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Payment of Wages for New Employees

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Texas school districts operating on district of innovation calendar exemptions are enjoying earlier start dates but may need to rethink their payroll calendars as a result.

While the Fair Labor Standards Act does not list specific requirements regarding timeliness of pay, it explains that payments to nonexempt employees for overtime may not be delayed for a period longer than is reasonably necessary (29 C.F. R §778.106). Further, although independent school districts aren’t subject to Texas Payday Law, which specifies how frequently employers must pay their staff, waiting too long to pay them may be a recipe for grievances and turnover.

Exempt Staff

With exempt, salaried staff like teachers, many districts wrestle with this because their staff are returning to work at the beginning of August but don’t receive their first check until the end of September. It’s not an issue for continuing staff or staff moving from one district to another, because they’ll continue to receive paychecks from the previous school year through August 31. But for new staff, it presents a problem. Because most districts have teachers on a September pay cycle start, it’s easier for districts to pay an additional check in the first year—sometimes called a “thirteenth check”—rather than change their pay cycles.

Nonexempt Staff

Districts with nonexempt staff whose pay is not spread over 12 months can begin pay for new hires in the next pay cycle. However, providing a thirteenth check to hourly staff whose pay is spread over 12 months is more complicated. These individuals typically earn less money so providing a thirteenth check would reduce pay significantly and cause more problems than it fixes. When new, nonexempt employees begin employment in early August, districts are left pondering the timing of that first paycheck. The best practice is to start pay cycles in the same month so employees are not waiting too long for payment for work performed.

Remember that pay systems are designed to support the recruitment and retention needs of the district and prompt payment to staff is an essential component of these efforts.

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