In an effort to make a new employee’s first day of work as productive as possible, many companies schedule an earlier date for New Hire Orientation (NHO) or onboarding activities such as completing tax forms, reviewing the employee handbook, and covering general training topics. However, problems arise when employers do not consider NHO to be work, and do not pay the new employee properly for the time.
You may be thinking, “The person hasn’t even started work yet. Why should we be expected to pay wages?” The Fair Labor Standards Act states that when an individual is “suffered or permitted to work,” the time must be paid.
You may still be thinking, “How can filling out new-hire forms be considered ‘work’?” The Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders define hours worked as “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer.”
Therefore, if you instruct a new employee to be at your office for a certain amount of time to begin the NHO process, (s)he is effectively under your control, and is considered to have started work on that date, and entitled to reporting time pay. This activity triggers your responsibility to verify eligibility to work in the United States within three business days, and your responsibility to accurately track and pay for all hours worked.
To minimize confusion and potential compliance errors, we recommend dedicating a substantial portion of the new employee’s first workday to completing all steps of your NHO process. While the day may not result in measurable productivity, it presents an ideal opportunity to talk with the individual about your company’s history, mission and organizational structure, thoroughly review the job description and performance evaluation standards, make introductions to co-workers, cover general safety training, and other activities that will allow your employee to feel welcomed and confident in the new position. These onboarding practices will ensure that the hire date is correctly stated in your records, (s)he is paid correctly for all hours worked, and get the employment relationship started on the right foot.