The Exempt Jogger

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A business owner from Pennsylvania called me the other day to talk about some performance management issues related to his Sales Manager.  The business owner informed me that the Sales Manager’s position was classified as exempt, and as part of the compensation package negotiated at the time of hire, the Sales Manager was given a Company vehicle which could be driven for personal as well as Company use.

Based upon information from the Company’s GPS Program, the business owner had noticed the Sales Manager would periodically drive to remote mountainous areas for hours at a time during the normal work day.  After a couple of such occurrences, the business owner confronted the Sales Manager about his activities in the mountains, where no such potential landscape client was located. In turn, the Sales Manager straightforwardly responded that sometimes he just wants “to get away and go for jog.”

An interesting exercise routine to say the least.

The business owner asked me if he could dock the Sales Manager’s pay, deduct time for obvious non-work activities during schedule workdays, or apply any type of corrective action against the employee.  I informed the business owner that as an exempt employee, if the Sales Manager does any work during the workday, he must receive a full-day’s pay.  Similarly, as a byproduct of the employee’s exempt status, it could be difficult, albeit not impossible, to deduct time from the Sales Manager’s vacation balances, in that exempt employees are not normally bound by a normal work schedule, and as such, the Sales Manager could easily say that he actually completed numerous sales proposals at night.  Parenthetically, be reminded that exempt employees’ performance is not based on the number of hours worked, but rather on their results.

As it turned out, the business owner told me the Sales Manager had a pattern of not being available for meetings with the field operations team, the business owner, as well as clients, in that such meetings were often in conflict with his jogging regimen.  Similarly, the Sales Manager was underperforming both in terms of his sales goals and the lack of a suitable sales pipeline.

With reference to the business owner’s inquiry about potential corrective action, I suggested that he:

  • Begin weekly one-on-one meetings with the Sales Manager to drive accountability focusing on steps to improve pipeline activity and sales results,
  • Collect information about the Sales Manager’s work activities from other Company employees,
  • Begin the documentation process that the Sales Manager was frequently not available for business meetings due to his jogging schedule, and in turn coach him directly that his attendance at such meetings was required from that point forward, and
  • Consider revoking the Sales Manager’s use of the Company vehicle.

Despite the presence of these actions, the Sales Manager continued to exploit his exempt status by maintaining his jogging rituals, consistently drove well above the speed limit as tracked by GPS, and by no surprise, failed to achieve desired sales results.  In short order, the business owner terminated the Sales Manager, who was colorfully indignant and overtly hostile throughout the termination meeting.  Despite taking too much time, the business owner did the correct process:  proper documentation, did not jeopardize the employee’s exempt classification, tracked results, and conducted the termination process as intended. 

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 34 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.