As a small business owner or non-profit director, you probably already had a lot on your to do list before Coronavirus became a global pandemic. As we all adjust to the rapid changes in our daily lives and businesses, it’s important to not panic and make well-informed decisions regarding the day to day operations of your organization. This is especially important if you manage employees who may be impacted by the announcement of an extended spring break for schools throughout the state.
Time and Attendance: Sick Leave and/or PTO as a Small Business
Even before Coronavirus broke, many small business owners found it difficult to offer sick leave or paid time off. It’s difficult to pay someone to not work when you are sacrificing your own pay to build a business. And it can be burdensome to ask a small team to pick up the slack when someone is out. But in times like this, when lives are at stake, it’s important to prioritize health and safety:
Wage and Hour Laws
If you have hourly employees, make sure you are tracking their hours worked and paying them for their time, even if they are working remotely. In the past, we’ve seen a lack of proper record-keeping lead to claims for unpaid wages and/or overtime. I suspect these types of claims will increase after this crisis, especially if you are forced to let go of staff. After all, happy employees don’t file lawsuits, but disgruntled former employees certainly do. If you pay employees hourly, you should already be using time-tracking software. But review your policies (and the software’s capabilities): Can employees clock-in from home? Will they be automatically clocked-out if they attempt to work odd hours or overtime? Will your employees clock out during their Netflix binge?
If you have salaried employees who are exempt from overtime, remember that you generally can’t make deductions from their salary as long as they performed some work for the week. If you start making salary deductions because, for example, an employee took a couple of days off for flu-like symptoms, you could be putting their status as an exempt employee in jeopardy, subjecting you to claims for unpaid overtime. How you pay your salaried employees during this time needs to be carefully coordinated with any paid leave policies you have in place and whether your business is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In times like these, while you may be focused on maintaining productivity and/or cutting costs while your staff works from home, it’s important that you not make rash decisions that could have legal and financial repercussions down the road.
What the Firm is Doing
As a Firm, we are keeping a close eye on developments and advising clients about ways to handle their specific situation. We are also doing everything we can to maintain normal business operations, just like many of you are doing. We already have web-conferencing set-up for consultations and client meetings. For now, we are maintaining our normal office hours, but if you have any health concerns, feel free to use our web-conferencing option when scheduling with our office. We will continue providing sophisticated legal counsel to serious entrepreneurs. Now more than ever, it’s important that we take care of your legal issues so you can focus on not just doing what you love, but taking care of those you love.
If you have any questions about your employment policies or day-to-day operations during this crisis, you can schedule a consultation (either here in the office or via web-conferencing):