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Friday, January 12, 2018

How I Did On My 2017 Predictions

Last year my predictions were all gloom and doom. After all, Republicans have control of the Presidency, the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court. Plus they are appointing federal judges in droves after holding up those appointments for years under President Obama. I expected a quick rain of disaster for employees. I was only partially wrong. It's been more like a series of showers.

Here's how my predictions for 2017 turned out:

Executive orders: I predicted the scrubbing of Obama-era executive orders, including some pro-employee regulations and the protections for employees of federal contractors. I wasn't wrong. President Trump reversed every pro-employee Obama action he could with the stroke of a pen.

Obamacare gone: They tried and tried and failed. Now they're trying slow strangulation. Despite shortening the enrollment period, refusing to advertise and cutting subsidies, 8.7 million Americans enrolled for 2018.

Marijuana jailings: I was called a fear-mongerer after writing about what will happen if the Feds start to enforce marijuana laws. It didn't happen in 2017, but Jeff Sessions just announced his plans to start enforcing the law. So I was a few days late.

LGBT rights curtailed: We started to see this early in 2017. A bill to allow LGBT discrimination on religious grounds was introduced and Trump promised to sign it. Fortunately, it stalled. They did overturn President Obama's order on LGBT discrimination regarding federal contractors. The President attempted to block transgender military members from serving but have so far been blocked in court. We saw anti-gay legislation pass in Mississippi, Puerto Rico, Texas, There will be a true red/blue dichotomy. Florida remained unfriendly to the LGBT community as expected, failing to pass a corporate-supported law to protect LGBT workers against discrimination.

Muslim discrimination: We saw Trump attempting to keep even permanent residents who happen to be Muslim from re-entering the country after traveling for funerals and education. Fortunately, the travel ban was blocked until December, when the Supreme Court allowed the latest version to take effect. We haven't seen much fallout yet. I predicted that blatant acts of discrimination by the Administration would embolden racists who feel they have the right to discriminate against brown people and that this would be a horrible, horrible year to be Muslim. This was a year of increased assaults against Muslims. The number of anti-Muslim groups tripled. It was a rough year.

Sex discrimination: I predicted active attempts to ban abortion rights for women. The Trump Administration sought and failed to block an abortion for a teen immigrant. They passed a law allowing states to refuse to fund doctors who perform abortions. The House passed a bill that would criminalize abortions after 20 weeks. I predicted that attempts to reverse sexual harassment and other protections for women, would not happen much in 2017. Thankfully, the #MeToo movement made any such attempts impossible, for now.

EEOC changes priorities: EEOC started early in 2017 backing down on lawsuits involving transgender rights. However, it was the Justice Department, not EEOC, that took an active stance that Title VII does not protect against LGBT discrimination.  The Supreme Court refused to decide the issue. I predicted that EEOC would reverse its position that banning hire of those with criminal records has a disparate impact on race/national origin, but the guidance is still in effect.

No help with overtime: I predicted that President Obama's attempt to expand overtime and update antique standards for overtime will be overturned. It was.

Non-Christians: I predicted that there would be a push to marginalize any protections for anyone who is not Christian. So far, other than with Muslims, that hasn't happened. Yet. Indeed, even the War on Christmas folks were oddly quiet this year.

What we got in 2017 quite a bit of were a boatload of judicial and administration appointments of anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-anyone-but-Christian appointees that will cause long-term negative outcomes. Fortunately, the chaotic White House kept the apocalypse somewhat at bay.

The good news is that many states were proactive in passing pro-employee laws such as ban-the-box, raising the minimum wage, paid sick leave, salary history, predictive scheduling and other pro-employee measures. Florida did nothing to help its workers. As usual.

Next up - my predictions for 2018.

Friday, January 5, 2018

If The Office Is Closed Due To A Blizzard, Do I Get Paid?

Now is usually when I run my posts about how I did on my predictions from last year, but with the snowicane bombarding the Northeast and even Florida, I thought I'd better re-run this ever-popular and necessary piece.

Whether you’re entitled to be paid when the office is closed depends on whether you are “exempt” salaried or not. Just being salaried doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t entitled to overtime. It’s possible to be salaried and still non-exempt from the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Many employers misclassify employees as exempt to avoid paying overtime. If you work more than forty hours per week, it’s better to be non-exempt. But in the case of weather and emergency closings, it’s probably better to be exempt.

Exempt employees: If you’re exempt and you worked any portion of the work week, you have to be paid your entire salary, whether or not the office is closed for a natural disaster such as hurricane, snow, tornado, or flood. Further, Department of Labor regulations state, “If the employee is ready, willing and able to work, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available.” This would include natural disasters, so if you are able to work after a storm then you must be paid even if you didn’t work any portion of the week. If you can’t get there on time or have to leave early due to the flooding but the office is open, they can’t deduct for any partial days you worked.

Vacation time and PTO: Your employer can deduct from your vacation time or PTO for the time taken. However, if you have no accrued vacation or PTO time available, they still can’t deduct from your pay if you’re exempt.

Non-exempt employees: If you are non-exempt, then your employer doesn’t have to pay for the time the office is closed. However, if your company takes deductions and you’re a non-exempt salaried employee it may affect the way overtime is calculated.

Who Is Exempt?: You’re not exempt unless you fall into very specific categories, such as executives, administrative employees, or learned professionals. Plus, your job duties must fall within those categories, not just your title. In addition, your employer must treat you as exempt by not docking your pay when you miss work. This is one of those rare times when it's better to be exempt, so it's the one time you can be glad that President Obama's overtime expansion was gutted.

Pay For Reporting To Work: If you report to work after a natural disaster, only to find out that the workplace is closed (assuming they didn’t notify you), many states have laws that require your employer to pay you a set minimum amount of time if you show up as scheduled. Florida has no such requirement and neither does Texas, (so maybe it’s a good time to start complaining to your legislators).

Disaster Unemployment Benefits: If you live in in an area declared a disaster area, you may qualify for disaster unemployment assistance. I don't think any areas have been declared yet, but here's where to start searchingto see if you can get disaster unemployment assistance.

If you’re hit or have already been hit with a big storm, get in touch with your supervisor or manager as soon as possible to find out whether or not you’re expected to be at work. If you can’t get in touch with anyone, then only go in if it’s safe for you to do so.