adoption assistance'' encompasses a wide
variety of benefits. These benefits might include financial assistance,
legal services, information and referral services, and paid or unpaid
leave. Adoption assistance takes many forms, some of which are
excludable under other statutory exceptions. Legal services are
excludable under section 7(e)(4) to the extent they meet the
requirements of Sec.  778.215, and paid leave is excludable under
section 7(e)(2) as ``occasional periods when no work is performed.''
Additionally, the costs of providing adoption assistance in the form of
information and referral services or financial assistance for non-legal
services may be excluded under section 7(e)(2)'s ``other similar
payments'' clause. These benefits are not tied to an employee's hours
worked, services rendered, or other criteria linked to the quality or
quantity of work performed. The Department amends its final rule to
include this clarification. Unlike adoption assistance, surrogacy
assistance tends to consist solely of payment of or reimbursement for
medical expenses, typically outside of a medical plan. Such payments
may therefore be considered a wage under section 3(m) of the FLSA,
which is not excludable from the regular rate.
    Some commenters asked the Department to clarify that the cost of
providing ``snacks,'' ``office coffee,'' ``meals,'' or ``pantry
services'' are excludable from the regular rate. See HR Policy;
National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA); Chamber. While
commenters suggested these costs are excludable under section 7(e)(2)'s
``other similar payments'' clause, Department practice and case law
already supports exclusion of many of these costs from the regular rate
as gifts under section 7(e)(1).
    Section 7(e)(1) excludes ``sums paid as gifts; payments in the
nature of gifts made at Christmas time or on other special occasions,
as a reward for service, the amounts of which are not measured by or
dependent on hours worked, production, or efficiency.'' As the
Department explained in the NPRM, because the first clause, ``sums paid
as gifts,'' is separated from the second clause by a semicolon, the
first clause addresses a separate set of excludable benefits from that
in the second clause.\135\ There may be some overlap between ``sums
paid as gifts'' and ``payments in the nature of gifts made at Christmas
time, on special occasions, or as a reward for services,'' but the
categories are not coextensive.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \135\ See Harris v. Best Buy Stores, L.P., No. 15-CV-00657-HSG,
2016 WL 4073327, at *6 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 1, 2016).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
[[Page 68750]]
    Specifically, sums under the first clause are those ``paid as
gifts''--that is, paid with the express understanding that they are a
gift--as opposed to sums under the second clause, which are not
expressly given as a gift, but are nevertheless ``in the nature of
gifts'' because of their timing. The second clause in 7(e)(1) therefore
expands the universe of excludable gifts from sums that are obviously
``paid as gifts'' to include those that are also ``in the nature of
gifts,'' but limits the latter category to those made at Christmas
time, on special occasions, or as rewards for service. In either case,
however, the payments must not be measured by or dependent on hours
worked, production, or efficiency.\136\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \136\ 29 CFR 778.212.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The FLSA defines ``wage'' as ``the reasonable cost . . . [of]
board, lodging, or other facilities'' and thus the cost of providing
meals is included in the regular rate.\137\ However, if snacks or other
food are provided as a gift, or in the nature of a gift, and are ``not
measured by hours worked, production, or efficiency,'' they may be
excluded from the regular rate.\138\ Courts have specifically found the
cost to an employer of providing food items to employees, aside from
regularly provided meals, to be excludable from the regular rate as
gifts under section 7(e)(1).\139\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \137\ 29 U.S.C. 203(m); 29 CFR 778.116; 29 CFR 531.29 and
531.32.
    \138\ WHD Opinion Letter FLSA, 1999 WL 1002365 (Feb. 12, 1999).
    \139\ Rau v. Darling's Drug Store, Inc., 388 F. Supp. 877, 879
(W.D. Pa. 1975). See also Lemus v. Denny's Inc., No. 10CV2061-CAB
(WVG), 2015 WL 13740136, at *11 (S.D. Cal. July 31, 2015) (finding
employer-offered food discounts to be gifts since employees are
entitled to receive the discount as soon as they begin working and
the employer does not dictate whether or how the employee may use
the discount); Rodriguez v. Taco Bell Corp., No. 1:13-CV-01498-SAB,
2013 WL 5877788, at *5-6 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 30, 2013) (finding meal
provided through discount meal policy not excludable from the
regular rate, but noting that a similar meal policy may qualify as a
gift if available to all employees at any time without restrictions
based upon the number of hours worked).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    When an employer provides snacks or food to employees as a gift,
the cost of providing such snacks or food is properly excludable from
the regular rate under the first clause of section 7(e)(1). This
commonly arises in situations where an employer provides employees with
office coffee and snacks, the value of which is minimal. These are
provided without regard to hours worked, production, or efficiency, and
the cost of such provision is excludable from the regular rate.
    Unlike snacks, meals furnished by an employer are generally
considered to be wages.\140\ However, when a meal is provided by an
employer to employees on a special occasion, such as a celebratory
pizza lunch, the cost to the employer of providing such food is
properly excludable from the regular rate under the second clause of
section 7(e)(1). The Department adds language to Sec.  778.212(c) to
clarify this in the final rule.\141\
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    \140\ 29 U.S.C. 203(m); 29 CFR 531.29 and 531.32.
    \141\ The provision of meals by an employer using an authorized
basic rate under section 7(g)(3) of the FLSA to compute overtime
rather than a regular rate is discussed infra.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Some commenters also requested clarification that prizes, such as
coffee cups and t-shirts, provided in connection with contests or
raffles are excludable from the regular rate as ``other similar
payments'' under section 7(e)(2). See SHRM; PPWO; Seyfarth. As with
snacks and special occasion meals, the Department believes that the
gift provision in section 7(e)(1) already provides for their exclusion
from the regular rate as sums ``paid as gifts''--that is, paid with the
express understanding that they are a gift--the amounts of which are
not measured by or dependent on hours worked, production, or
efficiency.\142\ Because ``the subsections of Sec.  7(e) are not
mutually exclusive,'' \143\ there may be areas of overlap between
payments that are excludable under section 7(e)(1) and those excludable
under section 7(e)(2). Thus, in addition to being excludable as gifts
under section 7(e)(1), small items such as coffee mugs or t-shirts
provided to an employee may also be properly excludable as an ``other
similar payment'' under section 7(e)(2), so long as its provision does
not depend on hours worked, services rendered, job performance, or
other criteria that depend on the quality or quantity of the employee's
work.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \142\ Prizes that are not paid as gifts, but are awards for
activities not normally part of an employee's job, may be excludable
from the regular rate under 29 CFR 778.332.
    \143\ Reich, 57 F.3d at 578. The Reich court cautioned, however,
that ``we hesitate to read Sec.  7(e)(2) as a catch-all, one that
obliterates the qualifications and limitations on the other
subsections and establishes a principle that all lump-sum payments
fall outside the `regular rate,' for then most of the remaining
subsections become superfluous.'' Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Similarly, several commenters asked the Department to provide
guidance on the excludability of sign-on bonuses, suggesting they might
be excludable under section 7(e)(2) as an ``other similar payment'' or
under 7(e)(3) as a discretionary bonus. See ERIC; AHLA; Associated
Builders and Contractors; NADA; Seyfarth; SHRM; PPWO. Most of these
commenters suggested that such payments are excludable under 7(e)(3) as
a discretionary bonus. Such comments are addressed in that section of
the preamble. ERIC suggested that sign-on bonuses, notwithstanding the
inclusion of a clawback provision, are properly excludable under
section 7(e)(2)'s ``other similar payments'' clause and following the
Third Circuit's reasoning in Minizza.\144\ See also NADA. In that case,
the court found that lump sum payments to employees to induce
ratification of a collective bargaining agreement were excludable as an
``other similar payment'' because such payments were unrelated to hours
of employment or service.\145\ Since a sign-on bonus with no clawback
provision is granted before any work is performed, such payment is
unrelated to hours worked or services provided and may be excluded
under section 7(e)(2).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \144\ Minizza, 842 F.2d at 1458-62.
    \145\ See id. at 1462.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    While still labeled a sign-on bonus, a sign-on bonus with a
clawback provision is substantively different from a sign-on bonus that
is paid free and clear. As explained by the Sixth Circuit in Featsent
v. City of Youngstown, longevity bonuses are dependent on length of
service and therefore do not fall within the section 7(e)(2)
exception.\146\ Since a sign-on bonus with a clawback provision is
essentially a longevity bonus, these may not be excluded under section
7(e)(2). However, case law already supports exclusion of certain
longevity bonuses under section 7(e)(1) as a gift provided as a reward
for future service. The Department's regulations permit exclusion of
such bonuses provided that the requirements of Sec.  778.212 are
satisfied. A sign-on bonus with no clawback provision is clearly
provided on a special occasion as a reward for future service, and is
not measured by or dependent on hours worked,
[[Page 68751]]
production, or efficiency. A clawback provision that makes such a bonus
dependent on length of employment does not necessarily impact its
excludability under section 7(e)(1). As courts have noted, longevity
payments are properly excludable from the regular rate under 7(e)(1)
when employees receive these payments as a reward for tenure, and the
payments are not, for example, made pursuant to a city ordinance or
policy, or collective bargaining agreement.\147\ The Department's
existing regulation at Sec.  778.212(c) supports this interpretation,
stating that gift payments may ``vary with the amount of the salary or
regular hourly rate of such employees or according to their length of
service with the firm so long as the amounts are not measured by or
directly dependent upon hours worked, production, or efficiency.''
\148\ It follows that ``length of service'' is not necessarily
``directly dependent on hours worked.'' As such, the Department does
not amend its final rule because it believes this interpretation is
already clear. In brief, sign-on bonuses with no clawback provision are
excludable from the regular rate; sign-on bonuses with a clawback
provision pursuant to collective bargaining agreement (CBA), or city
ordinance or policy are included in the regular rate; and sign-on
bonuses with a clawback provision not pursuant to a CBA, city ordinance
or policy, or other similar document that complies with Sec.  778.212,
are excludable from the regular rate.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \146\ 70 F.3d 900, 905 (6th Cir. 1995); see WHD Opinion Letter
WH-527, 1986 WL 383427, at *2 (Apr. 21, 1986) (``[W]here an employee
must be on the payroll in order to receive a future bonus payment, .
. . such a condition [is] an inducement for an employee to continue
in employment until the time the payment is to be made'' and
therefore the payment is not an excludable ``other similar
payment.''). But eligibility requirements that are ``not meant to
serve as compensation for service'' and ``do not require specific
service'' do not preclude payments from being excludable under
section 7(e)(2). Minizza, 842 F.2d at 1460-61. Courts and the
Department have also concluded that longevity bonuses are not
excludable discretionary bonuses under section 7(e)(3) when made
pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or city ordinance. See
O'Brien v. Town of Agawam, 350 F.3d 279, 295 (1st Cir. 2003)
(longevity pay paid pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement
does not qualify as an excludable discretionary bonus and therefore
must be included in the regular rate); WHD Opinion Letter, 1986 WL
1171142, at *2 (Aug. 26, 1986) (same); WHD Opinion Letter (Nov. 8,
1985) (same).
    \147\ See Moreau v. Klevenhagen, 956 F.2d 516, 521 (5th Cir.
1992), aff'd, 508 U.S. 22 (1993); Shiferaw v. Sunrise Senior Living
Mgmt., Inc., 2016 WL 6571270, at *26 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 21, 2016)
(finding an employer's tenure-based ``Long Term Service Award'' paid
every five years to be excludable under 7(e)(1)); White v. Publix
Super Markets, Inc., 2015 WL 4949837, at *4 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 19,
2015) (finding a holiday bonus based on length of employment to be
excludable under 7(e)(1)); Local 359 Gary Firefighters, AFL-CIO v.
City of Gary, 1995 WL 934175, *7 (N.D. Ind. Aug. 17, 1995)
(longevity pay was not excludable under section 7(e)(1) because it
was ``a fixed amount given pursuant to city policy'' that was
``based on the scale promulgated by the City''); WHD Opinion Letter
WH-332, 1975 WL 40955 (May 1, 1975) (``It would appear that an
employee who satisfied the eligibility requirement for [payments
provided for in personnel rules] would have a contractual right to
[longevity] payments.''); see also 29 CFR 778.212(b) (explaining
that if a bonus is ``consider[ed] . . . a part of the wages'' or if
``paid pursuant to a contract,'' it is not in the nature of a gift).
    \148\ 29 CFR 778.212(c).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Several commenters asked the Department to clarify that childcare
services or subsidies are excludable from the regular rate. See, e.g.,
Chamber; Associated Builders and Contractors; HR Policy; CWC. Employer-
provided childcare services and subsidies are generally unrelated to
the quality or quantity of work performed. However, in the past, the
Department has taken a broad view of what is considered to be a
``wage'' under 3(m) of the FLSA and as such, some payments for
childcare services or subsidies may be considered a wage. Payments for
childcare services or subsidies are excludable from the regular rate
under (e)(2)'s ``other similar payments'' clause to the extent such
payments are not wages under section 3(m).\149\ For instance,
routinely-provided childcare qualifies as an in-kind reimbursement for
``expenses normally incurred by the employee for his own benefit,''
which are wages that must be included in the regular rate.\150\
However, emergency childcare services provided by employers as an
important component of their work-life support packages do not meet
this test and may be excluded from the regular rate, if such services
are not provided as compensation for hours of employment. Emergency
care is provided in the case of unforeseen circumstances, such as when
schools or daycares are closed for bad weather or when a child is sick.
If these payments are not tied to the quality or quantity of work
performed, they are properly excluded from the regular rate under
section 7(e)(2)'s ``other similar payments'' clause.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \149\ See Opinion Letter FLSA-642 (Jan. 23, 1983) (deductions
from employees' wages for childcare payments and reimbursement for
childcare expenses are wages under section 3(m) and must be included
in employees' regular rates); see also Opinion Letter (Apr. 1, 1992)
(employer payments that employees may redesignate for child care
benefits must be included in the regular rate of pay).
    \150\ 29 CFR 778.217(d); see 29 CFR 531.37(b).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Finally, some of the items raised by commenters were outside the
scope of the Department's proposal, and better addressed in a separate
rulemaking. These include meals, relocation stipends,\151\ commissions,
and programs that issue points redeemable for merchandise. See PPWO;
Hancock Estabrook, LLP; SHRM; Seyfarth; Chamber.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \151\ Pursuant to guidance in its Field Operations Handbook, the
Department generally considers sums ``paid as an incentive to
attract employees to an isolated or otherwise undesirable job site''
to be includable in the regular rate. FOH 32c00(b)(6).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
b. Tuition
    The Department proposed adding an example in Sec.  778.224(b)(5)
clarifying that certain tuition programs offered by employers may be
excludable from the regular rate. The NPRM noted that some employers
today offer discounts for online courses, continuing-education
programs, modest tuition-reimbursement programs, programs for repaying
educational debt, and the like. Unlike wage supplements, the Department
explained, these tuition programs are not fungible, any-purpose cash,
but must be directed toward particular educational and training
opportunities. These programs are also optional, appeal only to those
employees who want to use them, and are directed toward educational and
training pursuits outside the employer's workplace. Such tuition
programs do not meet the basic necessities of life, such as food,
clothing, or shelter. While the educational benefit may result in
employees better able to accomplish the employer's objectives, these
programs are not directly connected to the employees' day-to-day duties
for the employer. The NPRM stated that as long as tuition programs are
available to employees regardless of their hours worked or services
rendered, and are instead contingent merely on one's being an employee,
these programs would qualify as ``other similar payments'' under
section 7(e)(2).\152\
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    \152\ See Reich, 57 F.3d at 578 (payments under section 7(e)(2)
are those ``that do not depend at all on when or how much work is
performed''); Minizza, 842 F.2d at 1462 (payments under section
7(e)(2) all ``share the essential characteristic . . . of not being
compensation for hours worked or services rendered'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department noted in the NPRM that this clarification,
permitting tuition programs to be excluded from the regular rate, would
not affect the Department's regulations at Sec.  531.32 referencing
``meals, dormitory rooms, and tuition furnished by a college to its
student employees'' as an ``other facility.'' \153\ The college
environment is a unique context in which learning, work, and daily
living are inextricably connected, tightly knit, and often all provided
by the same entity, that being the college.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \153\ 29 CFR 531.32(a).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department received numerous comments in support of this
clarification. See, e.g., PPWO; NPELRA; SHRM; Associated Builders and
Contractors; Chamber; SIGMA. The Department also received a few
comments opposed to this clarification as proposed and that suggested
modifications to the regulatory language in this section. See, e.g.,
NELP; NELA; Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
    Several commenters requested additional guidance on the types of
tuition benefits encompassed by the proposed rule. See ERIC; American
Benefits Council; Chamber; CWC; HR Policy; PPWO. Payments for an
employee's current coursework, payments for an employee's online
coursework, payment for an employee's
[[Page 68752]]
family members' tuition, and student loan repayment programs each fit
within the exclusion so long as they are not tied to hours worked,
services rendered, or other conditions related to quality or quantity
of work performed (except for conditions as stated in the rule). Of
course, tuition benefits for coursework directly related to the
employee's job are excludable under the reimbursements clause of
section 7(e)(2).\154\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \154\ See 29 CFR 778.217; see also White v. Publix Super
Markets, Inc., No. 3:14-CV-1189, 2015 WL 4949837 (M.D. Tenn. Aug.
19, 2015) (finding tuition reimbursement payments to be excludable
from the regular rate because they constituted reimbursements for an
expense incurred in furtherance of the employer's interest and were
not tied to hours worked).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Some commenters asked the Department to clarify what eligibility
limits an employer may place on excludable tuition benefits. See CWC;
Seyfarth. For example, Seyfarth commented that many of their clients
``employ workers who work for very short periods of time, or very
infrequently'' and they believe that ``a minimum employment requirement
is a `basic commonsense condition' '' for some benefits. As explained
in the NPRM and proposed regulatory text, while ``other similar
payments,'' such as tuition benefits, must generally not be tied to
hours worked, services rendered, job performance, or other criteria
linked to the quality or quantity of the employee's work, employers may
place ``conditions, such as a reasonable waiting period for
eligibility'' on tuition benefits.\155\ Minimum employment requirements
would be a permissible condition that would not affect the
excludability of the tuition benefit from the regular rate.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \155\ 84 FR 11911; see also Minizza, 842 F.2d at 1461
(``eligibility terms [that] do not require specific service . . . do
not lend support to the conclusion that the payments are
compensation for employment'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Additionally, several commenters asked the Department to clarify
whether a tuition benefit payment must be made to the employee,
directly to the education or training provider, or through a bona-fide
third party service provider, in order to be excludable from the
regular rate. See, e.g., CWC; PPWO. So long as the employee is
receiving a tuition benefit that is not based on hours worked or
services rendered, or other conditions related to the quality or
quantity of work performed, it makes no difference whether that benefit
is a direct payment to the education provider, to the employee, or
through a third-party provider. To make this clear, the Department adds
the phrase ``whether paid to an employee, an education provider, or a
student loan program'' to its final rule.
    Many commenters asked the Department to clarify that student loan
repayment programs are excludable from the regular rate under section
7(e)(2). See ERIC; Chamber; NADA; American Benefits Council; CWC;
Seyfarth; SHRM; PPWO; HR Policy. As noted by these commenters, student
loan repayment programs take many forms, but the excludability of each
plan depends on the facts of that particular plan. As with tuition
benefits, student loan repayment plans may be excludable as an ``other
similar payment'' to the extent the payments are not compensation for
hours worked or services rendered, or other conditions related to the
quality or quantity of work performed.
    Some commenters asked the Department to clarify that tuition
programs may only be excluded from the regular rate after a case-by-
case analysis of whether the tuition program is compensation for
work.\156\ See NELA; NELP; EPI. As discussed above, the other similar
payments clause permits employers to exclude from the regular rate
payments to an employee that are ``not made as compensation for his
hours of employment.'' \157\ Accordingly, as proposed in the NPRM, the
final regulatory text provides that tuition programs may only be
excluded from the regular rate provided they are not tied to an
employee's hours worked, services rendered, or other conditions related
to the quality or quantity of work performed. Because the determination
of whether individual tuition programs meet the requirements of section
7(e)(2) and Sec.  778.224 will be based on the specific facts and
circumstances of each program, the Department concludes there is no
need to revise the proposed regulatory text.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \156\ These commenters also requested that the Department
include a discussion of whether tuition programs primarily benefit
the employee or the employer. The Department typically conducts such
an analysis when evaluating whether a payment is a wage under
section 3(m) of the FLSA. 29 U.S.C. 203(m); see also 29 CFR 531.32.
However, tuition programs are only excludable from the regular rate
under section 7(e)(2) to the extent they are not a wage under
section 3(m).
    \157\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(2).
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6. Show-Up Pay, Call-Back Pay, and Payments Similar to Call-Back Pay
    Section 778.220 excludes from the regular rate ``show-up'' or
``reporting'' pay, which is defined as compensation for a specified
minimum number of hours at the applicable straight-time or overtime
rate on ``infrequent or sporadic'' occasions in which an employee is
not provided with the expected amount of work after reporting as
scheduled.\158\ Payments for hours actually worked are included in the
regular rate; amounts beyond what the employee would receive for the
hours worked are excludable.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \158\ See 29 CFR 778.220.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Section 778.221 addresses ``call-back'' pay. Call-back pay is
additional compensation for calling an employee back to work without
prearrangement to perform extra work after the employee's scheduled
hours have ended. It is typically paid for a specified number of hours
at the applicable straight-time or overtime rate.\159\ Call-back pay is
treated the same as show-up pay under Sec.  778.220.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \159\ See 29 CFR 778.221(a).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Section 778.222 addresses ``other payments similar to `call-back'
pay,'' which are ``extra payments made to employees on infrequent and
sporadic occasions, for failure to give the employee sufficient notice
to report for work on regular days of rest or during hours outside of
his regular work schedule,'' and ``extra payments made, on infrequent
and sporadic occasions, solely because the employee has been called
back to work before the expiration of a specified number of hours
between shifts or tours of duty, sometimes referred to as a `rest
period.' '' \160\ Such time is treated the same as show-up pay under
Sec.  778.220 and call-back pay under Sec.  778.221. Sections 778.220,
778.221, and 778.222 all currently require that the payments be
``infrequent and sporadic'' to be excludable from the regular rate.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \160\ 29 CFR 778.222.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Show-up or reporting pay is paid when the employee is scheduled to
work but the employer fails to provide the expected amount of
work.\161\ Show-up pay is therefore excludable under the first clause
of section 7(e)(2), which excludes payments made for ``occasional
periods'' when no work is performed due to the ``failure of the
employer to provide sufficient work.'' \162\ Section 778.220
accordingly limits exclusion of such payments to when they are made
``on infrequent and sporadic occasions.'' \163\
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    \161\ Since 1940, the Department's position has been that show-
up pay that exceeded pay due for hours worked was meant to
compensate the employee for the consumption of his time and
discourage employers from calling in employees for only a fraction
of a day. Interpretive Bulletin No. 4 ] 70(8).
    \162\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(2).
    \163\ 29 CFR 778.220.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In contrast, call-back pay and other payments similar to call-back
pay are not made for periods when the employer fails to provide
sufficient
[[Page 68753]]
work, but are instead additional payments made to compensate the
employee when the employer provides unanticipated work.\164\ As such,
as explained in the NPRM, these payments do not fall under the first
clause of section 7(e)(2). The Department has stated that call-back pay
described in Sec.  778.221 and the other payments described in Sec.
778.222 instead fall under the ``other similar payments'' clause of
section 7(e)(2)--which Congress did not restrict to ``occasional
periods'' (unlike the first clause of section 7(e)(2)).\165\ The NPRM
noted that the FLSA does not require that payments under Sec. Sec.
778.221 and 778.222 be only ``occasional'' to be excluded from the
regular rate. Accordingly, the Department proposed removing the
regulatory restriction that requires the payments discussed in
Sec. Sec.  778.221 and 778.222 to be ``infrequent and sporadic.'' \166\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \164\ 29 CFR 778.221 through 778.222.
    \165\ See WHD Opinion Letter FLSA-574 (Nov. 18, 1964) (``turn
around'' payments excludable under third clause); WHD Opinion Letter
FLSA-933 (July 20, 1964) (payment for failure to provide rest period
excludable under third clause); WHD Opinion Letter FLSA (Jan. 1,
1964) (stating that extra payments ``made for recall to work outside
of regular working hours and for shortened `rest periods' between
shifts . . . may be excludable from the regular rate under the third
clause'' of section 7(e)(2)).
    \166\ The Department also proposed to update the reference to
Sec.  778.222 that appears in Sec.  778.203(d).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Although the Department proposed removing the words ``infrequent
and sporadic'' from Sec. Sec.  778.221 and 778.222, the Department
proposed to include in Sec.  778.222 language that has long been in
Sec.  778.221 explaining that payments excluded under these provisions
must still be ``without prearrangement'' in order to be excludable from
the regular rate.\167\ The proposed rule provided an example of
payments made without prearrangement by describing an employer retailer
who called in an employee to help clean up the store for 3 hours after
an unexpected roof leak, and then again 3 weeks later for 2 hours to
cover for a coworker who left work for a family emergency. The proposed
rule stated that payments for those instances would be without
prearrangement and any call-back pay that exceeded the amount the
employee would receive for the hours worked would be excludable. The
proposed rule also clarified that when payments under Sec. Sec.
778.221 and 778.222 are so regular that they, in effect, are
prearranged, they are compensation for work and should be included in
the regular rate. The proposed rule provided an example of an employer
restaurant calling in an employee server for two hours of supposedly
emergency help during the busiest part of Saturday evening for 6 weeks
out of 2 months in a row, and explained that those payments would
essentially be prearranged and all of the call-back pay would be
included in the regular rate. The Department further proposed to
clarify that the regulations apply regardless of whether the
compensation is pursuant to established practice, an employment
agreement, or state or local law.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \167\ 29 CFR 778.221; see also Stewart v. San Luis Ambulance
Inc., No. CV 13-09458-BRO (SSX), 2015 WL 13684710, at *8 (C.D. Cal.
Oct. 6, 2015) (call-back payments must be ``without
prearrangement'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Several commenters supported the Department's proposal to remove
the phrase ``infrequent and sporadic'' from Sec. Sec.  778.221 and
778.222. See, e.g., CWC; NADA; Chamber. Some of these commenters,
however, were concerned that the proposed regulatory text about
regularity of payments and prearrangement could create confusion. See
PPWO; Seyfarth; SHRM; Chamber. Seyfarth expressed concern that it was
unclear ``how regularly a payment can be made before it is `essentially
prearranged.' '' Other commenters expressed concern that the proposed
Sec. Sec.  778.221 and 778.222 would create confusion about when call-
back pay and similar types of payments are frequent enough to be
included in the regular rate calculation, and they urged the Department
to retain the ``infrequent and sporadic'' language. See AFL-CIO; EPI;
NELA; NELP.
    The Department has decided to finalize its proposal to remove the
term ``infrequent and sporadic'' from Sec. Sec.  778.221 and 778.222.
The Department believes that removing the ``infrequent and sporadic''
language from these sections better aligns the regulations with the
third clause of section 7(e)(2) of the FLSA, which does not require
that these excludable ``other similar payments'' be occasional. The
Department has also decided to finalize the proposal to add language to
Sec.  778.222 stating that payments similar to call-back pay must be
made without prearrangement in order to be excludable from the regular
rate, which is consistent with long-standing language currently in
Sec.  778.221. The Department has decided, however, to clarify in
Sec. Sec.  778.221 and 778.222 that the regularity of payments, alone,
does not necessarily establish that such payments are prearranged.
    Call-back pay compensates the employee for unanticipated work. A
prearranged payment, however, constitutes compensation for work that
was anticipated, and so is not excludable call back pay. The key
``prearrangement'' inquiry is whether the work was anticipated and
therefore reasonably could have been scheduled. This is necessarily a
fact specific inquiry that must consider a range of circumstantial
factors, in addition to regularity. While substantial regularity of
call-back pay may be a factor indicating that work was anticipated,
regularity does not by itself necessarily establish anticipation
regardless of surrounding facts. For instance, the NPRM included an
example of prearrangement in which a restaurant employer calls in a
server for the busiest part of Saturday evening for six weeks in a two
month period. Upon review, the Department believes that such regularity
may suggest prearrangement, but consideration of other facts is
necessary to draw a conclusion regarding prearrangement. For instance,
if the restaurant called in the employee in response to unanticipated
emergencies--for instance, the unexpected absence of scheduled
servers--on each of the Saturday evenings worked, regularity would not
indicate prearrangement.
    The NPRM's example also stated that ``all the call-back pay would
be included in the regular rate.'' But regularity over a two month
period does not, by itself, establish that the first or second call
backs were because there was no regularity in the early portion of that
period. Again, consideration of other facts is needed. For instance,
call backs in the early portion of the two-month period could have been
in response to the unanticipated surge in Saturday evening business, in
which cases they would not have been prearranged. But if the facts show
that at some point in time the restaurant anticipated that such new
business had become the norm, then the subsequent call backs would have
been prearranged.
    The Department is further concerned that the NPRM's example could
be read to imply that prearrangement depends on the same employee being
regularly called back. It does not. The key issue is whether the work--
i.e., need for an additional server on certain Saturday evenings--was
anticipated. If the restaurant had anticipated additional work each
evening yet scheduled fewer servers than needed, it would not matter if
it had called back a different employee on each of the six evenings to
perform the anticipated work. Call back pay would have been prearranged
for all six employees.
    At bottom, regularity is neither a necessary nor sufficient
condition for prearrangement: Frequent call backs over a period of time
are not necessarily prearranged, while a single call back could be
prearranged. The Department
[[Page 68754]]
is concerned that the proposed language regarding regularity in the
NPRM might encourage employers and employees to use regularity as a
substitute for prearrangement, without adequate regard for other
relevant circumstances. Accordingly, the Department is not including
that language in Sec. Sec.  778.221 and 778.222. And the example in
Sec.  778.221(a) has been revised to make clear that the ``without
prearrangement'' inquiry should focus on whether the call back work was
anticipated.
    The preamble to the NPRM also noted that certain states and
localities regulate scheduling practices and impose a monetary penalty
on employers (which is paid to employees) in situations analogous to
those discussed in Sec. Sec.  778.220, 778.221, and 778.222.\168\ These
state and local laws include certain penalties that potentially affect
regular rate calculations. These include: (1) ``reporting pay'' for
employees who are unable to work their scheduled hours because the
employer subtracted hours from a regular shift before or after the
employee reports for duty; \169\ (2) ``clopening'' or ``right to rest''
pay for employees who work the end of one day's shift and the start of
the next day's shift with fewer than 10 or 11 hours between the shifts,
or who work during a rest period; \170\ (3) ``predictability pay'' for
employees who do not receive the requisite notice of a schedule change;
\171\ and (4) ``on-call pay'' for employees with a scheduled on-call
shift but who are not called in to work.\172\ In light of these recent
trends in state and local scheduling laws, the Department proposed to
clarify the treatment of these penalty payments under the regulations.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \168\ A number of state and local jurisdictions have introduced
laws regulating scheduling practices in recent legislative sessions.
See, e.g., H.B. 2467, 53rd Leg., 2d Reg. Sess. (Ariz. 2018); S.B.
321, 2018 Reg. Sess. (Conn. 2018); H.B. 5046, 100th Gen. Assemb.
(Ill. 2018); S.B. 1000, 190th Leg. (Mass. 2017-18); H.B. 1614, S.B.
1116, 2017 Reg. Sess. (Md. 2017); S109, 218th Leg. (N.J. 2018); H.B.
741, 2015 Sess. (N.C. 2015); H.B. 7515, 7634, Jan. Sess. A.D. 2016
(R.I. 2016); Chi., Ill., Mun. Ordinance O2017-4947 (introduced June
28, 2017); Employee Scheduling (Call-in Pay), N.Y. St. Reg. LAB. 47-
17-00011-P (proposed Nov. 11, 2017); S.B. 828, 79th Leg. Assemb.,
2017 Reg. Sess. (Or. 2017); H.B. 1436 (Penn. 2019); L.A., Ca., Fair
Work Week LA (introduced Mar. 1, 2019); Bos., Mass., Docket No. 0137
(2019).
    \169\ See, e.g., Seattle, Wash., Mun. Code ch. 14.22.050 (2017).
    \170\ See, e.g., N.Y.C., N.Y., Admin. Code 20-1231 (2017);
Seattle, Wash., Mun. Code 14.22.035 (2017); Emeryville, Cal. Mun.
Code 5-39.06 (2017); Chi., Ill., Fair Workweek Ordinance (July 24,
2019) (effective July 1, 2020); Phila., Pa., Code ch. 9-4600 (2018)
(effective Jan. 1, 2020).
    \171\ See, e.g., S.F., Cal., Police Code art. 33G (2015);
Emeryville, Cal., Mun. Code 5-39.01 (2017); N.Y.C., N.Y., Admin.
Code Sec.  20-1222 (2017); Seattle, Wash., Mun. Code ch. 14.22.050
(2017); Chi., Ill., Fair Workweek Ordinance (July 24, 2019)
(effective July 1, 2020); Phila., Pa., Code ch. 9-4600 (2018)
(effective Jan. 1, 2020).
    \172\ See, e.g., S.F., Cal., Police Code art. 3300G.4(d) (2015);
Seattle, Wash., Mun. Code ch. 14.22.050. (2017).
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    The preamble of the NPRM explained that, in the Department's view,
reporting pay pursuant to state or local scheduling laws should be
analyzed similar to show-up pay under Sec.  778.220 because it is
payment for an employer's failure to provide expected work.\173\
Compensation for any hours actually worked are included in the regular
rate; compensation beyond that may be excluded from the regular rate as
payment to compensate the employee for time spent reporting to work and
to prevent loss of pay from the employer's failure to provide expected
work during regular hours.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \173\ See, e.g., Seattle, Wash., Mun. Code ch. 14.22.050 (2017).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    ``Clopening'' or ``right to rest'' pay under state or local
scheduling laws would, the Department explained, be analyzed under
Sec.  778.222 (``other payments similar to `call-back' pay'') and would
therefore generally be excludable from the regular rate as long as the
payments are not regular. The Department would also analyze
``predictability pay'' penalties under Sec.  778.222, as they are
analogous to payments for failure to give an employee sufficient notice
to report for work outside of his or her regular work schedule. As with
reporting and call-back pay, compensation ``over and above the
employee's earnings for the hours actually worked at his applicable
rate (straight-time or overtime, as the case may be), is considered as
a payment that is not made for hours worked,'' and is therefore
excludable from the regular rate.\174\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \174\ 29 CFR 778.222.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Finally, the Department explained that ``on-call pay'' scheduling
penalties would be analyzed under Sec.  778.223, which is entitled
``[p]ay for non-productive hours distinguished.'' \175\ Under this
regulation, the Department may require payment for ``on-call'' time to
be included in the regular rate when such payments are ``compensation
for performing a duty involved in the employee's job.'' \176\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \175\ Id. Sec.  778.223.
    \176\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Several commenters agreed with the Department's explanation of the
proper treatment of state and local scheduling laws under Sec. Sec.
778.220, 778.222, and 778.223. See, e.g., Bloomin' Brands; SHRM; NADA;
CWC; Seyfarth. CWC agreed with the Department's discussion analyzing
common state and local scheduling laws under Sec. Sec.  778.220,
778.221, and 778.222, but suggested that they be discussed in the
regulatory text instead of only in the preamble, or that the Department
issue subregulatory guidance, such as a Fact Sheet, on this topic.
    The Department has accepted the suggestion to add language about
certain types of state and local scheduling laws to the regulatory text
in Sec. Sec.  778.220, 778.222, and 778.223. Specifically, the
Department has added paragraph (c) to Sec.  778.220 explaining that an
employer may exclude payments mandated by state or local scheduling
laws for occasions when the employee reports to work but is not
provided with the expected amount of work if such payments are not for
hours worked and are paid on an infrequent or sporadic basis. As in
current paragraph (a), new paragraph (c) makes clear that such payments
cannot be credited toward statutory overtime compensation due. The
Department is also updating paragraph (b) of Sec.  778.220 in a non-
substantive way by raising the wage of the employee in the example from
$5 an hour--which is below the current minimum wage--to $12 an hour.
    Specifically, the Department has further added a sentence to Sec.
778.222 generally defining the types of excludable payments that may be
considered ``similar to `call-back' pay,'' and noted that such similar
payments may include those made pursuant to state and local scheduling
laws. The Department also added to Sec.  778.222 examples of
``clopening'' or ``right to rest'' pay and ``predictability pay''
mandated by state or local law as payments similar to call-back pay.
Finally, the Department is revising Sec.  778.223 to explain that the
principle that ``on call'' pay is ``compensation for performing a duty
involved in the employee's job and is not a type of excludable pay
under section 7(e)(2),'' applies with respect to ``on call'' pay
mandated by state or local law.
B. Discretionary Bonuses Under Section 7(e)(3)
    Section 7(e)(3)(a) of the FLSA excludes from the regular rate
``sums paid in recognition of services performed'' if ``both the fact
that payment is to be made and the amount of the payment are determined
at the sole discretion of the employer at or near the end of the period
and not pursuant to any prior contract, agreement, or promise causing
employees to expect such payments regularly.'' \177\ Section 778.211 of
the
[[Page 68755]]
regulations implements this exclusion and provides additional details
concerning the types of bonuses that qualify for this exclusion. In the
NPRM, the Department proposed to elaborate on the types of bonuses that
are and that are not discretionary in Sec.  778.211 to add clarity for
employers and employees.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \177\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(3).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department proposed modifying language in Sec.  778.211(c) and
adding a new paragraph (d) to clarify that, under longstanding
principles, neither the label assigned to a bonus nor the reason it was
paid conclusively determine whether it is discretionary under section
7(e)(3).\178\ The Department explained in the NPRM that, while
attendance, production, work quality, and longevity bonuses, as those
terms are commonly used, are usually paid pursuant to a prior contract,
agreement, or promise causing the employee to expect such payments
regularly, and therefore are non-discretionary bonuses that must be
included in the regular rate, there may be instances when a bonus that
is labelled as one of these types of bonuses is not in fact promised in
advance and instead the employer retains discretion as to the fact and
amount of the bonus until at or near the end of the period to which the
bonus corresponds. The proposed rule modified language in Sec.
778.211(c) and added a new paragraph (d) to Sec.  778.211 to clarify
that the label assigned to a bonus is not determinative. Instead, the
Department explained, the terms of the statute and the facts specific
to the bonus at issue determine whether a bonus is an excludable
discretionary bonus. Under section 7(e)(3), a bonus is discretionary
and therefore excludable, regardless of what it is labelled or called,
if both the fact that the bonus is to be paid and the amount are
determined at the sole discretion of the employer at or near the end of
the period to which the bonus corresponds and the bonus is not paid
pursuant to any prior contract, agreement, or promise causing the
employee to expect such payments regularly.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \178\ See 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(3); Minizza, 842 F.2d at, 1462 n.9
(observing that ``what the payments are termed is not important'');
Walling v. Harnischfeger Corp., 325 U.S. 427, 430 (1945) (``To
discover [the regular] rate . . . we look not to contract
nomenclature but to the actual payments.''); Donohue v. Francis
Servs., Inc., No. Civ.A.04-170, 2005 WL 1155860, at *1 (E.D. La. May
11, 2005) (denying an employer's summary judgment motion over
``amounts described as `discretionary bonuses' ''). The NPRM noted
that this principle comports with longstanding interpretation of
other FLSA provisions; see, e.g., 29 CFR 541.2 (cautioning that
``[a] job title alone is insufficient to establish the exempt status
of an employee'' under section 13(a)(1) of the Act).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Additionally, the Department proposed to include in new Sec.
778.211(d) examples of bonuses that may be discretionary to supplement
the examples of bonuses that commonly are non-discretionary discussed
in current Sec.  778.211(c). The NPRM explained that such bonuses may
include, for example, employee-of-the-month bonuses, bonuses to
employees who made unique or extraordinary efforts which are not
awarded according to pre-established criteria, severance bonuses,
bonuses for overcoming stressful or difficult challenges, and other
similar bonuses for which the fact and amount of payment is in the sole
discretion of the employer until at or near the end of the periods to
which the bonuses correspond and that are not paid ``pursuant to any
prior contract, agreement, or promise causing the employee to expect
such payments regularly.'' \179\ The Department explained that it
recognized that employers offer many differing types of bonuses to
their employees, and that compensation practices will continue to
evolve going forward. Finally, the Department invited comments from the
public regarding other common types of bonuses that may be
discretionary and that should be addressed in Sec.  778.211.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \179\ See 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(3); see also Alonzo v. Maximus, Inc.,
832 F. Supp. 2d 1122, 1133 (C.D. Cal. 2011) (holding that bonuses to
employees who ``made unique or extraordinary efforts and were not
awarded according to pre-established criteria or pre-established
rates'' were excludable) (internal quotation marks omitted); WHD
Opinion Letter FLSA2008-12, 2008 WL 5483051 (Dec. 1, 2008) (bonuses
paid without prior promise or agreement to 911 dispatchers in
recognition of high stress level of their job are excludable
discretionary bonuses).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The majority of the commenters supported the proposal's
clarification that labels are not determinative. See, e.g., SIGMA; IBC;
NADA; Cavanagh Law Firm; HR Policy. IBC commented that the proposal's
``focus on the circumstances of the actual payment versus what the
payment is called better reflects the reality of business operations as
well as the purpose and spirit of the FLSA.'' The PPWO and CWC noted
that this change is consistent with the Department's longstanding
position. HR Policy approved of this proposal because ``the proper
analysis'' is the statutory requirements, not the label applied to the
bonus. Other commenters addressed what they perceived as an
inconsistency between stating that labels are not determinative and
providing examples of bonuses that are excludable discretionary
bonuses. PPWO commented that the proposal to include additional
examples of discretionary bonuses was inconsistent with the proposal to
make clear that labels are not determinative. CWC similarly commented
that ``the addition of examples that `may be discretionary' is not
particularly helpful as it may give a false impression that the types
of bonuses listed are usually excludable.'' CWC added that more
guidance is needed which describes facts that make a bonus more or less
likely to be discretionary. By contrast, several commenters requested
that the Department include additional examples of excludable
discretionary bonuses, such as referral bonuses, and sign-on bonuses.
See Cavanagh Law Firm; Chamber; HR Policy; AHLA; Seyfarth, SHRM;
Associated Builders and Contractors; PPWO; ERIC; World Floor Covering
Association.
    After reviewing the comments, the Department adopts the changes to
paragraph (c) of Sec.  778.211 and the proposed addition of paragraph
(d), with the addition of referral bonuses for employees not primarily
engaged in recruiting activities as an example of a bonus that may be
discretionary, as suggested by the commenters.
    In reviewing the comments, the Department agrees that there is a
need for more guidance regarding the facts that may make a bonus
discretionary or nondiscretionary. The statute requires all of the
following facts to be present for a bonus to be discretionary: (1) The
employer has the sole discretion, until at or near the end of the
period that corresponds to the bonus, to determine whether to pay the
bonus; (2) the employer has the sole discretion, until at or near the
end of the period that corresponds to the bonus, to determine the
amount of the bonus; and (3) the payment is not made pursuant to any
prior contract, agreement, or promise causing employees to expect such
payments. In response to comments regarding referral bonuses, sign-on
bonuses, and other examples, the Department has addressed each of these
below.
    Five commenters asked the Department to include employee referral
bonuses in the list of bonuses that may be discretionary, finding that
such examples ``[provide] some clarity to employers'' and ``[encourage]
employers to offer these incentives to their workforce.'' See AHLA; HR
Policy; Associated Builders and Contractors; Cavanagh Law Firm;
Chamber. Cavanaugh Law Firm noted that payment of a referral bonus is
``not related to the hours worked by the employee, their productivity,
etc.'' Such payments are excludable from the regular rate where
recruiting activities are not part of the receiving employees' job
duties and other conditions are met. Specifically, the Department does
not
[[Page 68756]]
consider sums ``paid to an employee who recruits another to join his
employer's work force'' to be ``part of an employee's remuneration for
employment which must be included in [the] regular rate'' if (1)
participation in the activity is strictly voluntary, (2) the employee's
efforts in connection with the activity do not involve significant
amounts of time, and (3) the activity is limited to after-hours
solicitation among friends, relatives, neighbors, and acquaintances as
part of the employee's social affairs.\180\ Because it is consistent
with the Department's long-standing position, and because it would
provide clarity to employers and encourage employers to offer bonuses
of this type to employees, the Department includes ``referral bonuses
for employees not primarily engaged in recruiting activities'' as a
type of bonus that may be discretionary, so long as it satisfies the
statutory test, in its final rule.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \180\ See WHD Opinion Letter FLSA (Jan. 27, 1969) (concluding
that an employee referral bonus is excludable from the regular rate
of pay under the FLSA).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Several commenters requested that the Department clarify that sign-
on bonuses are excludable as discretionary bonuses. See AHLA;
Associated Builders and Contractors; Seyfarth; SHRM; PPWO. ERIC and
NADA requested the Department recognize that sign-on bonuses are
excludable under 7(e)(2) of the FLSA as an ``other similar payment,''
which the Department addresses separately in this Preamble. As
emphasized by the Department's addition of Sec.  778.211(d), labels are
not dispositive in determining whether a bonus is discretionary.
Therefore, as with all bonuses, the discretionary nature of a sign-on
bonus will be decided by assessing whether it meets the statutory test.
    Several commenters requested that the Department address whether
other common types of bonuses are excludable as a discretionary bonus.
These include year-end bonuses based on company performance where the
company retains discretion on whether to pay the bonus until at or near
the end of the performance period, bonuses to induce ratification of
union agreements, preannounced bonuses, incentive bonuses, safety
bonuses, spot bonuses, and quarterly bonuses. See HR Policy; World
Floor Covering Association; AHLA; Associated Builders and Contractors;
Cavanagh Law Firm. In each of these cases, the Department believes that
its finalized regulation provides sufficient clarity by emphasizing
that labels are not determinative. Instead, the facts specific to a
bonus must be considered against the statutory terms expounded in the
final regulation.
    Lastly, the Department does not address in this final rule comments
concerning bonuses that are outside the scope of this rulemaking, such
as a request to modify the regulation on percentage bonuses at Sec.
778.110, or industry-specific bonuses, such as bonuses given to front-
desk associates for upselling hotel rooms. See Chamber; AHLA.
C. Excludable Benefits Under Section 7(e)(4)
    Section 7(e)(4) of the FLSA excludes from the regular rate
``contributions irrevocably made by an employer to a trustee or third
person pursuant to a bona fide plan for providing old-age, retirement,
life, accident, or health insurance or similar benefits for
employees.'' \181\ Section 778.215(a)(2) explains that, among other
things, ``[t]he primary purpose of the plan must be to provide
systematically for the payment of benefits to employees on account of
death, disability, advanced age, retirement, illness, medical expenses,
hospitalization, and the like.'' The NPRM proposed to add examples of
benefits on account of ``accident, unemployment, and legal services''
to Sec.  778.215(a)(2).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \181\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(4). The Department acknowledges that
contributions to a plan made by an employee through elective salary
reduction are generally treated as employer contributions under the
Internal Revenue Code. See, e.g., 26 U.S.C. 402(e)(3). But
employees' elective contributions are not ``contributions
irrevocably made by an employer'' under section 7(e)(4) of the FLSA,
and so are not excludable from the regular rate as employer
contributions to a bona fide plan.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department noted in the NPRM that the addition of ``accident''
is derived directly from section 7(e)(4), which expressly uses the term
(even though the current regulations do not). The Department noted that
the addition of benefits for unemployment and legal services reflected
the Department's conclusion that, although employers may not have
commonly offered these benefits when Congress enacted the FLSA in
1938,\182\ they are ``similar benefits'' to those expressly listed in
section 7(e)(4). The Department explained that, first, like other
specifically enumerated types of benefit plans under section 7(e)(4),
these benefit plans typically provide monetary benefits that are
``specified or definitely determinable on an actuarial basis.'' \183\
Second, benefit plans for unemployment or legal services protect
employees from events that are rare but statistically predictable and
that could otherwise cause significant financial hardship, just as is
the case with life insurance, accident insurance, and the catastrophic-
protection provisions of life insurance. Third, benefit plans for
unemployment or legal services offer financial help when an employee's
earnings are (unemployment) or may be (legal services) materially
affected, as is the case with the other benefit plans. Employees who
retire, reach an older age, or suffer an accident or health issue may
be unable to work, or have their ability to work affected.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \182\ See Bureau of Labor Statistics, An Overview of Employee
Benefits, supra note 2, at 20.
    \183\ 29 CFR 778.215(a)(3)(i).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department noted that other characteristics of the various
types of plans excludable under section 7(e)(4) may differ, but they
still remain ``similar'' for purposes of the statute. Under the plain
text of the statute, excludable plans need not be related to physical
health. Retirement benefits are excludable, for instance, even though
an employee may choose to retire for reasons wholly unrelated to
health. And excludable plans also need not be limited to benefits for
rare or even uncommon events. Health insurance, for instance, often
pays for everyday medical expenses, and retirement is an event
typically planned years in advance. Moreover, the benefits listed in
the statute may be subject to various forms of payment. Retirement
benefits are often a recurring payment, while accident and health
benefits can fluctuate, and a life insurance death benefit can be paid
in a lump sum. Therefore, insofar as the proposed additional examples
differ among themselves or among other expressly listed benefits by not
all being related to physical health, or not all being for rare events,
or not all being paid out the same way, those differences do not make
the proposed examples not ``similar'' under the statute. Indeed, such
differences are encompassed in the statutory examples themselves.
    The Department further explained that these proposed examples, like
the examples already provided in regulation and statute, would have to
satisfy the other various requirements outlined in Sec.  778.215.\184\
The Department noted that these additions would simply help clarify
that such plans are not categorically barred from qualifying for
exclusion under section 7(e)(4). The Department solicited comments and
data on the prevalence and nature of these types of programs and on
whether
[[Page 68757]]
there are other similar benefit plans that should be expressly included
as examples.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \184\ Section 778.215(a) contains five conditions all of which
must be met in order for employer contributions to be excluded from
the regular rate under 7(e)(4). 29 CFR 778.215(a)(1)-(5).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department received several comments supporting the proposed
changes to Sec.  778.215(a)(2) and no comments opposed to the changes.
See, e.g., SHRM; Associated General Contractors of America (AGC); PPWO;
Seyfarth; NADA. Some of these commenters requested that the Department
consider including additional examples of benefits. NADA, for instance,
stated that it ``supports an expansion of the non-exclusive list but
urges the DOL to indicate that cash payments in lieu of plan
participation also may be excluded.'' The American Benefits Council
suggested the Department add that employer-provided ``programs for
repaying educational debt'' may be excludable under section 7(e)(4).
See also ERIC. Upon review, the Department does not believe it would be
appropriate to further expand the list of example benefits in Sec.
778.215(a)(2) to include repaying an employee's accumulated educational
debt or cash payments in lieu of plan participation.
    An employee benefit plan satisfies the ``primary purpose''
requirement under Sec.  778.215(a)(2) if it provides a ``similar
benefit'' to the expressly listed benefits in FLSA section 7(e)(4)--
i.e., ``old-age, retirement, life, accident, or health insurance.'' The
expressly listed benefits are similar to one another in that they all
provide assistance in preparation for a future expense. As explained in
the NPRM, such ``similar benefits'' include providing accident,
unemployment, and legal services \185\ that protect employees from rare
but statistically predictable events that could otherwise cause
significant financial hardship or expense.\186\ ``Similar benefits''
also include assistance in preparation for common and predictable
events--e.g., retirement. Or even inevitable events--e.g., old age. But
a common thread remains: the benefit must help the employee prepare for
an event that may result in significant future financial hardship or
expense. By contrast, accumulated educational debt represents an
expense that an employee would have incurred in the past. As such,
repayment of past debt is not similar to the future-oriented benefits
expressly listed in section 7(e)(4). Nor are cash payments in lieu of
plan participation, as cash is not limited to paying for future
expenses.\187\ To provide further clarification on this matter, the
Department is revising Sec.  778.215(a)(2) to codify the future-expense
requirement on ``similar benefits.'' Specifically, the Department is
replacing ``or the like'' with ``or other events that could cause
significant future financial hardship or expense.''
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    \185\ The Department has taken the position that legal services
plans qualify for exclusion under FLSA section 7(e)(4) since at
least 1978. See WHD Opinion Letter FLSA (Feb. 7, 1978)
    \186\ 84 FR 11899.
    \187\ Moreover, Sec.  778.215(a)(5) specifically restricts
payments of ``cash instead of the benefits under the plan'' to be
``an incidental part . . . and not inconsistent with the general
purpose of the plan to provide benefits described in section 7(e)(4)
of the Act.'' By necessary implication, cash in lieu of a benefit
under a plan must be different from that benefit.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The NPRM also proposed to revise Sec.  778.215(b), which currently
provides that where the benefit plan or trust has been approved by the
Bureau of Internal Revenue as satisfying the requirements of section
401(a) of the Internal Revenue Code in the absence of evidence to the
contrary, the plan or trust will be considered to meet the conditions
specified in Sec.  778.215(a)(1), (4), and (5). In particular, the NPRM
proposed to modernize this provision by replacing ``Bureau of Internal
Revenue''--a term that has not been used since 1953--with ``Internal
Revenue Service.'' \188\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \188\ 84 FR 11909.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Commenters suggested several additional ways for the Department to
modernize Sec.  778.215(b). Some commenters informed the Department
that the recent elimination of significant aspects of the IRS's
determination letter program results in fewer ``approvals'' from the
IRS. American Benefits Council; Chamber. The American Benefits Council
suggested that the Department replace ``approved by the Internal
Revenue Service as satisfying the requirements of section 401(a)'' with
``designed to meet the requirements of section 401(a).''
    Commenters also requested that the Department expand the coverage
of Sec.  778.215(b) to presume that more benefit plans meet the
requirements of Sec.  778.215(a). The American Benefits Council, for
instance, suggested that the Department deem section 401(a) plans to
meet all five conditions required under Sec.  778.215(a), rather than
just the conditions in paragraphs (a)(1), (4), and (5). The American
Benefits Council further requested that the Department ``expand . . .
Sec.  778.215(b) to other common types of retirement plans, namely
[Internal Revenue] Code section 403(a), 403(b), 408(k), 408(p), and
governmental 457(b) plans.'' Other commenters requested that the
Department ``amend 29 CFR 778.215(b) to provide an exemption for all .
. . employee welfare benefit and employee pension benefit plans
governed by ERISA[.]'' Chamber, see also ERIC. Some commenters who
supported the proposed changes also suggested the Department clarify
that certain types of ERISA employee benefit plans are excludable under
section 7(e)(4) of the Act. For example, WageWorks requested that the
Department clarify that ``amounts that an employer contributes to an
employee's HRA are to be excluded . . . just like the benefits provided
under any other employer provided health plan.'' And the Associated
Builders and Contractors and NAM requested the Department clarify that
employer contributions to multiple employer plans, e.g., Association
Retirement Plans or Association Health Plans (AHPs), are excludable.
    After careful consideration, the Department has concluded that it
would be appropriate to expand the scope of Sec.  778.215(b) in three
ways. First, the Department agrees with commenters that Sec.
778.215(b) should be revised in light of the IRS's recent decision to
change its determination letter procedures. The IRS maintains a program
under which plan sponsors can obtain a determination letter that
approves a plan as complying with requirements under section 401(a) or
403(a) of the Internal Revenue Code. In addition, the IRS issues
approval letters for pre-approved plans, which can be relied upon by
plan sponsors, that a plan meets the requirements of section 401(a) or
403(b) of the Internal Revenue Code. But, as of 2017, sponsors of
individually designed plans generally may request a determination
letter only for initial qualification or upon plan termination.\189\
This change may prevent some sponsors that amend an existing plan from
receiving a determination letter approving the amended plan. Thus,
under the current Sec.  778.215(b), some sponsors that amend a
qualified plan are unable to obtain a determination letter that the
plan, as amended, satisfies the requirements of section 401(a) of the
Internal Revenue Code. In order to reflect these changes to the IRS's
determination letter program, the Department is revising the provision
to state that, absent evidence to the contrary, a plan ``maintained
pursuant to a written document that the plan sponsor reasonably
believes satisfies the requirements'' of section 401(a) of the Internal
Revenue Code will
[[Page 68758]]
be considered to meet certain requirements of Sec.  778.215(a).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \189\ See Revenue Procedure 2016-37, available at https://www.irs.gov/irb/2016-29_IRB, for approval letters procedures for
qualified plans. See also Revenue Procedure 2013-22, available at
https://www.irs.gov/irb/2013-18_IRB, for approval letters procedures
for section 403(b) plans.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Second, the Department agrees with commenters that plans meeting
the requirements of section 401(a) of the Internal Revenue Code should
be deemed to comply with Sec.  778.215(a)(2). A section 401(a) plan is
an employer-sponsored tax-advantaged plan in which the employer, the
employee, or both may contribute funds for use in retirement. Treasury
regulations state that a section 401(a) pension plan must provide ``for
the payment of definitely determinable benefits to [an employer's]
employees over a period of years, usually for life, after retirement.''
\190\ In addition, a retirement plan that is a profit-sharing plan must
provide ``for distributing the funds accumulated under the plan after a
fixed number of years, the attainment of a stated age, or upon the
prior occurrence of some event such as layoff, illness, disability,
retirement, death, or severance of employment.'' \191\ The Internal
Revenue Code further generally subjects early distributions to a 10
percent additional tax unless the plan participant has reached age
59\1/2\, dies, becomes disabled, or meets certain other
exceptions.\192\ The Treasury regulations' definition of pension plan,
the conditions on distributions from profit-sharing plans, and the
additional 10 percent tax on early distributions ensure plan assets are
used for retirement or another permitted benefit under Sec.
778.215(a)(2). The Department is therefore revising Sec.  778.215(b) to
state that a section 401(a) plan may be presumed to satisfy Sec.
778.215(a)(2), in addition to Sec.  778.215(a)(1), (4), and (5). The
Department notes that section 401(k) plans, which came into existence
in 1978 and have become popular among private employers, are a type of
section 401(a) plan that uses a qualified cash or deferred arrangement
to provide retirement funds.\193\ Accordingly, a section 401(k) plan is
a section 401(a) plan and therefore enjoys the same presumptions as a
section 401(a) plan.
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    \190\ 26 CFR 1.401-1(b)(1)(i).
    \191\ 26 CFR 1.401-1(b)(1)(ii). Section 1.401-1(b)(1)(iii)
provides that a stock bonus plan is a plan established and
maintained by an employer to provide benefits similar to those of a
profit-sharing plan with certain exceptions.
    \192\ See 26 U.S.C. 72(t).
    \193\ See 26 U.S.C. 401(k)(1) (a ``plan shall not be considered
as not satisfying the requirements of subsection (a) merely because
the plan includes a qualified cash or deferred arrangement.'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    However, the Department does not believe section 401(a) profit-
sharing plans should be presumed to satisfy the requirement in Sec.
778.215(a)(3) that either benefits must be definitely determinable on
an actuarial basis or there must be a definite formula to determine
both the employer's contribution amount and the benefits for each
employee participating in the plan. Although Treasury regulations
provide that benefits under a pension plan must be definitely
determinable,\194\ Treasury regulations require that section 401(a)
profit-sharing and stock bonus plans have ``a definite predetermined
formula to allocating the contributions made to the plan among the
participants.'' \195\ For section 401(a) profit-sharing and stock bonus
plans, there is no requirement that there be a definite formula to
determining the amount to be contributed by the employer, as required
by Sec.  778.215(a)(3).\196\ Thus, a section 401(a) profit-sharing or
stock bonus plan may grant an employer complete discretion regarding
the amount of contributions. The Department's opinion letter dated
August 17, 1970, explained that such a plan would not satisfy Sec.
778.215(a)(3).\197\ But contributions to such a plan may still be
excludable under FLSA section 7(e)(3) as ``payments . . . to a bona
fide profit-sharing plan or trust.'' \198\ As the Southern District of
California recently explained, a plan need only meet the requirements
of a profit-sharing plan under section 7(e)(3) or a bona fide employee
benefit plan under section 7(e)(4), but not both, in order for
contributions thereto to be excludable.\199\
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    \194\ 26 CFR 1.401-1(b)(1)(i).
    \195\ 26 CFR 1.401-1(b)(1)(ii), (iii) (emphasis added).
    \196\ 29 CFR 778.215(a)(3) permits plans to, in the alternative,
have benefits that are specified or definitively determinable on an
actuarial basis or to have a formula for determining the amount to
be contributed by the employer and a provision for determining the
individual benefits by a method which is consistent with the
purposes of the plan or trust under section 7(e)(4) of the Act.
    \197\ WHD Opinion Letter FLSA, 1970 WL 26444, at *1 (Aug. 17,
1970) (``The plan fails to meet the formula requirements of Sec.
778.215(a)(3) of Part 778, in that it does not contain a definite
formula for determining the amount to be contributed by the
employer.''). However, a profit sharing plan that permits
discretionary contributions but uses a definite formula to determine
the amount of such contributions does satisfy Sec.  778.215(a)(3).
See Russell v. Gov't Employees Ins. Co., No. 17-CV-672 JLS (WVG),
2018 WL 1210763, at *8 (S.D. Cal. Mar. 8, 2018).
    \198\ The requirements of a bona fide profit sharing plan or
trust are set forth in part 549 of the Department's regulations. See
29 CFR part 549.
    \199\ Russell, 2018 WL 1210763, at *6.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Third, the Department is extending the presumption of satisfaction
under Sec.  778.215(b) to plans that meet the requirements of section
403(a), 403(b), 408(k) or 408(p) of the Internal Revenue Code and to
governmental plans that satisfy the requirements of section 457(b) of
the Internal Revenue Code (governmental section 457(b) plans). In
contrast to section 401(a) plans, section 403(a) plans are employer-
sponsored retirement plans that are funded through annuity contracts
rather than trusts,\200\ and section 403(b) plans are funded through
annuity contracts or custodial accounts.\201\ Section 408(k) plans--
also called Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plans--are employer-
sponsored retirement plans that allow employers to make tax-favored
contributions to an employee's Individual Retirement Account or Annuity
(IRA).\202\ Section 408(p) plans--also called SIMPLE (Savings Incentive
Match Plan for Employees) IRA plans--are plans established and
maintained by a small business on behalf of its employees.\203\ The
employer generally is required to contribute to each eligible
employee's SIMPLE IRA every year, while employees may also contribute.
Finally, governmental section 457(b) plans are tax-advantaged
retirement saving accounts available to employees of state and local
governments.\204\
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    \200\ See 26 U.S.C. 403(a); 26 CFR 1.403(a)-1.
    \201\ See 26 U.S.C. 403(b); 26 CFR 1.403(b)-8.
    \202\ 26 U.S.C. 408(k); see also IRS, Establishing a SEP,
https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/establishing-a-sep.
    \203\ 26 U.S.C. 408(p); see also IRS, Establishing a SIMPLE IRA
Plan, https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/establishing-a-simple-ira-plan.
    \204\ See 26 U.S.C. 457(b); see also IRS, IRC 457(b) Deferred
Compensation Plans, https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/irc-457b-deferred-compensation-plans.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Sections 403(a), 403(b), 408(k), and 408(p) plans and governmental
section 457(b) plans are all established and maintained by an employer
and therefore satisfy the ``adopted by the employer'' requirement of
Sec.  778.215(a)(1). All five types of plans are designed to provide
retirement and advanced age benefits by offering tax-favored treatment
of plan contributions. Thus, these plans satisfy Sec.  778.215(a)(2). A
section 403(a) plan's assets must be placed in an annuity contract
provided through a third-party insurer,\205\ and a section 403(b)
plan's assets must be placed in such an annuity contract or in a
custodial account invested in regulated investment company stock
(mutual fund).\206\ Employer
[[Page 68759]]
contributions made under SEP and SIMPLE IRA plans must be paid into
each eligible employee's IRA, which is maintained by a financial
institution that serves as the trustee of the employee's retirement
assets.\207\ And ``[g]overnmental 457(b) plans must be funded, with
assets held in trust for the benefit of employees.'' \208\ Thus, all
five types of plans also satisfy the Sec.  778.215(a)(4) requirement
that ``[t]he employer's contributions must be paid irrevocably to a
trustee or third person pursuant to an insurance agreement, trust or
other funded arrangement.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \205\ 26 U.S.C. 403(a)(1)
    \206\ U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security
Administration, Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2007-02, ERISA
Coverage Of IRC Section 403(b) Tax-Sheltered Annuity Programs (July
24, 2007) (``Under a 403(b) plan, employers may purchase for their
eligible employees annuity contracts or establish custodial accounts
invested only in mutual funds for the purpose of providing
retirement income. Annuity contracts must be purchased from a state
licensed insurance company, and the custodial accounts must be held
by a custodian bank or IRS approved non-bank trustee/custodian.'').
    \207\ IRS, Establishing a SEP, https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/establishing-a-sep; IRS, Establishing a SIMPLE IRA Plan,
https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/establishing-a-simple-ira-plan.
    \208\ IRS, Government Retirement Plans Toolkit, https://www.irs.gov/government-entities/federal-state-local-governments/government-retirement-plans-toolkit.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Section 778.215(a)(5) requires that employer contributions to a
plan be used in furtherance of a benefit under FLSA section 7(e)(4),
except that incidental cash distributions for other purposes are
permitted. Section 403(a) plans are subject to a 10 percent additional
tax on early distributions and the minimum distribution requirements
under section 401(a)(9) of the Internal Revenue Code. A section 403(b)
plan generally permits an employee to withdraw funds only if he or she
(1) reaches age 59\1/2\, (2) separates from employment, (3) becomes
disabled, (4) dies, (5) encounters a financial hardship, or (6) is
called up to active duty military service.\209\ The first four
conditions correspond to benefits listed in Sec.  778.215(a)(2)--i.e.,
advanced age, retirement, disability, and death--and therefore
distributions under these conditions are consistent with Sec.
778.215(a)(5). The remaining conditions permitting distribution--
financial hardship and active duty service--are narrow. A hardship
distribution is permitted only if the participant faces an immediate
and heavy financial need that cannot be met with available financial
resources, and the distribution amount must be limited to that need
(increased by the amount of tax reasonably anticipated to result from
the distribution).\210\ And an active duty distribution is available
only where a reservist or national guardsman is called up for at least
180 days of active duty military service.\211\ The Department believes
that financial hardship and active duty distributions are consistent
with the incidental-payment requirements of Sec.  778.215(a)(5).
Indeed, such distributions are also permitted under certain section
401(a) plans, which currently are presumed to satisfy Sec.
778.215(a)(5). Accordingly, section 403(a) and section 403(b) plans may
be presumed to satisfy Sec.  778.215(a)(5).
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    \209\ IRS Publication 571, Tax-Sheltered Annuity Plans (403(b)
Plans) (January 2019), https://www.irs.gov/publications/p571. The
plan may, but is not required to, permit participants to receive a
cash distribution in response to financial hardship.
    \210\ See 26 CFR 1.401(k)-1(d)(3). Hardship distributions are
generally subject to a 10 percent tax penalty. See 26 U.S.C. 72(t).
    \211\ IRS Publication 571, Tax-Sheltered Annuity Plans (403(b)
Plans) (January 2019), https://www.irs.gov/publications/p571.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Section 457(d)(1)(A) of the Internal Revenue Code permits early
distribution from a 457(b) plan only if the participant ``attains age
70\1/2\,'' ``has a severance from employment,'' or ``is faced with an
unforeseeable emergency.'' Thus, the only type of 457(b) distribution
that does not serve as an FLSA section 7(e)(4) benefit is an
unforeseeable emergency distribution. Treasury regulations define
unforeseeable emergency as a severe financial hardship resulting from
illness, accident, loss of home, or other similar extraordinary and
unforeseeable circumstances.\212\ An unforeseeable emergency
distribution is not permitted unless the participant's other financial
assets are insufficient, and the amount of such distribution must be
limited to the needs of the emergency (increased by the amount of tax
reasonably anticipated to result from the distribution).\213\ The
Department believes these restrictions ensure unforeseeable emergency
distributions are consistent with the incidental-payment requirements
of Sec.  778.215(a)(5) and therefore governmental section 457(b) plans
may be presumed to satisfy Sec.  778.215(a)(5).
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    \212\ 26 CFR 1.457-6(c)(2); see also Rev. Rul. 2010-27, https://www.irs.gov/irb/2010-45_IRB#RR-2010-27 (providing guidance on what
constitutes an unforeseeable emergency distribution).
    \213\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The funding vehicles for SEP and SIMPLE IRA plans are IRAs, which
do not prohibit employees from receiving distributions before reaching
retirement age. But to discourage the use of plan funds for purposes
other than retirement, the Internal Revenue Code generally imposes an
additional 10 percent tax on SEP and SIMPLE IRA distributions before
the employee reaches age 59\1/2\ unless the employee dies, becomes
disabled, or meets certain other specified exceptions.\214\ The
Department believes the additional 10 percent tax ensures that early
distributions are incidental to retirement benefits, and so these types
of plans should be presumed to satisfy the incidental-payment
requirement under Sec.  778.215(a)(5).\215\
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    \214\ 26 U.S.C. 72(t). For example, the 10 percent additional
tax does not apply to early distributions that are used to pay for
certain medical expenses. See 26 U.S.C. 72(t)(2)(B). Nor does the
tax apply to early distribution from SEP and SIMPLE IRA plans that
pay for certain expenses relating to qualified higher education,
first-time home ownership, and being called to active duty military
service. See 26 U.S.C. 72(t)(2)(E)-(G). For a list of the exceptions
to the 10 percent additional tax under section 72(t) of the Code,
see IRS, Retirement Topics--Exceptions to Tax on Early
Distributions, https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-topics-tax-on-early-distributions.
Early distributions from a SIMPLE IRA plan ``incur a 25% additional
tax instead of 10% if made within the first 2 years of
participation.'' Id.
    \215\ As the Department articulated in an opinion letter dated
July 2, 2003, a plan that distributes over 20 percent of the
employer's total contributions to the plan for purposes other than a
FLSA section 7(e)(4) benefit does not satisfy Sec.  778.215(a)(5)
because such distributions would not be incidental. WHD Opinion
Letter FLSA2003-4, 2003 WL 23374600, at *2 (July 2, 2003). Thus,
while the Department believes it is appropriate to presume a SEP and
SIMPLE IRA plan satisfies Sec.  778.215(a)(5), the early withdrawal
of over 20 percent of total employer contributions may constitute
``evidence to the contrary'' that would rebut such a presumption.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Based on the above discussion, the Department believes that a
retirement plan satisfying section 403(a), 403(b), 408(k), or 408(p) of
the Internal Revenue Code, or a governmental section 457(b) plan,
should be presumed to satisfy Sec.  778.215(a)(1), (2), (4), and (5).
Accordingly, the Department is revising Sec.  778.215(b) to extend that
presumption to any plan ``maintained pursuant to a written document
that the plan sponsor reasonably believes satisfies the requirements of
section 401(a), 403(a), 403(b), 408(k), or 408(p) of the Internal
Revenue Code, or is sponsored by a government employer that reasonably
believes the plan satisfies the requirements of section 457(b) of the
Internal Revenue Code.'' The Department believes this clarifying
revision will make it easier for employers to determine whether
employer contributions to an employee retirement plan are excludable
from the regular rate under FLSA section 7(e)(4) and would serve ``the
policy of the Federal Government to expand access to workplace
retirement plans for American workers.'' \216\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \216\ Exec. Order No. 13847, Strengthening Retirement Security
in America, 83 FR 45321 (Aug. 31, 2018).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department is declining to create a new presumption for
employee benefit plans governed by and in compliance with ERISA, as
requested by some commenters. See ERIC; Chamber. ERISA requirements
appear to overlap with some of the requirements of a bona fide
[[Page 68760]]
plan detailed in Sec.  778.215(a)(1)-(5). But compliance with ERISA
does not address all requirements for excludability under FLSA section
7(e)(4) and Sec.  778.215(a). For example, ERISA does not require all
covered employee benefit plans to have benefits that are determined on
an actuarial basis or by a definite formula that sets the employer's
contribution amount, as required under Sec.  778.215(a)(3); an ERISA-
covered profit-sharing plan may grant the employer complete discretion
regarding the amount of contributions.\217\ Such a plan would not meet
the requirements of Sec.  778.215(a)(3).\218\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \217\ See e.g., 26 U.S.C. 412(a) and (e)(2) (requiring minimum
funding of certain plans but exempting profit sharing plans from
this requirement).
    \218\ See e.g., WHD Opinion Letter FLSA, 1970 WL 26444, at *1. A
profit sharing plan that permits discretionary contributions but
uses a definite formula to determine the amount of such
contributions does satisfy 778.215(a)(3). See Russell, 2018 WL
1210763, at *8.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Additionally, contributions to an employee benefit plan are
excludable under FLSA section 7(e)(4) only if they are ``irrevocably
made by an employer to a trustee or third person'' and Sec.
778.215(a)(4) accordingly requires employer contributions to be ``paid
irrevocably to a trustee or third person pursuant to an insurance
agreement, trust or other funded arrangement.'' But ERISA does not
uniformly require employers to fund all types of ERISA plans through a
trustee or third party. While some ERISA plans are funded through a
trust or an insurer, ERISA permits employers to establish self-funded
plans that pay benefits out of the employer's general assets, which
would not satisfy the requirement of FLSA section 7(e)(4) and Sec.
778.215(a)(4).
    For example, a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) is a group
health plan that enables employers to reimburse employees' medical
expenses in a tax-favored manner. An HRA may be funded through a trust,
in which case it would satisfy the irrevocable-contribution requirement
of FLSA section 7(e)(4) and Sec.  778.215(a)(4). But an employer may
also structure an HRA using a notional account through which
reimbursements are paid out of the employer's general assets. In this
type of self-funded HRA, there are no irrevocable contributions to a
trust or third party, and therefore, reimbursements by such a plan
would not be excludable under FLSA section 7(e)(4).\219\ However, the
Department believes that benefits from self-funded employee benefit
plans--including self-funded HRAs--could be excludable under the
``other similar payments'' clause of section 7(e)(2) if the
availability and amount of benefits do not depend on hours worked,
services rendered, or any other criteria that depend on the quality or
quantity of an employee's work.\220\ Because compliance with ERISA is
not a substitute for statutory and regulatory prerequisites for
excludability from the regular rate under FLSA section 7(e)(4), the
Department does not believe it would be appropriate to create a
presumption that employer contributions to ERISA employee benefit plans
are excludable. Employers should assess the plan's compliance with the
elements set forth in Sec.  778.215(a)(1)-(5) to determine
excludability, rather than rely on the plan's compliance with ERISA.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \219\ See Gilbertson v. City of Sheboygan, 165 F. Supp. 3d 742,
750 (E.D. Wis. Feb. 5, 2016).
    \220\ See Minizza, 842 F.2d 14562 (payments under section
7(e)(2) all ``share the essential characteristic . . . of not being
compensation for hours worked or services rendered''). The
Gilbertson court held that HRA reimbursement payments were not
excludable under section 7(e)(2)'s reimbursement clause because such
reimbursements benefited the employee, not the employer. 165 F.
Supp. 3d. at 750-51. But the court did not analyze the excludability
of HRA reimbursements under the ``other similar payments'' clause of
section 7(e)(2).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The above principle applies equally with respect to a multiple
employer plan.\221\ One common type of a multiple employer plan is an
Association Retirement Plan--which provides group retirement benefits.
A multiple employer plan is treated the same for purposes of this
regulation as if it were a single plan: If the plan satisfies the
conditions set forth in Sec.  778.215(a)(1)-(5), then employer
contributions to the plan would be excludable under FLSA section
7(e)(4).\222\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \221\ For general information on ERISA-covered multiple employer
plans, see generally, the Department's recently promulgated final
rule that expands access to affordable quality retirement saving
options by clarifying the circumstances under which an employer
group or association or a professional employer organization may
sponsor a multiple employer workplace retirement plan under title I
of ERISA. Definition of ``Employer'' Under section 3(5) of ERISA--
Association Retirement Plans and Other Multiple-Employer Plans, 84
FR 37508 (July 31, 2019).
    \222\ In a typical Association Retirement Plan, multiple
employers participate in a single retirement plan--such as a section
401(k) plan--and each employer may choose among eligibility,
contribution, vesting, and distribution options provided by the plan
document. Under revised Sec.  778.215(b), the section 401(k) plan in
the above example may be presumed to satisfy Sec.  778.215(a)(1),
(2), (4) and (5). An employer's contributions to that Association
Retirement Plan would be excludable so long as the contribution and
benefits provisions in the plan document and the employer's
participation agreement satisfy the requirements of Sec.
778.215(a)(3). See Laughlin v. Jim Fischer, Inc., 2019 WL 1440406,
at *7 (E.D. Wisc. March 31, 2019) (section 401(k) contributions
excluded from regular rate where ``there is no room for discretion
in [employer]'s plan for the amount to be contributed.'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Some commenters who supported the proposed changes also suggested
the Department clarify that other specific benefit plans are excludable
under section 7(e)(4) of the Act. For example, ERIC requested that the
Department clarify that contributions to Health Saving Accounts (HSA)
and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) are excludable, and the
American Benefits Council asked the Department to clarify that
discretionary contributions to retirement plans are excludable. Other
commenters asked the same regarding cash payments to employees made in-
lieu of receiving health insurance provided through contributions to a
cafeteria plan. See IMLA; NADA; Seyfarth; NPELRA. The Department
discusses the excludability of each of these types of benefit plan
contributions below.
    A cafeteria plan is an employer-sponsored plan established under
section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code. A cafeteria plan allows
employees to choose between using employer contributions to pay for an
employer-provided qualified benefit, including premiums for health
coverage or contributions to an HSA, or to receive cash payments (or
some other taxable benefits).\223\ As an employer-sponsored plan that
provides for ``payment of benefits to employees on account of . . .
medical expenses,'' a cafeteria plan would generally meet the
requirements of Sec.  778.215(a)(1) and (2). And Sec.  778.215(a)(3)
and (4) likely are satisfied if employer contributions are determinable
or based on a formula, and are irrevocably made to a trust or third
party.\224\ The key issue is whether a cafeteria plan satisfies Sec.
778.215(a)(5)'s requirement that cash payments to employees must be
incidental to the plan's benefits.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \223\ 26 U.S.C. 125(d)(1)(B) (``participants may choose among 2
or more benefits consisting of cash and qualified benefits''). If an
employee chooses to use employer contributions for a qualified
benefit, then the value of that benefit is excluded from income for
tax purposes, notwithstanding the ability of the employee to receive
taxable cash in lieu of the benefit.
    \224\ Self-insured cafeteria plans, for instance, health
flexible saving arrangements, are not funded through a trust or a
third party. Accordingly, employer contributions to such plans would
not satisfy Sec.  778.215(a)(4).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department's opinion letter dated July 2, 2003, explained that
Sec.  778.215(a)(5) recognizes that ``[a] bona fide plan may allow
incidental cash payments to employees.'' \225\ Incidental payments must
be consistent with the plan's purpose of providing qualifying benefits.
And cash payments in excess
[[Page 68761]]
of 20 percent of plan contributions are not incidental to the plan's
purpose, unless such payments are used for benefits that are the same
or similar as those listed in FLSA section 7(e)(4).\226\ Notably, this
20 percent limit is not applied on an employee-by-employee basis, but
plan-wide. As the 2003 opinion letter explained, a plan-wide limit ``is
more consistent with the regulatory language which allows `all or a
part of the amount' standing to an employee's credit to be paid in
cash. . . .'' \227\ Thus, ``a cafeteria plan may qualify as a bona fide
benefits plan for purposes of section 7(e)(4) if: (1) No more than 20%
of the employer's contribution is paid out in cash; and (2) the cash is
paid under circumstances that are consistent with the plan's overall
primary purpose of providing benefits.'' \228\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \225\ WHD Opinion Letter FLSA2003-4, 2003 WL 23374600, at *2.
    \226\ Id.
    \227\ Id. at *2 (emphasis added).
    \228\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    However, the Department disagrees with commenters requesting that
cash payments in-lieu of plan participation also may be excluded from
the regular rate under section 7(e)(4). See NADA; Seyfarth; NPELRA;
IMLA. This is because such cash payments are made directly to the
employee, and so fail to satisfy the requirement under FLSA section
7(e)(4) that contributions be ``made by an employer to a trustee or
third person.'' \229\ Nor are cash-in-lieu of medical benefits
generally excludable under the ``other similar payments'' clause of
section 7(e)(2), as the International Municipal Lawyers Association
suggests. As explained above, ``other similar payments'' cannot be
wages in another guise. Cash payments in lieu of medical benefits in
many cases function essentially as wage supplements. Even though they
are not directly tied to hours worked or service rendered, they are
typically paid frequently, regularly, and as fungible cash. And it
would make little sense for Congress to require employers to provide a
bona fide plan to exclude health care benefits under section 7(e)(4) if
employers could simply pay cash toward the same purpose and claim
exclusion under section 7(e)(2). As the Seventh Circuit has noted, ``we
hesitate to read Sec.  7(e)(2) as a catch-all, one that obliterates the
qualifications and limitations on the other subsections and establishes
a principle that all lump-sum payments fall outside the `regular rate,'
for then most of the remaining subsections become superfluous.'' \230\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \229\ See Local 246 Util. Workers Union of Am. v. S. California
Edison Co., 83 F.3d 292, 296 (9th Cir. 1996) (``Section 207(e)(4)
deals with contributions by the employer [to a trust or third
person], not payments to the employee.'').
    \230\ Reich, 57 F.3d at 578; see also Flores, 824 F.3d at 900-
01.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    IRAs and HSAs are tax-favored savings accounts that provide,
respectively, retirement and health benefits. Employer contributions to
an IRA or HSA may satisfy Sec.  778.215(a)(1) if they are made pursuant
to an arrangement where the employer makes contributions for employees
that is communicated to employees. As explained in the above discussion
concerning SIMPLE and SEP plans, an IRA encourages retirement
savings.\231\ And HSA contributions may be distributed on a tax-free
basis to pay for certain qualified medical expenses.\232\ Thus,
employer contributions to IRAs and HSAs satisfy Sec.  778.215(a)(2). If
the plan requires the benefits be specified or definitely determinable
based on an actuarial basis, or based on a definite formula for
determining the amount to be contributed by the employer and for
determining the benefits for each of the employees participating in the
plan, or based on a formula for determining the amount to be
contributed by the employer and the individual benefits which is
consistent with the purposes of the plan or trust, then Sec.
778.215(a)(3) is satisfied as well. IRA and HSA accounts must be with a
trustee or custodian, and so employer contributions would also satisfy
Sec.  778.215(a)(4)'s requirement that employer contributions must be
``paid irrevocably to a trustee or third person pursuant to an
insurance agreement, trust, or other funded arrangement.'' Finally,
IRAs and HSAs permit participants to withdraw cash for purposes
unrelated to retirement or medical benefits, but participants must pay
an additional tax on those withdrawals.\233\ The additional tax ensures
that any cash payments are incidental to retirement and/or health
benefits, and so both types of accounts satisfy the incidental-payment
requirement of Sec.  778.215(a)(5). Accordingly, the Department
believes employer contributions to an IRA or HSA under these
circumstances would be excludable from the regular rate.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \231\ Most employer-funded IRAs are SIMPLE and SEP plans that,
as explained above, may be presumed to satisfy the requirements of
Sec.  778.215(a)(1), (2), (4), and (5). Employer contributions to
other IRAs that are described in Internal Revenue Code section
219(f)(5) fall outside this presumption and those contributions must
be analyzed in accordance with all five elements of Sec.
778.215(a).
    \232\ 26 U.S.C. 223.
    \233\ The additional tax is 10 percent for an early withdrawal
from an IRA and 20 percent for an HSA.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Discretionary employer contributions to a retirement plan may also
be excludable, provided that the retirement plan otherwise satisfies
Sec.  778.215(a)(1), (2), (4), and (5). Many retirement plans, such as
section 401(k) profit-sharing plans, grant employers discretion to make
additional contributions at the end of a plan year. The Department's
opinion letter dated August 17, 1970, explained that Sec.
778.215(a)(3) requires the amounts of such discretionary contributions
to be based on a definite formula.\234\ A plan that simply provides
that ``[t]he Board of Directors of the company at its discretion may
make a greater or lesser contribution for any plan year'' would fall
short.\235\ But a plan that enables employers to make discretionary
contributions based on a formula that ``quantifies each variable'' and
``describes those variables' relation to each other'' would satisfy the
definite formula requirement.\236\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \234\ WHD Opinion Letter FLSA, 1970 WL 26444, at *1 (``The plan
fails to meet the formula requirements of Sec.  778.215(a)(3) of
Part 778, in that it does not contain a definite formula for
determining the amount to be contributed by the employer.'').
    \235\ Id.
    \236\ Russell, 2018 WL 1210763, at *8; see also Laughlin, 2019
WL 1440406, at *7.
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D. Overtime Premiums Under Sections 7(e)(5)-(7)
    FLSA sections 7(e)(5), (6), and (7) permit employers to exclude
from the regular rate certain overtime premium payments made for hours
of work on special days or in excess or outside of specified daily or
weekly standard work periods.\237\ More specifically, section 7(e)(5)
permits exclusion of premiums for ``hours worked in excess of eight in
a day or in excess of the maximum workweek applicable to such employee
[under section 7(a)] or in excess of the employee's normal working
hours or regular working hours, as the case may be[.]'' \238\ Section
7(e)(6) permits exclusion of premiums ``for work by the employee on
Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, or regular days of rest, or on the sixth
or seventh day of the workweek, where such premium rate is not less
than one and one-half times the rate established in good faith for like
work performed in nonovertime hours on other days[.]'' \239\ Section
7(e)(7) permits exclusion of premiums in pursuance of an applicable
employment contract or collective-bargaining agreement, for work
outside of the hours established in good faith by the contract or
agreement as the basic, normal, or regular workday (not exceeding eight
hours) or workweek (not exceeding the maximum workweek applicable to
such
[[Page 68762]]
employee under subsection 7(a), where such premium rate is not less
than one and one-half times the rate established in good faith by the
contract or agreement for like work performed during such workday or
workweek.\240\ Additionally, section 7(h)(2) provides that extra
compensation of the types described in sections 7(e)(5), (6), and (7)
is creditable toward overtime compensation owed under section
7(a).\241\ These are the only types of compensation excludable from the
regular rate that are also creditable toward overtime
compensation.\242\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \237\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(5)-(7).
    \238\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(5).
    \239\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(6).
    \240\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(7).
    \241\ 29 U.S.C. 207(h)(2).
    \242\ 29 CFR 778.201(c).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Sections 778.202, 778.203, 778.205, and 778.207 explain the
requirements for excluding from the regular rate the overtime premiums
described in sections 7(e)(5) and (6).\243\ Sections 778.202 and
778.202(e) refer to extra premium payments paid pursuant to
contracts.\244\ Similarly, Sec.  778.205 uses an example of an extra
premium payment paid pursuant to an employment ``agreement,'' \245\ and
Sec.  778.207(a) refers to ``contract premium rates[.]'' \246\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \243\ See id. Sec.  778.202, 778.203, 778.205, 778.207.
    \244\ See id. Sec.  778.202(a), (b), (e).
    \245\ Id. Sec.  778.205.
    \246\ Id. Sec.  778.207(a).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department proposed amending Sec. Sec.  778.202 and 778.205 to
remove references to employment agreements and contracts in those
sections to eliminate any confusion that the overtime premiums
described in sections 7(e)(5) and (6) may be excluded only under
written contracts or agreements. The NPRM explained that these proposed
regulatory clarifications were consistent with sections 7(e)(5) and (6)
of the FLSA, neither of which requires that the overtime premiums be
paid pursuant to a formal employment contract or collective bargaining
agreement. Those statutory exclusions contrast with section 7(e)(7),
which explicitly requires ``an employment contract or collective-
bargaining agreement'' to exclude premiums ``for work outside of the
hours established in good faith by the contract or work agreement as
the basic, normal, or regular workday (not exceeding eight hours) or
workweek[.]'' \247\ Exclusion of premium payments under sections
7(e)(5) and (6) turns on deviation from the employee's normal work
schedule. The NPRM further explained that the proposed removal of the
word ``contract'' from the regulations did not change the fact that,
while there need not be a formal contract or agreement under sections
7(e)(5) or (6), there must be a discernable schedule of hours and days
worked from which the excess or nonregular hours for which the overtime
premiums are paid are distinguishable.\248\ Relatedly, the Department
also proposed to amend Sec.  778.207 to refer to the ``premium
payments'' instead of ``contract premium rates.'' The NPRM noted that
the proposed change was consistent with the description of the overtime
premiums found in Sec.  778.201 and removes any implication that all of
the overtime premium payments must be paid pursuant to a formal
contract.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \247\ 29 U.S.C. 207(e)(7).
    \248\ Section 7(e)(5) allows exclusion of premiums for hours
``in excess of the employee's normal working hours or regular
working hours'' and sections 7(e)(6) permits exclusion of premiums
for work on regular days of rest or on the sixth or seventh day of
the workweek. Thus, exclusion under these provisions requires a
discernable schedule.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department noted in the NPRM that, while the regulations at
Sec. Sec.  778.202, 778.205, and 778.207 have, since 1950, referred to
employment contracts and agreements when describing the types of
overtime premiums excludable under sections 7(e)(5) and (6),\249\ the
Department has not interpreted the use of the words ``contract'' or
``agreement'' to limit excludable overtime premium payments to only
those paid pursuant to a formal contract or collective bargaining
agreement.\250\ The Department has historically evaluated the actual
practice of the parties to determine if extra payments are true
overtime premiums that are excludable from the regular rate.\251\ In
the initial publication of part 778 in 1948, for example, the
Department emphasized the primacy of ``actual practice'' over any
contractual terms when assessing whether extra payments were true
overtime premiums that could be excluded from the regular rate.\252\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \249\ See 15 FR 623-02 (the precursor to Sec. Sec.  778.202,
778.205, and 778.207 was located in Sec.  778.5 in the 1950 version
of the regulations).
    \250\ The FOH sections discussing sections 7(e)(5) and (6)
overtime premiums make no reference to the need for a contract, and
instead instruct investigators to look to the employee's normal
hours or days of work ``as established by agreement or practice.''
FOH 32e01; see also id. 32e04 (describing criteria for 207(e)(6)
overtime premium for work on special days without any reference to a
requirement that the compensation be paid pursuant to contract).
    \251\ See 13 FR 4534-01 (Aug. 6, 1948) (codified at 29 CFR 778.2
(1948)).
    \252\ Id. Those regulations stated that ``[t]he mere fact that a
contract calls for premium payments for work on Saturdays, Sundays,
holidays or at night would not necessarily prove that the higher
rate is [a non-excludable shift differential] paid merely because of
undesirable working hours if, as a matter of fact, the actual
practice of the parties shows that the payments are made because the
employees have previously worked a specified number of hours or
days, according to a bona fide standard.''
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    The NPRM further noted that, consistent with the Department's
practice, most courts have not required employers using the exclusions
in sections 7(e)(5) and (6) to establish the existence of any formal
contract or agreement with employees.\253\ Even apart from sections
7(e)(5) and (6), courts interpreting the FLSA do not generally require
that contracts be in writing (unless specifically required by statute),
and they likewise emphasize the importance of the employer's actual
practices in determining whether a pay practice complies with the
FLSA.\254\
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    \253\ See Fulmer v. City of St. Albans, W. Va., 125 Fed. App'x
459, 461 (4th Cir. Jan. 7, 2005) (holding that city properly
excluded overtime premiums from regular rate under 207(e)(5) even
though the premiums were not included in employment contract and
were mentioned only during the employment interview); Hesseltine v.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 391 F. Supp. 2d 509, 522 (E.D. Tex.
2005) (``If an employer voluntarily pays an employee a premium rate
contingent upon his working more than eight hours in one day, then
such payment may be excluded from the employee's regular rate and
credited toward unpaid overtime.''); Laboy v. Alex Displays, Inc.,
No. 02 C 8721, 2003 WL 21209854, at *4 (N.D. Ill. May 21, 2003)
(``The court need not determine whether the parties had an agreement
for purposes of [section] 7(e)(7) because the payments must be
excluded from the regular rate under [section] 7(e)(5)[.]'').
    \254\ See Bay Ridge, 334 U.S. at 464 (``As the regular rate
cannot be left to a declaration by the parties as to what is to be
treated as the regular rate for an employee, it must be drawn from
what happens under the employment contract.''); Singer v. City of
Waco, Tex., 324 F.3d 813, 824 (5th Cir. 2003) (same); see also 149
Madison Ave. Corp. v. Asselta, 331 U.S. 199, 204 (1947) (``[I]n
testing the validity of a wage agreement under the Act the courts
are required to look beyond that which the parties have purported to
do.'') (citing Walling v. Youngerman-Reynolds Hardwood Co., 325 U.S.
419, 424-25 (1945) (``Once the parties have decided upon the amount
of wages and the mode of payment the determination of the regular
rate becomes a matter of mathematical computation, the result of
which is unaffected by any designation of a contrary `regular rate'
in the wage contracts.'')).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A few commenters addressed these proposals. See Fisher Phillips;
CWC; Seyfarth; SHRM; NELA; NELP; EPI. While employers and their
representatives were generally supportive of the proposed revisions,
three employee groups disagreed with the proposal to remove the word
``contract'' from Sec. Sec.  778.202 and 778.205. NELP and EPI
suggested that instead of eliminating the word ``contract,'' the
Department should instead consider adding additional terms such as
``contract, handbook, policy, or explicit agreement or understanding.''
Similarly, NELA suggested that the Department replace the word
``contract'' with the phrase ``contract, agreement or understanding.''
    In response to the comments received, the Department has adopted
the
[[Page 68763]]
suggestion to replace the term ``employment contracts'' in Sec.
778.202 and ``agreement of employment'' in Sec.  778.205 with ``written
or unwritten employment contract, agreement, understanding, handbook,
policy, or practice.'' This language achieves the original objective of
clarifying that overtime premiums do not need to be made pursuant to a
written contract or agreement to be excluded under these sections,
while also recognizing that they must still be paid pursuant to some
form of legitimate agreement or understanding.
E. Clarification That Examples in Part 778 Are Not Exclusive
    As explained in the NPRM, the Department recognizes that
compensation practices can vary significantly and will continue to
evolve. In general, the FLSA does not restrict the forms of
``remuneration'' that an employer may pay--which may include an hourly
rate, salary, commission, piece rate, a combination thereof, or any
other method--as long as the regular rate is equal to at least the
applicable minimum wage and non-exempt employees are paid any overtime
owed at one and one-half times the regular rate. While the eight
categories of excludable payments enumerated in section 7(e)(1)-(8) are
exhaustive,\255\ the NPRM proposed to confirm in Sec.  778.1 that,
unless otherwise indicated, part 778 does not contain an exhaustive
list of permissible or impermissible compensation practices. Rather, it
provides examples of regular rate and overtime calculations that, by
their terms, may or may not comply with the FLSA, and the types of
compensation excludable from regular rate calculations under section
7(e). Because it is impossible to address all of the various
compensation and benefits arrangements that may exist between employers
and employees, both now and in the future, the NPRM proposed to specify
in Sec.  778.1 that the examples set forth in part 778 of the types of
payments that are excludable under section 7(e)(1)-(8) are not
exhaustive; there may be other types of payments not discussed or used
as examples in part 778 that nonetheless qualify as excludable payments
under section 7(e)(1)-(8).
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    \255\ See, e.g., Smiley, 839 F.2d at 330; Caraballo v. City of
Chicago, 969 F. Supp. 2d 1008, 1015 (N.D. Ill. 2013); see also 29
CFR 778.200(c).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department received a number of comments on this clarification,
all in support. See, e.g., Associated Builders and Contractors; AHLA;
Chamber. Two of these commenters requested that the Department clarify
that employers may pay via any method without changing the regular rate
calculation and asked the Department to identify alternatives to the
examples provided in the regulations. See PPWO; SHRM. The Department
believes that the proposed language of Sec.  778.1 accomplishes this,
stating specifically that ``the FLSA does not restrict the forms of
`remuneration' that an employer may pay . . . as long as the regular
rate is equal to at least the applicable minimum wage and compensation
for overtime hours worked is paid at the rate of at least one and one-
half times the regular rate.'' Furthermore, while the NPRM proposed to
update and add examples in part 778, the proposed language of Sec.
778.1(b) makes clear that it is not feasible to address all of the
various types of compensation practices that may exist. Proposed Sec.
778.1(b) accordingly clarifies that the examples in part 778 are not an
exhaustive list of permissible or impermissible compensation practices
under section 7(e) of the Act unless otherwise clearly indicated.
Therefore, the Department adopts the changes to Sec.  778.1 as
proposed. Additionally, the Department changes the title of Sec.  778.1
and makes non-substantive edits to modernize the introductory
statement.
F. Basic Rate Calculations Under Section 7(g)(3)
    Section 7(g) of the FLSA identifies three circumstances in which an
employer may calculate overtime compensation using a basic rate rather
than the regular rate, provided that the basic rate is established by
an agreement or understanding between the employer and employee,
reached before the performance of the work.\256\ The third of these,
identified in section 7(g)(3), allows for the establishment of a basic
rate of pay when the rate is ``authorized by regulation by the
Administrator as being substantially equivalent to the average hourly
earnings of the employee, exclusive of overtime premiums, in the
particular work over a representative period of time[.]'' \257\ Part
548 addresses the requirements for using such basic rates to compute
overtime pay under section 7(g)(3).\258\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \256\ See 29 U.S.C. 207(g).
    \257\ Id. 207(g)(3). By contrast, section 7(g)(1) allows for a
basic rate to be established for employees employed at piece rates,
and section 7(g)(2) allows for a basic rate to be established for
employees performing two or more kinds of work for which different
hourly or piece rates apply. Id. 207(g)(1)-(2). Only the basic rate
provided by section 7(g)(1) is limited to employees paid on a piece
rate basis. The Department proposed to clarify the cross reference
in Sec.  548.1 to the regulations for sections 7(g)(1) and (2),
which are at 29 CFR 778.415 through 778.421. No comments addressed
this proposal. Therefore, the final rule adopts Sec.  548.1 as
proposed.
    \258\ See 29 CFR 548.1; see also id. Sec. Sec.  778.400 through
778.401.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Section 548.2 provides ten requirements for using a basic rate when
calculating overtime compensation.\259\ Section 548.3 discusses six
different authorized basic rates that may be used if the criteria in
Sec.  548.2 are met.\260\ Section 548.300 explains that these basic
rates ``have been found in use in industry and the Administrator has
determined that they are substantially equivalent to the straight-time
average hourly earnings of the employee over a representative period of
time.'' \261\ As relevant to this rulemaking, the current regulation at
Sec.  548.3 authorizes a basic rate that excludes ``additional payments
in cash or in kind which, if included in the computation of overtime
under the Act, would not increase the total compensation of the
employee by more than 50 cents a week on the average for all overtime
weeks . . . in the period for which such additional payments are
made.'' \262\ Section 548.305(b) explains that, under Sec.  548.3(e),
upon agreement or understanding between an employer and employee, the
basic rate may exclude from the computation of overtime ``certain
incidental payments which have a trivial effect on the overtime
compensation due.'' \263\ This section provides a nonexhaustive list of
examples of payments that have such a trivial effect on the overtime
compensation due and therefore may be excluded from the basic rate,
including ``modest housing,'' ``bonuses or prizes of various sorts,''
and compensation ``for soliciting or obtaining new business.'' \264\
Section 548.305 also provides examples with specific amounts of
additional payments to illustrate the application of Sec.
548.3(e).\265\ The $0.50 amount is also referenced in Sec.  548.400(b).
The Department last updated these regulations more than 50 years ago,
in 1966.\266\
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    \259\ See id. Sec.  548.2.
    \260\ See id. Sec.  548.3.
    \261\ Id. Sec.  548.300.
    \262\ Id. Sec.  548.3(e).
    \263\ Id. Sec.  548.305(b).
    \264\ Id. Sec.  548.305(b).
    \265\ See id. Sec.  548.305(c), (d), (f).
    \266\ See 31 FR 6769.
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    The Department proposed to update the $0.50 amount in Sec. Sec.
548.3, 548.305, and 548.400. Rather than provide a specific dollar or
cent amount, however, the Department proposed to replace the $0.50
language in these regulations with ``40 percent of the applicable
hourly minimum wage under section 6(a) of the Act.'' The Department
explained that
[[Page 68764]]
this is the same methodology that the Department used in the past to
update the threshold. In 1955, the Department set the threshold for
excludable amounts in Sec.  548.3(e) at $0.30--which, at the time, was
40 percent of the hourly minimum wage required under the FLSA ($0.75
per hour).\267\ Similarly, in 1966, after the minimum wage increased to
$1.25 per hour, the Department correspondingly increased the threshold
amount in Sec.  548.3(e) to $0.50--which, again, was 40 percent of the
hourly minimum wage at the time.\268\ The current minimum wage is $7.25
per hour, and 40 percent of $7.25 is $2.90. To avoid the need for
future rulemaking in response to any further minimum wage increases,
however, the Department proposed to replace the current $0.50
references in Sec. Sec.  548.3(e), 548.305, and 548.400(b) with ``40
percent of the applicable minimum hourly wage under section 6(a) of the
Act.'' Relatedly, the Department also proposed to update the examples
provided in Sec.  548.305(c), (d), and (f) with updated dollar amounts,
and to fix a typographical error in Sec.  548.305(e) by changing the
phrase ``would not exceed'' to ``would exceed.'' The Department
specifically invited comment as to (1) whether the additional payments
that are excludable if they would not increase total overtime
compensation should be tied to a percentage of the applicable minimum
wage under the FLSA, or a percentage of the applicable minimum wage
under state or Federal law; and (2) whether 40 percent of the
applicable minimum wage is an appropriate threshold, or if this
proposed percentage should be increased or decreased.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \267\ See 20 FR 5679.
    \268\ See 31 FR 4149 (Mar. 9, 1966); 31 FR 6769.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A few commenters addressed these basic rate proposals. See Chamber;
PPWO; SHRM; NPELRA. The Chamber noted with approval that the proposal
modernized certain aspects of this regulation while ``hewing closely to
the Department's historical approach.'' It also commented that the
proposal to use a percentage of the applicable minimum wage rather than
a fixed dollar amount ``makes sense.'' While generally supportive of
the proposal to update this regulation, PPWO and SHRM commented that
the 40 percent amount was too low and suggested that the amount be
raised to ten dollars or more per week. In response to the Department's
question regarding tying the percentage of the applicable minimum wage
under the FLSA or under state or Federal law, the Chamber suggested
that the final rule reference state law as well as Federal law,
commenting that ``[w]hether payments count as trivial will rise with
the employee's minimum compensation.'' NPELRA appreciated the proposal,
but noted that very few public employers use section 7(g)(3)'s basic
rate calculations and asked that the regulations implementing 7(g)(3)
be further amended to take account of the unique work schedules for law
enforcement and fire protection personnel and the partial overtime
exemption for such personnel in 29 U.S.C. 207(k) of the FLSA. No
comments were received that opposed the proposed changes.
    In response to the comments received, the Department has finalized
the regulations in part 548 as proposed, with a modification to the
regulatory text to reference the minimum wage under either the FLSA or
state or local law applicable in the jurisdiction in which the employee
is employed, whichever is higher. The Department agrees with the
Chamber that the proper measure of whether these additional payments
may be excluded from the basic rate calculation should be based on the
higher state or local minimum wage. While the Chamber did not
specifically reference local minimum wage laws, the rationale for
including state laws setting a higher minimum wage is equally
applicable to local laws setting a minimum wage higher than the FLSA
minimum wage. Therefore, the final rule references the minimum wage
under either the FLSA or state or local law applicable in the
jurisdiction in which the employee is employed, whichever is higher.
The Department continues to believe that 40 percent of the applicable
minimum wage, the ratio that the Department has historically used for
this regulation, is the proper threshold for exclusion of incidental
payments from the basic rate and therefore declines to adopt the
suggestion to raise the amount to ten dollars or more per week. The
Department also declines to modify these regulations to account for the
partial overtime exemption for employees engaged in law enforcement and
fire protection because such a request is outside of the scope of the
Department's proposal.
    Several commenters asked the Department for clearer guidance
regarding treatment of furnished meals under the regular rate. See
PPWO; HR Policy Association; Chamber. While the cost of meals provided
by an employer must be included in the regular rate,\269\ where an
employer is paying its employees pursuant to an authorized basic rate
under section 7(g)(3) of the FLSA and that section's implementing
regulations in part 548, the cost of a single meal per workday provided
by an employer need not be included in the basic rate.\270\
Nonetheless, the Department recognizes there is an apparent tension
between its authorized basic rate regulations, which allow for the
exclusion from overtime calculations of a customarily furnished
employer-provided single daily meal,\271\ and section 3(m), which
indicates that employer-provided meals are wages that must be included
in overtime calculations.\272\ As stated in the basic rate regulations
published in 1956 after notice and comment, an employer may, when
calculating overtime compensation due, exclude from the basic rate the
cost of providing one free daily meal to employees upon agreement
between the employer and said employees. The regulations explain this
authorization is based on ``the Administrator's experience that the
amount of additional overtime compensation involved in such cases is
trivial and does not justify the bookkeeping required in computing
it.'' \273\ This remains true today. While there may be tension between
section 3(m) and the part 548 authorized basic rate regulations with
regards to exclusion of meals from overtime calculations upon agreement
of the employer and employees, part 531 is outside the scope of this
rulemaking and thus no changes will be made at this time.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \269\ See 29 U.S.C. 203(m) (defining wage to include, among
other things, ``board''); 29 CFR 531.32 (noting examples of meals
furnished under certain circumstances are wages under section 3(m));
29 CFR 778.116 (``Where payments are made to employees in the form
of goods or facilities which are regarded as part of wages, the
reasonable cost to the employer or the fair value of such goods or
of furnishing such facilities must be included in the regular
rate.''); 29 CFR 778.224 (``It is clear that the [other similar
payments] clause was not intended to permit the exclusion from the
regular rate of payments such as . . . the furnishing of facilities
like board and lodging which, though not directly attributable to
any particular hours of work are, nevertheless, clearly understood
to be compensation for services.'').
    \270\ See 29 CFR 548.3(d), 548.304.
    \271\ 29 CFR 548.3(d); 29 CFR 548.304.
    \272\ 29 CFR 531.32; 29 CFR 778.116.
    \273\ 29 CFR 548.304(b).
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IV. Paperwork Reduction Act
    The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.,
and its attendant regulations, 5 CFR part 1320, require the Department
to consider the agency's need for its information collections and their
practical utility, the impact of paperwork and other information
collection burdens imposed
[[Page 68765]]
on the public, and how to minimize those burdens. This final rule does
not require a collection of information subject to approval by the
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the PRA, or affect any
existing collections of information. The Department did not receive any
comments on this determination.
V. Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review; and Executive
Order 13563, Improved Regulation and Regulatory Review
A. Introduction
    Under E.O. 12866, OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory
Affairs (OIRA) determines whether a regulatory action is significant
and, therefore, subject to the requirements of the E.O. and OMB
review.\274\ Section 3(f) of E.O. 12866 defines a ``significant
regulatory action'' as an action that is likely to result in a rule
that: (1) Has an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more,
or adversely affects in a material way a sector of the economy,
productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or
safety, or state, local, or tribal governments or communities (also
referred to as economically significant); (2) creates serious
inconsistency or otherwise interferes with an action taken or planned
by another agency; (3) materially alters the budgetary impacts of
entitlement grants, user fees, or loan programs, or the rights and
obligations of recipients thereof; or (4) raises novel legal or policy
issues arising out of legal mandates, the President's priorities, or
the principles set forth in the E.O. OIRA has determined that this rule
is significant under section 3(f) of E.O. 12866.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \274\ See 58 FR 51735 (Sept. 30, 1993).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    E.O. 13563 directs agencies to propose or adopt a regulation only
upon a reasoned determination that its benefits justify its costs; that
it is tailored to impose the least burden on society, consistent with
achieving the regulatory objectives; and that, in choosing among
alternative regulatory approaches, the agency has selected the
approaches that maximize net benefits. E.O. 13563 recognizes that some
benefits are difficult to quantify and provides that, when appropriate
and permitted by law, agencies may consider and discuss qualitatively
values that are difficult or impossible to quantify, including equity,
human dignity, fairness, and distributive impacts.
B. Economic Analysis
    This economic analysis provides a quantitative analysis of
regulatory familiarization costs attributable to the final rule and a
qualitative analysis of other potential benefits, cost savings, and
transfers. This includes a discussion of benefits resulting from
reduced litigation. As described above, this rule clarifies existing
regulations for employees and employers in the 21st-century workplace
with modern forms of compensation and benefits. The Department believes
that these updates will provide clarity and flexibility for employers
interested in providing such benefits to their employees.
1. Overview of Changes
    This final rule makes several changes to the existing regulatory
language in 29 CFR part 778 to update and clarify the FLSA's regular
rate requirements, and makes a change to 29 CFR part 548 addressing a
``basic rate'' that can be used to calculate overtime compensation
under section 7(g)(3) of the FLSA when specific conditions are met.
Specifically, this final rule includes the following:
     Clarification in Sec.  778.219 that payments for unused
paid leave, including paid sick leave, may be excluded from an
employee's regular rate of pay;
     Clarification in Sec. Sec.  778.218(b) and 778.320 that
pay for time that would not otherwise qualify as ``hours worked,''
including bona fide meal periods, may be excluded from an employee's
regular rate unless an agreement or established practice indicates that
the parties have treated the time as hours worked;
     Clarification in Sec.  778.217 that reimbursed expenses
need not be incurred ``solely'' for the employer's benefit for the
reimbursements to be excludable from an employee's regular rate;
     Clarification in Sec.  778.217 that certain reimbursements
are per se reasonable and excludable from the regular rate;
     Elimination of the restriction in Sec. Sec.  778.221 and
778.222 that ``call-back'' pay and other payments similar to call-back
pay must be ``infrequent and sporadic'' to be excludable from an
employee's regular rate, while maintaining that such payments must not
be prearranged;
     Addition of regulatory text in Sec. Sec.  778.220,
778.222, and 778.223 addressing exclusion from the regular rate of
payments to employees pursuant to state and local scheduling laws;
     Inclusion of additional examples in Sec.  778.224 of
employer provided perks or benefits that may be excluded from an
employee's regular rate of pay as ``other similar payments'';
     Clarification in Sec.  778.215 of the types of benefit
plans that are excludable as ``similar benefits for employees'' under
section 7(e)(4) and other additions;
     Clarification in Sec. Sec.  778.202, 778.203, 778.205, and
778.207 that employers do not need a prior contract or agreement with
the employee(s) to exclude certain overtime premiums described in
sections 7(e)(5) and (6) of the FLSA;
     Clarification and examples in Sec.  778.211 of
discretionary bonuses that are excludable from an employee's regular
rate of pay under section 7(e)(3) of the FLSA;
     Adoption of the interpretation that some longevity and
sign-on bonuses, when certain requirements are met, qualify as gifts
under Sec.  778.212 and may be excludable from the regular rate;
     Clarification in Sec.  778.1 that the examples of
compensation discussed in part 778 of the types of excludable payments
under section 7(e)(1)-(8) are not exhaustive; and
     An increase from $0.50 to a weekly amount equivalent to 40
percent of the applicable hourly minimum wage under the FLSA (currently
$2.90, or 40 percent of $7.25) or the state or local law applicable in
the jurisdiction in which the employee is employed, whichever is
higher, the amount by which total compensation would not be affected by
the exclusion of certain additional payments when using the ``basic
rate'' to compute overtime provided by Sec.  548.3(e).
    To measure potential costs, cost savings, benefits, and transfers
relative to a baseline of current practice, the Department has
attempted to distinguish between specific components that will change
existing requirements, and those that will merely clarify existing
requirements. Here, the Department believes that only two of the
components listed above constitute changes to existing regulatory
requirements: (1) Increasing the threshold for exclusion of certain
payments when using the ``basic rate'' to compute overtime under Sec.
548.3(e), from $0.50 to a weekly amount equivalent to 40 percent of the
hourly minimum wage under the FLSA (currently $2.90, or 40 percent of
$7.25) or the state or local law applicable in the jurisdiction in
which the employee is employed, whichever is higher; and (2)
eliminating the restriction in Sec. Sec.  778.221 and 778.222 that
call-back pay and similar payments must be ``infrequent and sporadic''
to be excludable from the regular rate, while
[[Page 68766]]
maintaining that such payments must not be prearranged. Both of these
changes are deregulatory in nature.
    The Department believes that all of the remaining changes clarify
existing requirements. Thus, none of the changes in this final rule
will impose any new regulatory requirements, or require any regulated
entity (i.e., any employer) to change its conduct to remain in
compliance with the law.
2. Potential Costs
    The only potential costs attributable to this final rule are
regulatory familiarization costs. Familiarization costs represent
direct costs to businesses associated with reviewing any changes to
regulatory requirements caused by a final rule. Familiarization costs
do not include recurring compliance costs that regulated entities would
incur with or without a rulemaking.\275\ The Department calculated
regulatory familiarization costs by multiplying the estimated number of
firms likely to review the final rule by the estimated time to review
the rule and the average hourly compensation of a Compensation,
Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialist.
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    \275\ For example, time and resources spent on an annual basis
to train staff on FLSA compliance are not familiarization costs
attributable to any particular rulemaking, because an employer
incurs these kinds of recurring costs regardless of whether specific
parts of the regulations have been recently amended. To the extent
that this rule would make certain regulatory requirements easier to
understand, the rule may achieve a reduction in these recurring
compliance costs.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    To calculate the cost associated with reviewing the rule, the
Department first estimated the number of firms likely to review the
final rule.\276\ According to the data from the U.S. Census Bureau's
Statistics of U.S. Businesses (SUSB), there are a total of 5,954,684
firms in the United States.\277\ The SUSB data shows that 3,665,182
firms have four or fewer employees.\278\ These small-sized firms are
less likely than larger firms to offer perks or benefits similar to
those addressed in this rulemaking (e.g., wellness programs, on-site
medical or specialty treatment, and so forth) and are typically exempt
from legislation mandating paid sick leave or scheduling-related
premium pay.\279\ Thus, the Department believes that firms with fewer
than five employees are unlikely to review this final rule. For the
purposes of estimating familiarization costs across all firms, the
Department believes that the 2,289,502 firms with five or more
employees--approximately 38 percent of all 6.0 million firms--represent
a reasonable proxy estimate of the total number of interested firms
expected to dedicate time learning about the final rule.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \276\ The Department assumes that familiarization for this
rulemaking will generally occur at the headquarters of each
interested firm, rather than at the establishment level. According
to a recent survey, just eight percent of surveyed employers
reported that their benefits are administered locally at different
``locations.'' See Soc'y for Human Res. Mgmt., 2017 Employee
Benefits: Remaining Competitive in a Challenging Talent Marketplace,
https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2017%20Employee%20Benefits%20Report.pdf.
    \277\ U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 Statistics of U.S. Businesses
(SUSB) Annual Data Tables by Establishment Industry, https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2016/econ/susb/2016-susb-annual.html.
    \278\ Id.
    \279\ For example, none of the predictable scheduling ordinances
passed in Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and
Seattle apply to employers with fewer than 20 employees. See, e.g.,
Chi., Ill., Fair Workweek Ordinance (July 24, 2019) (effective July
1, 2020); N.Y.C., N.Y., Admin. Code 20-1222 (2017) (applying to
retail employers with at least 20 employees and fast food employers
with at least 30 affiliated enterprise or franchise establishments);
Phila., Pa., Code ch. 9-4600 (2018) (effective Jan. 1, 2020); S.F.,
Cal., Police Code art. 33G, 3300G.3 (2015) (applying to retail
employers with at least 20 employees); Seattle, Wash., Mun. Code
14.22.050 (2017) (applying to retail, food service, and full-service
restaurant employers with at least 500 employees). Similar coverage
thresholds apply to employers under state paid sick leave laws in
Maryland (15 employees), Oregon (10 employees with smaller employers
required to provide equivalent unpaid sick leave), and Rhode Island
(18 employees with smaller employers required to provide equivalent
unpaid sick leave). See Md. Code, Labor & Emp't sec. 3-1304 (West
2019); Or. Rev. Stat. sec. 653.606; R.I. Gen. Laws sec. 28-57-4(c).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Next, the Department estimated the time interested firms will
likely take to review the rule. Because the majority of the changes are
merely clarifications of existing regulatory requirements, the
Department estimates that it will take an average of approximately 15
minutes for each interested firm to review and understand the changes
in the rule. Some firms might spend more than 15 minutes reviewing the
final rule, while others might take less time; the Department believes
that 15 minutes is a reasonable estimated average for all interested
firms.
    Finally, the Department estimated the hourly compensation of the
employees who will likely review the final rule. The Department assumes
that a Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialist (Standard
Occupation Classification 13-1141), or an employee of similar status
and comparable pay, will review the rule at each firm. The mean hourly
wage of a Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialist is
$32.65.\280\ The Department adjusted this base wage rate to reflect
fringe benefits such as health insurance and retirement benefits, as
well as overhead costs such as rent, utilities, and office equipment.
The Department used a fringe benefits rate of 46 percent of the base
rate and an overhead rate of 17 percent of the base rate, resulting in
a fully loaded hourly compensation rate for Compensation, Benefits, and
Job Analysis Specialists of $53.22 (= $32.65 + ($32.65 x 46%) + ($32.65
x 17%)).\281\ The Department notes that employers have compliance
responsibilities under existing regular rate standards, and any changes
in responsibilities associated with this final rule may, therefore, be
absorbed by existing staff. Consistent with other WHD rulemakings, the
Department has used a 17 percent overhead rate in this calculation.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \280\ Estimate based on the BLS's May 2018 Occupational
Employment Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes131141.htm.
    \281\ Rounded to the nearest whole cent.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Therefore, regulatory familiarization costs in Year 1 for
interested firms are estimated to be $30,461,538 (= 2,289,502 firms x
0.25 hours of review time x $53.22 per hour), which amounts to a 10-
year annualized cost of $3,571,022 at a discount rate of 3 percent
(which is $1.56 per firm) or $4,337,038 at a discount rate of 7 percent
(which is $1.89 per firm).
    This final rule will not impose any new requirements on employers
or require any affirmative measures for regulated entities to come into
compliance; therefore, there are no other costs attributable to this
final rule.
3. Potential Cost Savings
    The Department believes that this final rule could lead to
potential cost savings. The clarifications and updated examples
included in this final rule may reduce the amount of time employers
spend attempting to understand their obligations under the law. For
example, employers interested in providing an employee discount
program, a wellness program, or onsite exercise opportunities will know
immediately from the language included in Sec.  778.224 that the cost
of providing such programs may be excluded from the regular rate,
thereby avoiding the need for further research on the issue. In
addition, the two updates that constitute changes to the regulations
will also achieve cost savings. For example, the Department expects
that the changes to the basic rate regulations will permit employers
that use a basic rate plan to give employees additional incidental
payments without concern about the impact on their overtime
obligations. Increasing the amount by which total compensation would
not be affected by the exclusion of certain additional payments when
using the ``basic rate'' to compute
[[Page 68767]]
overtime will both eliminate avoidable litigation and expand the
circumstances in which employers that meet the requirements to use a
basic rate may exclude ``certain incidental payments which have a
trivial effect on the overtime compensation due.''
    The Department expects that these cost savings will outweigh
regulatory familiarization costs. Unlike familiarization costs, the
potential cost savings described in this section will continue into the
future, saving employers valuable time and resources.
    The Department is unable to provide quantitative estimates for cost
savings and other potential effects of the final rule due to a lack of
data and uncertainty regarding employer responses to the changes.
Employers are not generally required to report to the Department their
use of these regulatory provisions, and to the Department's knowledge,
there is no publicly available data on items such as employers' use of
basic rate calculations to calculate overtime due.
    The Department is unable to provide quantitative estimates for
other potential effects of the final rule due to a lack of data and
uncertainty regarding employer responses. The Department did not
receive any public comments providing data or information to quantify
cost savings.
4. Potential Benefits
    This section analyzes the potential benefits of the rule. The
Department is unable to provide quantitative estimates for these
potential benefits due to a lack of data and uncertainty regarding
potential employer responses to the final rule. The Department does not
know, for example, how many employers will begin offering wellness
programs or other benefits to their employees as a result of this rule.
The Department did not receive any public comments providing data or
information to quantify benefits.
    Distinct from the potential cost savings described above, the rule
will likely yield benefits. The Department expects that the added
clarity that this rule provides will encourage some employers to start
providing benefits that they may presently refrain from providing due
to apprehension about potential overtime consequences. These newly
provided benefits might have a positive impact on workplace morale,
employee health, employee compensation, and employee retention.
    For example, the Department has added ``the cost to the employer of
providing wellness programs, such as health risk assessments, biometric
screenings, vaccination clinics (including annual flu vaccinations),
nutrition classes, weight loss programs, smoking cessation programs,
stress reduction programs, exercise programs, and coaching to help
employees meet health goals'' to the list of miscellaneous payments
excludable from the regular rate provided in Sec.  778.224(b). If
employers know they can offer wellness programs without the threat of
potentially protracted class or collective action litigation and
without potentially having to track employee participation in these
activities for purposes of calculating the regular rate, employers
might feel more encouraged to offer such programs. An increase in the
provision of wellness programs similar to those described in this rule
(e.g., smoking cessation programs, vaccine clinics, and so forth) may
improve worker health and reduce healthcare costs.\282\ Such
improvements benefit both the worker and the employer with added value
to each.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \282\ According to a recent survey, 88 percent of employers with
a wellness program rated their initiatives as somewhat or very
effective in improving employee health, while 77 percent indicated
their wellness program was somewhat or very effective in reducing
health care costs. See Soc. for Human Res. Mgmt., 2017 Employee
Benefits: Remaining Competitive in a Challenging Talent Marketplace,
https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2017%20Employee%20Benefits%20Report.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The final rule will also provide employers greater flexibility and
incentivizes greater creativity in their employee-benefits practices.
This room to innovate may help workers and increase retention and
productivity by allowing employers the chance to provide unique
benefits that their employees want and that improve workers' physical
and mental health, work environment, and morale. As noted earlier in
this final rule, the Department cannot feasibly list every permissible
benefit that employers may provide employers, and employers may create
new and desirable benefits in the future. But the Department believes
that the changes made here will foster that innovation.
    In addition, the Department believes that clarifying the
regulations will prevent many avoidable ``regular rate'' disputes. For
example, the omission of unused sick leave in the current version of
Sec.  778.219 could be responsible for disputes over whether payments
for unused sick leave should be included in the regular rate. Although
the Department's amendment to Sec.  778.219 simply reflects the
Department's current guidance, the added clarity provided by changing
the text of the regulations might prevent future expenses stemming from
avoidable workplace disputes. Due to uncertainty regarding the costs
and prevalence of FLSA-related settlement agreements, arbitration
actions, and state court filings, the Department has only estimated
cost savings attributable to an expected reduction in Federal FLSA
regular rate lawsuits--which may represent only a fraction of all
regular rate litigation.
    To estimate the number of Federal lawsuits that the final rule may
prevent, the Department first attempted to determine the percentage of
FLSA lawsuits that predominantly or exclusively feature a ``regular
rate'' dispute. Here, the Department studied two sets of data. First,
the Department examined a randomly selected sample of Federal FLSA
court filings from 2014 taken from the U.S. Court's Public Access to
Court Electronic Records (PACER). After reviewing each of the 500 FLSA
cases in this sample for relevant information, the Department found
that 6.8 percent of the cases (34 out of 500) primarily featured a
regular rate dispute.\283\ To corroborate the PACER data, the
Department separately reviewed a sample of 258 Federal court decisions
from 2017 involving FLSA collective action certification claims,\284\
and found that 3.9 percent of these cases primarily centered around a
regular rate dispute (10 out of 258). Considering these two different
percentages, the Department takes an approximate average and
conservatively assumes that approximately five percent of all FLSA
cases primarily or exclusively involve a regular rate dispute.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \283\ The Department downloaded data on 521 cases; however, 21
of these provided no information because they were administratively
closed, voluntarily dismissed, closed due to deficiencies, or a
notice of removal was filed. This left a sample of 500 usable cases.
    \284\ Seyfarth Shaw LLP, 14th Annual Workplace Class Action
Litigation Report 127-270 (2018), https://www.seyfarth.com/dir_docs/publications/2018_workplace_class_action_report.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, 25,605
Federal FLSA lawsuits were filed in Fiscal Years 2015, 2016, and 2017,
averaging 8,535 lawsuits per year.\285\ Assuming there are
approximately 8,535 FLSA lawsuits per year, the Department estimates
that about 427 cases, or 5 percent of 8,535, primarily or exclusively
involve a regular rate
[[Page 68768]]
dispute. Given data limitations, if the Department assumes for purposes
of this analysis that this final rule will prevent approximately 10
percent of FLSA cases primarily or exclusively featuring a regular rate
dispute then this rule will prevent approximately 43 FLSA regular rate
lawsuits per year.\286\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \285\ TRAC at Syracuse University uses the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) to obtain data about government enforcement
and regulatory activities. According to TRAC Reports, the following
numbers of FLSA lawsuits were filed in Fiscal Years 2015, 2016, and
2017: 8917, 8830, and 7858. See TRAC Reports, Fair Labor Standards
Act Lawsuits Down from 2015 Peak (2018), http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/civil/498/.
    \286\ The Department rounds up to 43 cases for purpose of
estimating (10 percent of 427 cases equals 42.7 cases).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    To quantify the expected reduction in FLSA lawsuits, the Department
must estimate the average cost of an FLSA lawsuit. Here, the Department
examined a selection of 56 FLSA cases concluded between 2012 and 2015
that contained litigation cost information.\287\ To calculate average
litigation costs associated with these cases, the Department first
examined records of court filings in the Westlaw Case Evaluator tool
and on PACER to ascertain how much plaintiffs in these cases received
for attorney fees, administrative fees, and/or other costs, apart from
any monetary damages attributable to the alleged FLSA violations. (The
FLSA provides for successful plaintiffs to be awarded reasonable
attorney's fees and costs, so this data is available in some FLSA
cases.) After determining the plaintiff's total litigation costs for
each case, the Department then doubled the figures to account for
litigation costs that the defendant employers incurred.\288\ According
to this analysis, the average litigation cost for FLSA cases concluded
between 2012 and 2015 was $654,182 per case.\289\ Applying this figure
to approximately 43 Federal regular rate cases that this final rule
could prevent, the Department estimated that avoided litigation costs
resulting from the rule will total approximately $28.1 million per
year. Once again, the Department believes this total may underestimate
total litigation costs because some FLSA regular rate cases are heard
in state court and thus were not captured by PACER; some FLSA regular
rate matters are resolved before litigation or by alternative dispute
resolution; and some attorneys representing FLSA regular rate
plaintiffs may take a contingency fee atop their statutorily awarded
fees and costs.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \287\ The 56 cases used for this analysis were retrieved from
Westlaw's Case Evaluator database using a keyword search for case
summaries between 2012 and 2015 mentioning the terms ``FLSA'' and
``fees.'' Although the initial search yielded 64 responsive cases,
the Department excluded one duplicate case, one case resolving
litigation costs through a confidential settlement agreement, and
six cases where the defendant employer(s) ultimately prevailed.
Because the FLSA only entitles prevailing plaintiffs to litigation
cost awards, information about litigation costs was only available
for the remaining 56 FLSA cases that ended in settlement agreements
or court verdicts favoring the plaintiff employees.
    \288\ This is likely a conservative approach to estimate the
total litigation costs for each FLSA lawsuit, as defendant employers
tend to incur greater litigation costs than plaintiff employees
because of, among other things, typically higher discovery costs.
    \289\ The median cost was $111,835 per lawsuit.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
5. Potential Transfers
    Transfer payments occur when income is redistributed from one party
to another. The Department has identified two possible transfer
payments between employers and employees that could occur due to this
final rule, flowing in opposite directions. On the one hand, income
might transfer from employers to employees if some employers respond to
the new clarity that particular benefits are excludable from the
regular rate calculation by newly providing certain payments or
benefits they did not previously provide. On the other hand, income
might transfer from employees to employers if some employers respond to
this rule's new clarity that a particular benefit currently provided is
excludable from the regular rate calculation by newly excluding certain
payments from their employees' regular rates without changing any other
compensation practices. As discussed above, the Department is unable to
quantify an estimated net transfer amount to employers or employees due
to a lack of data on the kinds of payments employers presently provide,
and the inherent uncertainty in predicting how employers will respond
to this rule.
Summary
    The Department estimates that this rule will result in one-time
regulatory familiarization costs of $30.5 million, which will result in
a 10-year annualized cost of $3,571,022 at a discount rate of 3 percent
or $4,337,038 at a discount rate of 7 percent.
    This final rule is an Executive Order (E.O.) 13771 deregulatory
action. Although benefits and cost savings could not be quantified,
they are expected to exceed costs. In perpetuity, the annualized costs
are estimated to be $913,846 using a 3 percent discount rate and
$2,132,308 using a 7 percent discount rate.
VI. Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
    In accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act,\290\ the
Department examined the regulatory requirements of the rule to
determine whether they will have a significant economic impact on a
substantial number of small entities. The Department believes that this
final rule will achieve long-term cost savings that outweigh initial
regulatory familiarization costs.\291\ For example, the Department
believes that removing ambiguous language and adding updated examples
to the FLSA's regular rate regulations should reduce compliance costs
and litigation risks that small business entities would otherwise
continue to bear.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \290\ See 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq. (as amended).
    \291\ This rule does not impose any new requirements on
employers or require any affirmative measures for regulated entities
to come into compliance. Therefore, there are no other costs
attributable to this deregulatory rule.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Department received one comment from a private citizen
pertaining to the economic analysis. The commenter suggested that the
regulation may negatively impact job growth by making it difficult for
small or new employers to attract and retain talent in a competitive
labor market. The commenter therefore requested the Department limit
the scope of the regulation to apply only to certain businesses. The
Department notes that the final rule is intended to provide clarity and
promote compliance with the Act and encourage employers to provide
additional innovative benefits without fear of costly litigation.
Further, the Act generally requires that covered, nonexempt employees
receive overtime pay of at least one and one-half times their regular
rate of pay for time worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Coverage
criteria of the Act are designated by statute, and therefore outside of
the scope of this rulemaking.
    In accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et
seq. (as amended), WHD examined the regulatory requirements of the rule
to determine if they will have a significant economic impact on a
substantial number of small entities. The final rule is expected to add
no regulatory burden for employers, whether large or small.
Accordingly, the Agency certifies that the final rule will not have a
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.
The factual basis for this certification is described in the following
paragraph.
    As discussed above, the Department used data from the U.S. Census
Bureau's Statistics of U.S. Businesses (SUSB) to calculate the number
of firms likely to review the final rule. The SUSB data show that there
are 5,954,684 firms in the U.S., 3,665,182 of which have four or fewer
employees.\292\ Also, as
[[Page 68769]]
discussed above, the Department believes that firms with fewer than
five employees are unlikely to review this rule, because these small-
sized firms are less likely than larger firms to offer perks or
benefits similar to those addressed in this rulemaking (e.g., wellness
programs, on-site medical or specialty treatment, and so forth) and are
typically exempt from legislation mandating paid sick leave or
scheduling-related premium pay.\293\ Familiarization costs will
therefore be zero for small businesses with fewer than five employees.
The Department estimated familiarization costs across all 2,289,502
firms with five or more employees, and found that the estimated
annualized familiarization cost per firm is $1.56 annually over ten
years at a discount rate of 3 percent and $1.89 annually at a discount
rate of 7 percent. This comprises less than 0.002 percent of gross
annual revenues for a small business earning $100,000 per year.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \292\ U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 Statistics of U.S. Businesses
(SUSB) Annual Data Tables by Establishment Industry, https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2016/econ/susb/2016-susb-annual.html.
    \293\ For example, none of the predictable scheduling ordinances
passed in New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle apply to
employers with fewer than 20 employees. See, e.g., S.F., Cal.,
Police Code art. 33G, 3300G.3 (2015) (applying to retail employers
with at least 20 employees); N.Y.C., N.Y., Admin. Code 20-1222
(2017) (applying to retail employers with at least 20 employees and
fast food employers with at least 30 affiliated enterprise or
franchise establishments); Seattle, Wash., Mun. Code ch. 14.22.050
(2017) (applying to retail, food service, and full-service
restaurant employers with at least 500 employees). See also, e.g.,
Md. Code, Labor & Emp't sec. 3-1304 (West 2019) (coverage threshold
of 15 employees); Or. Rev. Stat. sec. 653.606 (coverage threshold of
10 employees with smaller employers required to provide equivalent
unpaid sick leave); R.I. Gen. Laws sec. 28-57-4(c) (coverage
threshold of 18 employees with smaller employers required to provide
equivalent unpaid sick leave).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
VII. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act Analysis
    The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA), 2 U.S.C. 1532,
requires that agencies prepare a written statement, which includes an
assessment of anticipated costs and benefits, for any Federal mandate
that may result in excess of $100 million (adjusted annually for
inflation) in expenditures in any one year by state, local, and tribal
governments in the aggregate, or by the private sector. While this
rulemaking would affect employers in the public and private sectors, it
is not expected to result in expenditures greater than $100 million in
any one year. Please see Section V for an assessment of anticipated
costs and benefits to the private sector.
VIII. Executive Order 13132, Federalism
    The Department has reviewed this final rule in accordance with
Executive Order 13132 regarding federalism and determined that it does
not have federalism implications. The final rule would not have
substantial direct effects on the States, on the relationship between
the National Government and the States, or on the distribution of power
and responsibilities among the various levels of government.
IX. Executive Order 13175, Indian Tribal Governments
    This final rule would not have substantial direct effects on one or
more Indian tribes, on the relationship between the Federal Government
and Indian tribes, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities
between the Federal Government and Indian tribes.
List of Subjects in 29 CFR Parts 548 and 778
    Wages.
    Signed at Washington, DC, this 2nd day of December, 2019.
Cheryl M. Stanton,
Administrator, Wage and Hour Division.
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, the Department of Labor
amends title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations parts 548 and 778 as
follows:
PART 548--AUTHORIZATION OF ESTABLISHED BASIC RATES FOR COMPUTING
OVERTIME PAY
0
1. The authority citation for part 548 continues to read as follows:
    Authority:  Sec. 7. 52 Stat. 1063, as amended; 29 U.S.C. 207,
unless otherwise noted.
0
2. Amend Sec.  548.1 by revising the first sentence to read as follows:
Sec.  548.1   Scope and effect of regulations.
    The regulations for computing overtime pay under sections 7(g)(1)
and 7(g)(2) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended (``the
Act'' or ``FLSA''), for employees paid on the basis of a piece rate, or
at a variety of hourly rates or piece rates, or a combination thereof,
are set forth in Sec. Sec.  778.415 through 778.421. * * *
0
3. Amend Sec.  548.3 by revising paragraph (e) and removing the
parenthetical authority citation at the end of the section to read as
follows:
Sec.  548.3   Authorized basic rates.
* * * * *
    (e) The rate or rates (not less than the rates required by section
6(a) and (b) of the Act) which may be used under the Act to compute
overtime compensation of the employee but excluding additional payments
in cash or in kind which, if included in the computation of overtime
under the Act, would not increase the total compensation of the
employee by more than 40 percent of the applicable hourly minimum wage
under either section 6(a) of the Act or the state or local law
applicable in the jurisdiction in which the employee is employed,
whichever is higher, per week on the average for all overtime weeks (in
excess of the number of hours applicable under section 7(a) of the Act)
in the period for which such additional payments are made.
* * * * *
0
4. Amend Sec.  548.305 by revising paragraphs (a), (c), (d), (e), and
(f) to read as follows:
Sec.  548.305   Excluding certain additions to wages.
    (a) See Sec.  548.3(e) for authorized established basic rates.
* * * * *
    (c) The exclusion of one or more additional payments under Sec.
548.3(e) must not affect the overtime compensation of the employee by
more than 40 percent of the applicable hourly minimum wage under either
section 6(a) of the Act or the state or local law applicable in the
jurisdiction in which the employee is employed, whichever is higher,
per week on the average for the overtime weeks.
    (1) Example. An employee, who normally would come within the 40-
hour provision of section 7(a) of the Act, is paid a cost-of-living
bonus of $1300 each calendar quarter, or $100 per week. The employee
works overtime in only 2 weeks in the 13-week period, and in each of
these overtime weeks he works 50 hours. He is therefore entitled to $10
as overtime compensation on the bonus for each week in which overtime
was worked (i.e., $100 bonus divided by 50 hours equals $2 an hour; 10
overtime hours, times one-half, times $2 an hour, equals $10 per week).
Forty percent of the minimum wage of $7.25 is $2.90 (this example
assumes the employee works in a state or locality that does not have a
minimum wage that is higher than the minimum wage under the FLSA).
Since the overtime on the bonus is more than $2.90 on the average for
the 2 overtime weeks, this cost-of-living bonus would be included in
the overtime computation under Sec.  548.3(e).
    (2) [Reserved]
    (d) It is not always necessary to make elaborate computations to
determine whether the effect of the exclusion of a bonus or other
incidental payment on the employee's total compensation will exceed 40
percent of the applicable hourly minimum wage under either
[[Page 68770]]
section 6(a) of the Act or the state or local law applicable in the
jurisdiction in which the employee is employed, whichever is higher,
per week on the average. Frequently the addition to regular wages is so
small or the number of overtime hours is so limited that under any
conceivable circumstances exclusion of the additional payments from the
rate used to compute the employee's overtime compensation would not
affect the employee's total earnings by more than 40 percent of the
applicable hourly minimum wage under either section 6(a) of the Act or
the state or local law applicable in the jurisdiction in which the
employee is employed, whichever is higher, per week. The determination
that this is so may be made by inspection of the payroll records or
knowledge of the normal working hours.
    (1) Example. An employer has a policy of giving employees who have
a perfect attendance record during a 4-week period a bonus of $50. The
employee never works more than 50 hours a week. Exclusion of this
attendance bonus from the rate of pay used to compute overtime
compensation could not affect the employee's total earnings by more
than $2.90 per week (i.e., 40 percent of the minimum wage of $7.25,
assuming the employee works in a state or locality that does not have a
minimum wage that is higher than the minimum wage under the FLSA).\14\
    \14\ For a 50-hour week, an employee's bonus would have to
exceed $29 a week to affect his overtime compensation by more than
$2.90 (i.e., 40 percent of the minimum wage of $7.25). ($30 / 50
hours worked x 10 overtime hours x 0.5).
    (2) [Reserved]
    (e) There are many situations in which the employer and employee
cannot predict with any degree of certainty the amount of bonus to be
paid at the end of the bonus period. They may not be able to anticipate
with any degree of certainty the number of hours an employee might work
each week during the bonus period. In such situations, the employer and
employee may agree prior to the performance of the work that a bonus
will be disregarded in the computation of overtime pay if the
employee's total earnings are not affected by more than 40 percent of
the applicable hourly minimum wage under either section 6(a) of the Act
or the state or local law applicable in the jurisdiction in which the
employee is employed, whichever is higher, per week on the average for
all overtime weeks during the bonus period. If it turns out at the end
of the bonus period that the effect on the employee's total
compensation would exceed 40 percent of the applicable minimum wage
under either section 6(a) of the Act or the state or local law
applicable in the jurisdiction in which the employee is employed,
whichever is higher, per week on the average, then additional overtime
compensation must be paid on the bonus. (See Sec.  778.209 of this
chapter, for an explanation of how to compute overtime on the bonus).
    (f) In order to determine whether the exclusion of a bonus or other
incidental payment would affect the total compensation of the employee
by not more than 40 percent of the applicable hourly minimum wage under
either section 6(a) of the Act or the state or local law applicable in
the jurisdiction in which the employee is employed, whichever is
higher, per week on the average, a comparison is made between his total
compensation computed under the employment agreement and his total
compensation computed in accordance with the applicable overtime
provisions of the Act.
    (1) Example. An employee, who normally would come within the 40-
hour provision of section 7(a) of the Act, is paid at piece rates and
at one and one-half times the applicable piece rates for work performed
during hours in excess of 40 in the workweek. The employee is also paid
a bonus, which when apportioned over the bonus period, amounts to $10 a
week. He never works more than 50 hours a week. The piece rates could
be established as basic rates under the employment agreement and no
additional overtime compensation paid on the bonus. The employee's
total compensation computed in accordance with the applicable overtime
provision of the Act, section 7(g)(1) \15\ would be affected by not
more than $1 in any week by not paying overtime compensation on the
bonus.\16\
    \15\ Section 7(g)(1) of the Act provides that overtime
compensation may be paid at one and one-half times the applicable
piece rate but extra overtime compensation must be properly computed
and paid on additional pay required to be included in computing the
regular rate.
    \16\ Bonus of $10 divided by fifty hours equals 20 cents an
hour. Half of this hourly rate multiplied by ten overtime hours
equals $1.
    (2) [Reserved]
* * * * *
0
5. Amend Sec.  548.400 by revising paragraph (b) and removing the
parenthetical authority citation at the end of the section to read as
follows:
Sec.  548.400   Procedures.
* * * * *
    (b) Prior approval of the Administrator is also required if the
employer desires to use a basic rate or basic rates which come within
the scope of a combination of two or more of the paragraphs in Sec.
548.3 unless the basic rate or rates sought to be adopted meet the
requirements of a single paragraph in Sec.  548.3. For instance, an
employee may receive free lunches, the cost of which, by agreement or
understanding, is not to be included in the rate used to compute
overtime compensation.\17\ In addition, the employee may receive an
attendance bonus which, by agreement or understanding, is to be
excluded from the rate used to compute overtime compensation.\18\ Since
these exclusions involve two paragraphs of Sec.  548.3, prior approval
of the Administrator would be necessary unless the exclusion of the
cost of the free lunches together with the attendance bonus do not
affect the employee's overtime compensation by more than 40 percent of
the applicable hourly minimum wage under either section 6(a) of the Act
or the state or local law applicable in the jurisdiction in which the
employee is employed, whichever is higher, per week on the average, in
which case the employer and the employee may treat the situation as one
falling within Sec.  548.3(e).
    \17\ See Sec.  548.304.
    \18\ See Sec.  548.305.
PART 778--OVERTIME COMPENSATION
0
6. The authority citation for part 778 continues to read as follows:
    Authority:  52 Stat. 1060, as amended; 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq.
Section 778.200 also issued under Pub. L. 106-202, 114 Stat. 308 (29
U.S.C. 207(e) and (h)).
0
7. Revise Sec.  778.1 to read as follows:
Sec.  778.1   Introductory statement.
    (a) This part contains the Department of Labor's general
interpretations with respect to the meaning and application of the
maximum hours and overtime pay requirements contained in section 7 of
the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended (``the Act'' or
``FLSA''). The Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division will use
these interpretations to guide the performance of his or her duties
under the Act, and intends the interpretations to be used by employers,
employees, and courts to understand employers' obligations and
employees' rights under the Act. These official interpretations are
issued by the Administrator on the advice of the Solicitor of Labor, as
authorized by the Secretary (Reorg. Pl. 6 of 1950, 64 Stat. 1263; Gen.
Ord. 45A, published in the Federal Register on May 24, 1950).
[[Page 68771]]
    (b) The Department recognizes that compensation practices can vary
significantly and will continue to evolve in the future. The Department
also recognizes that it is not feasible to address all of the various
compensation and benefits arrangements that may exist between employers
and employees, both currently and in the future. In general, the FLSA
does not restrict the forms of ``remuneration'' that an employer may
pay--which may include an hourly rate, salary, commission, piece rate,
a combination thereof, or any other method--as long as the regular rate
is equal to at least the applicable minimum wage and compensation for
overtime hours worked is paid at the rate of at least one and one-half
times the regular rate. While the eight categories of payments in
section 7(e)(1)-(8) are the exhaustive list of payments excludable from
the regular rate, this part does not contain an exhaustive list of
permissible or impermissible compensation practices under section 7(e),
unless otherwise indicated. Rather, it provides examples of regular
rate and overtime calculations under the FLSA and the types of
compensation that may be excluded from regular rate calculations under
section 7(e) of the FLSA.
0
8. Amend Sec.  778.202 by revising paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (e) to
read as follows:
Sec.  778.202   Premium pay for hours in excess of a daily or weekly
standard.
    (a) Hours in excess of 8 per day or statutory weekly standard. A
written or unwritten employment contract, agreement, understanding,
handbook, policy, or practice may provide for the payment of overtime
compensation for hours worked in excess of 8 per day or 40 per week. If
the payment of such overtime compensation is in fact contingent upon
the employee's having worked in excess of 8 hours in a day or in excess
of the number of hours in the workweek specified in section 7(a) of the
Act as the weekly maximum and such hours are reflected in an agreement
or by established practice, the extra premium compensation paid for the
excess hours is excludable from the regular rate under section 7(e)(5)
of the Act and may be credited toward statutory overtime payments
pursuant to section 7(h) of the Act. In applying the rules in this
paragraph (a) to situations where it is the custom to pay employees for
hours during which no work is performed due to vacation, holiday,
illness, failure of the employer to provide sufficient work, or other
similar cause, as these terms are explained in Sec. Sec.  778.216
through 778.224, it is permissible (but not required) to count these
hours as hours worked in determining the amount of overtime premium
pay, due for hours in excess of 8 per day or the applicable maximum
hours standard, which may be excluded from the regular rate and
credited toward the statutory overtime compensation.
    (b) Hours in excess of normal or regular working hours. Similarly,
where the employee's normal or regular daily or weekly working hours
are greater or fewer than 8 hours and 40 hours respectively and such
hours are reflected in an agreement or by established practice, and the
employee receives payment of premium rates for work in excess of such
normal or regular hours of work for the day or week (such as 7 in a day
or 35 in a week), the extra compensation provided by such premium
rates, paid for excessive hours, is a true overtime premium to be
excluded from the regular rate and it may be credited toward overtime
compensation due under the Act.
    (c) Premiums for excessive daily hours. If an employee whose
maximum hours standard is 40 hours is hired at the rate of $12 an hour
and receives, as overtime compensation under his contract, $12.50 per
hour for each hour actually worked in excess of 8 per day (or in excess
of his normal or regular daily working hours), his employer may exclude
the premium portion of the overtime rate from the employee's regular
rate and credit the total of the extra 50-cent payments thus made for
daily overtime hours against the overtime compensation which is due
under the statute for hours in excess of 40 in that workweek. If the
same contract further provided for the payment of $13 for hours in
excess of 12 per day, the extra $1 payments could likewise be credited
toward overtime compensation due under the Act. To qualify as overtime
premiums under section 7(e)(5) of the Act, the daily overtime premium
payments must be made for hours in excess of 8 hours per day or the
employee's normal or regular working hours. If the normal workday is
artificially divided into a ``straight time'' period to which one rate
is assigned, followed by a so-called ``overtime'' period for which a
higher ``rate'' is specified, the arrangement will be regarded as a
device to contravene the statutory purposes and the premiums will be
considered part of the regular rate. For a fuller discussion of this
problem, see Sec.  778.501.
* * * * *
    (e) Premium pay for sixth or seventh day worked. Under sections
7(e)(6) and 7(h), extra premium compensation paid for work on the sixth
or seventh day worked in the workweek (where the workweek schedule is
reflected in an agreement or by established practice) is regarded in
the same light as premiums paid for work in excess of the applicable
maximum hours standard or the employee's normal or regular workweek.
0
9. Amend Sec.  778.203 by revising paragraph (d) to read as follows:
Sec.  778.203   Premium pay for work on Saturdays, Sundays, and other
``special days''.
* * * * *
    (d) Payment of premiums for work performed on the ``special day'':
To qualify as an overtime premium under section 7(e)(6), the premium
must be paid because work is performed on the days specified and not
for some other reason which would not qualify the premium as an
overtime premium under sections 7(e)(5), (6), or (7) of the Act. (For
examples distinguishing pay for work on a holiday from idle holiday
pay, see Sec.  778.219.) Thus a premium rate paid to an employee only
when he received less than 24 hours' notice that he is required to
report for work on his regular day of rest is not a premium paid for
work on one of the specified days; it is a premium imposed as a penalty
upon the employer for failure to give adequate notice to compensate the
employee for the inconvenience of disarranging his private life. The
extra compensation is not an overtime premium. It is part of his
regular rate of pay unless such extra compensation is paid the employee
so as to qualify for exclusion under section 7(e)(2) of the Act in
which event it need not be included in computing his regular rate of
pay, as explained in Sec.  778.222.
0
10. Revise Sec.  778.205 to read as follows:
Sec.  778.205   Premiums for weekend and holiday work--example.
    The application of section 7(e)(6) of the Act may be illustrated by
the following example: Suppose, based on a written or unwritten
employment contract, agreement, understanding, handbook, policy, or
practice, an employee earns $18 an hour for all hours worked on a
holiday or on Sunday in the operation of machines by operators whose
maximum hours standard is 40 hours and who are paid a bona fide hourly
rate of $12 for like work performed during nonovertime hours on other
days. Suppose further that the workweek of such an employee begins at
12:01 a.m. Sunday, and in a particular week he works a schedule of
[[Page 68772]]
8 hours on Sunday and on each day from Monday through Saturday, making
a total of 56 hours worked in the workweek. Tuesday is a holiday. The
payment of $768 to which the employee is entitled will satisfy the
requirements of the Act since the employer may properly exclude from
the regular rate the extra $48 paid for work on Sunday and the extra
$48 paid for holiday work and credit himself with such amount against
the statutory overtime premium required to be paid for the 16 hours
worked over 40.
0
11. Amend Sec.  778.207 by revising paragraph (a) to read as follows:
Sec.  778.207   Other types of contract premium pay distinguished.
    (a) Overtime premiums are those defined by the statute. The various
types of premium payments which provide extra compensation qualifying
as overtime premiums to be excluded from the regular rate (under
sections 7(e)(5), (6), and (7) and credited toward statutory overtime
pay requirements (under section 7(h)) have been described in Sec. Sec.
778.201 through 778.206. The plain wording of the statute makes it
clear that extra compensation provided by premium rates other than
those described in the statute cannot be treated as overtime premiums.
When such other premiums are paid, they must be included in the
employee's regular rate before statutory overtime compensation is
computed; no part of such premiums may be credited toward statutory
overtime pay.
* * * * *
0
12. Amend Sec.  778.211 by revising paragraph (c) and adding paragraph
(d) to read as follows:
Sec.  778.211  Discretionary bonuses.
* * * * *
    (c) Promised bonuses not excluded. The bonus, to be excluded under
section 7(e)(3)(a), must not be paid pursuant to any prior contract,
agreement, or promise. For example, any bonus which is promised to
employees upon hiring or which is the result of collective bargaining
would not be excluded from the regular rate under this provision of the
Act. Bonuses which are announced to employees to induce them to work
more steadily or more rapidly or more efficiently or to remain with the
firm are regarded as part of the regular rate of pay. Most attendance
bonuses, individual or group production bonuses, bonuses for quality
and accuracy of work, bonuses contingent upon the employee's continuing
in employment until the time the payment is to be made and the like are
in this category; in such circumstances they must be included in the
regular rate of pay.
    (d) Labels are not determinative. The label assigned to a bonus
does not conclusively determine whether a bonus is discretionary under
section 7(e)(3). Instead, the terms of the statute and the facts
specific to the bonus at issue determine whether bonuses are excludable
discretionary bonuses. Thus, regardless of the label or name assigned
to bonuses, bonuses are discretionary and excludable if both the fact
that the bonuses are to be paid and the amounts are determined at the
sole discretion of the employer at or near the end of the periods to
which the bonuses correspond and they are not paid pursuant to any
prior contract, agreement, or promise causing the employee to expect
such payments regularly. Examples of bonuses that may be discretionary
include bonuses to employees who made unique or extraordinary efforts
which are not awarded according to pre-established criteria, severance
bonuses, referral bonuses for employees not primarily engaged in
recruiting activities, bonuses for overcoming challenging or stressful
situations, employee-of-the-month bonuses, and other similar
compensation. Such bonuses are usually not promised in advance and the
fact and amount of payment is in the sole discretion of the employer
until at or near the end of the period to which the bonus corresponds.
0
13. Amend Sec.  778.212 by revising paragraph (c) to read as follows:
Sec.  778.212  Gifts, Christmas and special occasion bonuses.
* * * * *
    (c) Application of exclusion. If the bonus paid at Christmas or on
other special occasion is a gift or in the nature of a gift, it may be
excluded from the regular rate under section 7(e)(1) even though it is
paid with regularity so that the employees are led to expect it and
even though the amounts paid to different employees or groups of
employees vary with the amount of the salary or regular hourly rate of
such employees or according to their length of service with the firm so
long as the amounts are not measured by or directly dependent upon
hours worked, production, or efficiency. A Christmas bonus paid (not
pursuant to contract) in the amount of two weeks' salary to all
employees and an equal additional amount for each 5 years of service
with the firm, for example, would be excludable from the regular rate
under this category. Employers may also provide gifts with more
regularity throughout the year, as long as they are provided with the
understanding that they are gifts. Office coffee and snacks provided to
employees, for example, would also be excludable from the regular rate
under this category.
0
 14. Amend Sec.  778.215 by revising paragraphs (a)(2) and (b) to read
as follows:
Sec.  778.215   Conditions for exclusion of benefit-plan contributions
under section 7(e)(4).
    (a) * * *
    (2) The primary purpose of the plan must be to provide
systematically for the payment of benefits to employees on account of
death, disability, advanced age, retirement, illness, medical expenses,
hospitalization, accident, unemployment, legal services, or other
events that could cause significant future financial hardship or
expense.
* * * * *
    (b) Plans under sections of the Internal Revenue Code. In the
absence of evidence to the contrary, where the benefit plan or trust
has been approved by the Internal Revenue Service as satisfying the
requirements of section 401(a), 403(a), or 403(b) of the Internal
Revenue Code, is otherwise maintained pursuant to a written document
that the plan sponsor reasonably believes satisfies the requirements of
section 401(a), 403(a), 403(b), 408(k) or 408(p) of the Internal
Revenue Code, or is sponsored by a government employer that reasonably
believes the plan satisfies the requirements of section 457(b) of the
Internal Revenue Code, the plan or trust will be considered to meet the
conditions specified in paragraphs (a)(1), (2), (4), and (5) of this
section.
0
15. Amend Sec.  778.217 by revising paragraphs (a), (b)(1), and (c) to
read as follows:
Sec.  778.217   Reimbursement for expenses.
    (a) General rule. Where an employee incurs expenses on his
employer's behalf or where he is required to expend sums by reason of
action taken for the convenience of his employer, section 7(e)(2) is
applicable to reimbursement for such expenses. Payments made by the
employer to cover such expenses are not included in the employee's
regular rate (if the amount of the reimbursement reasonably
approximates the expense incurred). Such payment is not compensation
for services rendered by the employees during any hours worked in the
workweek.
    (b) * * *
    (1) The actual amount expended by an employee in purchasing
supplies, tools, materials, cell phone plans, or equipment on behalf of
his employer or in paying organization membership
[[Page 68773]]
dues or credentialing exam fees where relevant to the employer's
business.
* * * * *
    (c) Payments excluding expenses. (1) It should be noted that only
the actual or reasonably approximate amount of the expense is
excludable from the regular rate. If the amount paid as
``reimbursement'' is disproportionately large, the excess amount will
be included in the regular rate.
    (2) A reimbursement amount for an employee traveling on his or her
employer's business is per se reasonable, and not disproportionately
large, if it:
    (i) Is the same or less than the maximum reimbursement payment or
per diem allowance permitted for the same type of expense under 41 CFR
subtitle F (the Federal Travel Regulation System) or IRS guidance
issued under 26 CFR 1.274-5(g) or (j); and
    (ii) Otherwise meets the requirements of this section.
    (3) Paragraph (c)(2) of this section creates no inference that a
reimbursement for an employee traveling on his or her employer's
business exceeding the amount permitted under 41 CFR subtitle F (the
Federal Travel Regulation System) or IRS guidance issued under 26 CFR
1.274-5(g) or (j) is unreasonable for purposes of this section.
* * * * *
0
16. Amend Sec.  778.218 by revising paragraphs (b) and (d) to read as
follows:
Sec.  778.218  Pay for certain idle hours.
* * * * *
    (b) Limitations on exclusion. The provision of section 7(e)(2) of
the Act deals with the type of absences which are infrequent or
sporadic or unpredictable. It has no relation to regular ``absences''
such as regularly scheduled days of rest. Sundays may not be workdays
in a particular establishment, but this does not make them either
``holidays'' or ``vacations,'' or days on which the employee is absent
because of the failure of the employer to provide sufficient work. The
term holiday is read in its ordinary usage to refer to those days
customarily observed in the community in celebration of some historical
or religious occasion; it does not refer to days of rest given to
employees in lieu of or as an addition to compensation for working on
other days.
* * * * *
    (d) Other similar cause. The term ``other similar cause'' refers to
payments made for periods of absence due to factors like holidays,
vacations, sickness, and failure of the employer to provide work.
Examples of ``similar causes'' are absences due to jury service,
reporting to a draft board, attending a funeral, inability to reach the
workplace because of weather conditions, attending adoption or child
custody hearings, attending school activities, donating organs or
blood, voting, volunteering as a first responder, military leave,
family medical leave, and nonroutine paid leave required under state or
local laws. Only absences of a non-routine character which are
infrequent or sporadic or unpredictable are included in the ``other
similar cause'' category.
0
17. Revise Sec.  778.219 to read as follows:
Sec.  778.219   Pay for forgoing holidays and unused leave.
    (a) Sums payable whether employee works or not. As explained in
Sec.  778.218, certain payments made to an employee for periods during
which he performs no work because of a holiday, vacation, or illness
are not required to be included in the regular rate because they are
not regarded as compensation for working. When an employee who is
entitled to such paid leave forgoes the use of leave and instead
receives a payment that is the approximate equivalent to the employees'
normal earnings for a similar period of working time, and is in
addition to the employee's normal compensation for hours worked, the
sum allocable to the forgone leave may be excluded from the regular
rate. Such payments may be excluded whether paid out during the pay
period in which the holiday or prescheduled leave is forgone or as a
lump sum at a later point in time. Since it is not compensation for
work, pay for unused leave may not be credited toward overtime
compensation due under the Act. Four examples in which the maximum
hours standard is 40 hours may serve to illustrate this principle:
    (1) An employee whose rate of pay is $12 an hour and who usually
works a 6-day, 48-hour week is entitled, under his employment contract,
to a week's paid vacation in the amount of his usual straight-time
earnings--$576. He forgoes his vacation and works 50 hours in the week
in question. He is owed $600 as his total straight-time earnings for
the week, and $576 in addition as his vacation pay. Under the statute
he is owed an additional $60 as overtime premium (additional half-time)
for the 10 hours in excess of 40. His regular rate of $12 per hour has
not been increased by virtue of the payment of $576 vacation pay, but
no part of the $576 may be offset against the statutory overtime
compensation which is due. (Nothing in this example is intended to
imply that the employee has a statutory right to $576 or any other sum
as vacation pay. This is a matter of private contract between the
parties who may agree that vacation pay will be measured by straight-
time earnings for any agreed number of hours or days, or by total
normal or expected take-home pay for the period, or that no vacation
pay at all will be paid. The example merely illustrates the proper
method of computing overtime for an employee whose employment contract
provides $576 vacation pay.)
    (2) An employee who is entitled under his employment contract to 8
hours' pay at his rate of $12 an hour for the Christmas holiday,
forgoes his holiday and works 9 hours on that day. During the entire
week, he works a total of 50 hours. He is paid under his contract $600
as straight-time compensation for 50 hours plus $96 as idle holiday
pay. He is owed, under the statute, an additional $60 as overtime
premium (additional half-time) for the 10 hours in excess of 40. His
regular rate of $12 per hour has not been increased by virtue of the
holiday pay but no part of the $96 holiday pay may be credited toward
statutory overtime compensation due.
    (3) An employee whose rate of pay is $12 an hour and who usually
works a 40-hour week is entitled to two weeks of paid time off per year
per his or her employer's policies. The employee takes one week of paid
time off during the year and is paid $480 pursuant to employer policy
for the one week of unused paid time off at the end of the year. The
leave payout may be excluded from the employee's regular rate of pay,
but no part of the payout may be credited toward statutory overtime
compensation due.
    (4) An employee is scheduled to work a set schedule of two 24-hour
shifts on duty, followed by four 24-hour shifts off duty. This cycle
repeats every six days. The employer recognizes ten holidays per year
and provides employees with holiday pay for these days at amounts
approximately equivalent to their normal earnings for a similar period
of working time. Due to the cycle of the schedule, employees may be on
duty during some recognized holidays and off duty during others, and
due to the nature of their work, employees may be required to forgo a
holiday if an emergency arises. In recognition of this fact, the
employer provides the employees holiday pay regardless of whether the
employee works on the holiday. If the employee works on the
[[Page 68774]]
holiday, the employee will receive his or her regular salary in
addition to the holiday pay. In these circumstances, the sum allocable
to the holiday pay may be excluded from the regular rate.
    (b) Premiums for holiday work distinguished. The example in
paragraph (a)(2) of this section should be distinguished from a
situation in which an employee is entitled to idle holiday pay under
the employment agreement only when he is actually idle on the holiday,
and who, if he forgoes his holiday also, under his contract, forgoes
his idle holiday pay.
    (1) The typical situation is one in which an employee is entitled
by contract to 8 hours' pay at his rate of $12 an hour for certain
named holidays when no work is performed. If, however, he is required
to work on such days, he does not receive his idle holiday pay. Instead
he receives a premium rate of $18 (time and one-half) for each hour
worked on the holiday. If he worked 9 hours on the holiday and a total
of 50 hours for the week, he would be owed, under his contract, $162 (9
x $18) for the holiday work and $492 for the other 41 hours worked in
the week, a total of $654. Under the statute (which does not require
premium pay for a holiday) he is owed $660 for a workweek of 50 hours
at a rate of $12 an hour. Since the holiday premium is one and one-half
times the established rate for nonholiday work, it does not increase
the regular rate because it qualifies as an overtime premium under
section 7(e)(6), and the employer may credit it toward statutory
overtime compensation due and need pay the employee only the additional
sum of $6 to meet the statutory requirements. (For a discussion of
holiday premiums see Sec.  778.203.)
    (2) If all other conditions remained the same but the contract
called for the payment of $24 (double time) for each hour worked on the
holiday, the employee would receive, under his contract $216 (9 x $24)
for the holiday work in addition to $492 for the other 41 hours worked,
a total of $708. Since this holiday premium is also an overtime premium
under section 7(e)(6), it is excludable from the regular rate and the
employer may credit it toward statutory overtime compensation due.
Because the total thus paid exceeds the statutory requirements, no
additional compensation is due under the Act. In distinguishing this
situation from that in the example in paragraph (a)(2) of this section,
it should be noted that the contract provisions in the two situations
are different and result in the payment of different amounts. In the
example in paragraph (a)(2) of this section, the employee received a
total of $204 attributable to the holiday: 8 hours' idle holiday pay at
$12 an hour (8 x $12), due him whether he worked or not, and $108 pay
at the nonholiday rate for 9 hours' work on the holiday. In the
situation discussed in this paragraph (b)(2), the employee received
$216 pay for working on the holiday--double time for 9 hours of work.
All of the pay in this situation is paid for and directly related to
the number of hours worked on the holiday.
0
18. Amend Sec.  778.220 by revising paragraph (b) and adding paragraph
(c) to read as follows:
Sec.  778.220  ``Show-up'' or ``reporting'' pay.
* * * * *
    (b) Application illustrated. To illustrate, assume that an employee
entitled to overtime pay after 40 hours a week whose workweek begins on
Monday and who is paid $12 an hour reports for work on Monday according
to schedule and is sent home after being given only 2 hours of work. He
then works 8 hours each day on Tuesday through Saturday, inclusive,
making a total of 42 hours for the week. The employment agreement
covering the employees in the plant, who normally work 8 hours a day,
Monday through Friday, provides that an employee reporting for
scheduled work on any day will receive a minimum of 4 hours' work or
pay. The employee thus receives not only the $24 earned in the 2 hours
of work on Monday but an extra 2 hours' ``show-up'' pay, or $24 by
reason of this agreement. However, since this $24 in ``show-up'' pay is
not regarded as compensation for hours worked, the employee's regular
rate remains $12 and the overtime requirements of the Act are satisfied
if he receives, in addition to the $504 straight-time pay for 42 hours
and the $24 ``show-up'' payment, the sum of $12 as extra compensation
for the 2 hours of overtime work on Saturday.
    (c) Show-up or reporting pay mandated by law. State and local laws
may mandate payments or penalties paid to an employee when, before or
after reporting to work as scheduled, the employee is not provided with
the expected amount of work. All such payments or penalties paid to
employees that are mandated by such laws and that are not payments for
hours worked by the employee are excludable from the regular rate if
such penalties are paid or payments made on an infrequent or sporadic
basis. They cannot be credited toward statutory overtime compensation
due.
0
19. Revise Sec.  778.221 to read as follows:
Sec.  778.221   ``Call-back'' pay.
    (a) General. Typically, ``call-back'' or ``call-out'' payments are
made pursuant to agreement or established practice and consist of a
specified number of hours' pay at the applicable straight time or
overtime rates received by an employee on occasions when, after his
scheduled hours of work have ended and without prearrangement, he
responds to a call from his employer to perform extra work. The amount
by which the specified number of hours' pay exceeds the compensation
for hours actually worked is considered as a payment that is not made
for hours worked. As such, it may be excluded from the computation of
the employee's regular rate and cannot be credited toward statutory
overtime compensation due the employee. Payments that are prearranged,
however, may not be excluded from the regular rate. For example, if an
employer retailer called in an employee to help clean up the store for
3 hours after an unexpected roof leak, and then again 3 weeks later for
2 hours to cover for a coworker who left work for a family emergency,
payments for those instances would be without prearrangement and any
call-back pay that exceeded the amount the employee would receive for
the hours worked would be excludable. However, when payments under
Sec. Sec.  778.221 and 778.222 are prearranged, they are compensation
for work. The key inquiry for determining prearrangement is whether the
extra work was anticipated and therefore reasonably could have been
scheduled. For example, if an employer restaurant anticipates needing
extra servers for two hours during the busiest part of each Saturday
evening and calls in employees to meet that need instead of scheduling
additional servers, that would be prearrangement and any call-back pay
would be included in the regular rate.
    (b) Application illustrated. The application of the principles in
paragraph (a) of this section to call-back payments may be illustrated
as follows: An employment agreement provides a minimum of 3 hours' pay
at time and one-half for any employee called back to work outside his
scheduled hours. The employees covered by the agreement, who are
entitled to overtime pay after 40 hours a week, normally work 8 hours
each day, Monday through Friday, inclusive, in a workweek beginning on
Monday, and are paid overtime compensation at time and one-half for all
hours worked in excess of 8 in any day or 40 in any workweek. Assume
[[Page 68775]]
that an employee covered by this agreement and paid at the rate of $12
an hour works 1 hour overtime or a total of 9 hours on Monday, and
works 8 hours each on Tuesday through Friday, inclusive. After he has
gone home on Friday evening, he is called back to perform an emergency
job. His hours worked on the call total 2 hours and he receives 3
hours' pay at time and one-half, or $54, under the call-back provision,
in addition to $480 for working his regular schedule and $18 for
overtime worked on Monday evening. In computing overtime compensation
due this employee under the Act, the 43 actual hours (not 44) are
counted as working time during the week. In addition to $516 pay at the
$12 rate for all these hours, he has received under the agreement a
premium of $6 for the 1 overtime hour on Monday and of $12 for the 2
hours of overtime work on the call, plus an extra sum of $18 paid by
reason of the provision for minimum call-back pay. For purposes of the
Act, the extra premiums paid for actual hours of overtime work on
Monday and on the Friday call (a total of $18) may be excluded as true
overtime premiums in computing his regular rate for the week and may be
credited toward compensation due under the Act, but the extra $18
received under the call-back provision is not regarded as paid for
hours worked; thus, it may be excluded from the regular rate, but it
cannot be credited toward overtime compensation due under the Act. The
regular rate of the employee, therefore, remains $12, and he has
received an overtime premium of $6 an hour for 3 overtime hours of
work. This satisfies the requirements of section 7 of the Act. The same
would be true, of course, if in the foregoing example, the employee was
called back outside his scheduled hours for the 2-hour emergency job on
another night of the week or on Saturday or Sunday, instead of on
Friday night.
0
20. Revise Sec.  778.222 to read as follows:
Sec.  778.222   Other payments similar to ``call-back'' pay.
    The principles discussed in Sec.  778.221 are also applied with
respect to certain types of extra payments which are similar to call-
back pay. Payments are similar to call-back pay if they are extra
payments, including payments made pursuant to state or local scheduling
laws, to compensate an employee for working unanticipated or
insufficiently scheduled hours or shifts. The extra payment, over and
above the employee's earnings for the hours actually worked at his
applicable rate (straight time or overtime, as the case may be), is
considered as a payment that is not made for hours worked. Payments
that are prearranged, however, may not be excluded from the regular
rate. Examples of payments similar to excludable call-back pay include:
    (a) Extra payments made to employees for failure to give the
employee sufficient notice to report for work on regular days of rest
or during hours outside of his regular work schedule;
    (b) Extra payments made solely because the employee has been called
back to work before the expiration of a specified number of hours
between shifts or tours of duty, sometimes referred to as a ``rest
period;''
    (c) Pay mandated by state or local law for employees who are
scheduled to work the end of one day's shift and the start of the next
day's shift with fewer than the legally required number of hours
between the shifts; and
    (d) ``Predictability pay'' mandated by state or local law for
employees who do not receive requisite notice of a schedule change.
0
21. Revise Sec.  778.223 to read as follows:
Sec.  778.223  Pay for non-productive hours distinguished.
    (a) Under the Act an employee must be compensated for all hours
worked. As a general rule the term ``hours worked'' will include:
    (1) All time during which an employee is required to be on duty or
to be on the employer's premises or at a prescribed workplace; and
    (2) All time during which an employee is suffered or permitted to
work whether or not he is required to do so.
    (b) Thus, working time is not limited to the hours spent in active
productive labor, but includes time given by the employee to the
employer even though part of the time may be spent in idleness. Some of
the hours spent by employees, under certain circumstances, in such
activities as waiting for work, remaining ``on call'', traveling on the
employer's business or to and from workplaces, and in meal periods and
rest periods are regarded as working time and some are not. The
governing principles are discussed in part 785 of this chapter
(interpretative bulletin on ``hours worked'') and part 790 of this
chapter (statement of effect of Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947). To the
extent that these hours are regarded as working time, payment made as
compensation for these hours obviously cannot be characterized as
``payments not for hours worked.'' Such compensation is treated in the
same manner as compensation for any other working time and is, of
course, included in the regular rate of pay. Where payment is
ostensibly made as compensation for such of these hours as are not
regarded as working time under the Act, the payment is nevertheless
included in the regular rate of pay unless it qualifies for exclusion
from the regular rate as one of a type of ``payments made for
occasional periods when no work is performed due to failure of the
employer to provide sufficient work, or other similar cause'' as
discussed in Sec.  778.218 or is excludable on some other basis under
section 7(e)(2). For example, an employment contract may provide that
employees who are assigned to take calls for specific periods will
receive a payment of $5 for each 8-hour period during which they are
``on call'' in addition to pay at their regular (or overtime) rate for
hours actually spent in making calls. If the employees who are thus on
call are not confined to their homes or to any particular place, but
may come and go as they please, provided that they leave word where
they may be reached, the hours spent ``on call'' are not considered as
hours worked. Although the payment received by such employees for such
``on call'' time is, therefore, not allocable to any specific hours of
work, it is clearly paid as compensation for performing a duty involved
in the employee's job and is not of a type excludable under section
7(e)(2). The payment must therefore be included in the employee's
regular rate in the same manner as any payment for services, such as an
attendance bonus, which is not related to any specific hours of work.
The principle in this paragraph (b) also applies when such ``on call''
pay is mandated by state or local law.
0
21. Revise Sec.  778.224 to read as follows:
Sec.  778.224   ``Other similar payments''.
    (a) General. Sections 778.216 through 778.223 have enumerated and
discussed the basic types of payments for which exclusion from the
regular rate is specifically provided under section 7(e)(2) because
they are not made as compensation for hours of work. Section 7(e)(2)
also authorizes exclusion from the regular rate of other similar
payments to an employee which are not made as compensation for his
hours of employment. Such payments do not depend on hours worked,
services rendered, job performance, or other criteria that depend on
the quality or quantity of the employee's work. Conditions not
dependent on the quality
[[Page 68776]]
or quality of work include a reasonable waiting period for eligibility,
the requirement to repay benefits as a remedy for employee misconduct,
and limiting eligibility on the basis of geographic location or job
position. Since a variety of miscellaneous payments are paid by an
employer to an employee under peculiar circumstances, it was not
considered feasible to attempt to list them. They must, however, be
``similar'' in character to the payments specifically described in
section 7(e)(2). It is clear that the clause was not intended to permit
the exclusion from the regular rate of payments such as most bonuses or
the furnishing of facilities like board and lodging which, though not
directly attributable to any particular hours of work are,
nevertheless, clearly understood to be compensation for services.
    (b) Examples of other excludable payments. A few examples may serve
to illustrate some of the types of payments intended to be excluded as
``other similar payments''.
    (1) Sums paid to an employee for the rental of his truck or car.
    (2) Loans or advances made by the employer to the employee.
    (3) The cost to the employer of conveniences furnished to the
employee such as:
    (i) Parking spaces and parking benefits;
    (ii) Restrooms and lockers;
    (iii) On-the-job medical care;
    (iv) Treatment provided on-site from specialists such as
chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, personal
trainers, counselors, or Employee Assistance Programs; or
    (v) Gym access, gym memberships, fitness classes, and recreational
facilities.
    (4) The cost to the employer of providing wellness programs, such
as health risk assessments, biometric screenings, vaccination clinics
(including annual flu vaccinations), nutrition classes, weight loss
programs, smoking cessation programs, stress reduction programs,
exercise programs, coaching to help employees meet health goals,
financial wellness programs or financial counseling, and mental health
wellness programs.
    (5) Discounts on employer-provided retail goods and services, and
tuition benefits (whether paid to an employee, an education provider,
or a student loan program).
    (6) Adoption assistance (including financial assistance, legal
services, or information and referral services).
0
22. Revise Sec.  778.320 to read as follows:
Sec.  778.320  Hours that would not be hours worked if not paid for.
    In some cases an agreement or established practice provides for
compensation for hours spent in certain types of activities which would
not be regarded as working time under the Act if no compensation were
provided. Preliminary and postliminary activities and time spent in
eating meals between working hours fall in this category. Compensation
for such hours does not convert them into hours worked unless it
appears from all the pertinent facts that the parties have treated such
time as hours worked. Except for certain activity governed by the
Portal-to-Portal Act (see paragraph (b) of this section), the agreement
or established practice of the parties will be respected, if
reasonable.
    (a) Time treated as hours worked. Where the parties have reasonably
agreed to include as hours worked time devoted to activities of the
type described in the introductory text of this section, payments for
such hours will not have the mathematical effect of increasing or
decreasing the regular rate of an employee if the hours are compensated
at the same rate as other working hours. The requirements of section
7(a) of the Act will be considered to be met where overtime
compensation at one and one-half times such rate is paid for the hours
so compensated in the workweek which are in excess of the statutory
maximum.
    (b) Time not treated as hours worked. Under the principles set
forth in Sec.  778.319, where the payments are made for time spent in
an activity which, if compensable under contract, custom, or practice,
is required to be counted as hours worked under the Act by virtue of
section 4 of the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947 (see parts 785 and 790 of
this chapter), no agreement by the parties to exclude such compensable
time from hours worked would be valid. On the other hand, in the case
of time spent in an activity which would not be hours worked under the
Act if not compensated and would not become hours worked under the
Portal-to-Portal Act even if made compensable by contract, custom, or
practice, such time will not be counted as hours worked unless
agreement or established practice indicates that the parties have
treated the time as hours worked. Such time includes bona fide meal
periods, see Sec.  785.19. Unless it appears from all the pertinent
facts that the parties have treated such activities as hours worked,
payments for such time will be regarded as qualifying for exclusion
from the regular rate under the provisions of section 7(e)(2), as
explained in Sec. Sec.  778.216 through 778.224. The payments for such
hours cannot, of course, qualify as overtime premiums creditable toward
overtime compensation under section 7(h) of the Act.
[FR Doc. 2019-26447 Filed 12-12-19; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4510-27-P