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Midsummer brings special workplace issues, relating to, among other things, workers on-call and operating with a skeleton crew. Here’s how to keep things both legal and moving.
Get out the Milk Bones and Kibbles ’n’ Bits, because here they come—the “dog days” of summer. It’s that lazy time from now until Labor Day when half the staff seems to be off on vacation, and the other half is physically at work but mentally also on vacation. What special issues does this time of year present?
Thank law firm Bacon & Wilson, PC, for raising one: compensating on-call nonexempt employees. These are situations in which a worker is taking time off but may still be needed should the appropriate situation (say, a computer breakdown—or a case in which a manager can’t get something done!) comes up. Does the employee need to be paid?
According to B&W, that depends on how much the worker is under your control. If workers have to stay on premises, even if they’re just reading the paper or rehashing last night’s rerun of “The Office,” they have to be paid. The same rule applies if they’re at another location you specify, such as a customer’s worksite.
Travel Pay in California: What You're Required to Pay When Employees Are on the Move—webinar this Wednesday! Learn more.
Things get a bit fuzzier if the worker is at home or somewhere else where he or she can still be called in to work. Then compensability depends on four factors, according to B&W. These are:
Simply put, the more restraints the worker is under, the more likely you’ll have to pay. “The situation represents a tough judgment call,” says B&W, adding that it might be worth getting a legal opinion about your specific situation.
Meanwhile, Back at Work …
Meanwhile, back at work, there are steps you can take to help a temp, fill-in, or manager who’s stepping into a vacant worker’s shoes make the transition smoother. For these, we thank author Thomas F. O’Leary, writing on the About.com HR website. O’Leary suggests the following:
Utilize desk guides. These are books kept at each desk that lay out where everything is and how it all works. Each includes such information as schedules, contact information for coworkers and clients, and samples and location of required forms or supplies.
“Write in recipe-like format,” says O’Leary, “with the understanding that the person using the desk guide will probably be less familiar with the work than the process owner who wrote it.”
Set up a “worst-case scenario.” Describe how to continue operations even if the key player is somehow put out of action. That means specifying and publicizing steps to get things done that are easy to follow, not only internally but by clients or vendors.
This could include creating a centralized phone or mail system anyone can access. It also often means identifying and, if needed, bringing in outsourced resources to keep things moving.
Use downtime effectively. A time when workers and customers are at the beach or in the mountains is probably the best time to upgrade computers, do inventory, and carry out needed maintenance, the author advises.
Also, says O’Leary, don’t forget to remind workers to set up their phone and e-mail message systems to inform contacts, and especially customers, that they’re away temporarily and aren’t intentionally not returning calls.
Tomorrow, a look at when you need to compensate nonexempt employees for travel time.
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What about when outdoor workers can't work because of extreme heat or rain?