Warren Zevon may have seen a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic, but clearly the savage is not aware of Victor Bergeron’s most lasting legacy, the Mai Tai. Full measure each of white rum, coconut rum, apricot brandy; half measure of orgeat and orange liqueur; six ounces of pineapple juice in a shaker. Pour into a glass and add two maraschino cherries. Float dark rum over the top. Probably needs a pineapple wedge, umbrella, enough hurdles to barely find the drink with a straw, but I’ve always felt the more you adorn, the more you’re trying to hide the quality of ingredients.
After months of planning, days of packing, and way too many hours on a plane, you’ve finally found your feet buried deep in the sand with azure seas rippling as far as the eye can see. As a salary exempt employee, you’ve worked around the clock for the last 51 weeks for this one week in paradise. A sip of your drink, a moment of steel drum wafting in the tropical air, and your reverie is broken by that familiar ring tone. It’s a “quick question” from the office. You have to trot back to the hotel room, boot up the laptop, write a report, and make a couple calls. No big deal, right?
Well, if you recorded that day as paid time off, it COULD be in violation of Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division. Paid time off cannot be consumed by a salary exempt employee when the employee is “forced to” detract from his/her routine for work related purposes. Specifically, 29 CFR 541.602 defines the salary as compensation whose “amount is not subject to reduction because of variations in quantity or quality of work performed.” It further says “Exempt employees need not be paid for any workweek in which they perform no work. The phone call that simply asks where a file was placed may arguably fall under “no work,” but writing that report and making a couple calls definitely constitutes work.
I’ve talked to several salary exempt employees in several organizations about the conundrum: how can they use vacation but not “abandon” their people for days at a time. The first step is surrounding yourself with the right people. Second step is to clearly articulate your vision and direction. Third is to empower them to make the day to day decisions, liberating you to work on the big picture. It sounds easier than it is, I know, but in the end, all the effort is worth that moment of paradise.