Starting Dec. 1, 2016, colleges and universities across the United States must comply with the new Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations. While many HR professionals are justifiably concerned about the financial impact, the backlash from staff may be just as costly.
“HR will have to mitigate drama to preserve the institution’s culture, regardless of their strategy for compliance,” said Heather Murray, customer advancement executive at PeopleAdmin and former associate director of human resources at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
David Perryman, assistant director for talent solutions at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, agreed. “It’s going to be a morale issue.”
Why are they so concerned? According to Edward Wilson Jr., Ph.D., director of strategic partnerships at PeopleAdmin and former director of academic affairs at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, “A lot of the issues will be perception-based because exemption is a status symbol.”
Heather echoed that sentiment. “It’s not uncommon to associate exemption with being a professional,” she said. “I don’t like that. To me, we’re all professionals.”
To combat this perception, David suggests communicating with your staff to let them know that exemption classification is “not intended to be a personal judgement of someone’s contribution.”
Communicating that clearly, while acknowledging that employees who switch from exempt to nonexempt status may lose certain perks, may help prevent employees from feeling discouraged about the change.