Unpaid leave during CV19 - how some employers will break the law

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by wegs, Apr 8, 2020.

  1. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Due to CV19, my firm has decided to place all of the marketing team (and other departments) on ''unpaid leave,'' for the month of April, at least. They plan to continue our health benefits and somehow handle our 401k. Below, I've provided a link to an article outlining the differences among layoffs, furloughs, and unpaid leaves of absence.

    Strangely enough, I'm not unhappy about this. Financially, I'm fine and not all that concerned about a break for a month or two. I actually think it would be good for me, because no one is interested in marketing right now. But, the problem is this...my firm is ''encouraging'' us to keep working, despite placing us on unpaid leave. Okay, um...this is illegal.

    I've voiced my concerns to HR, and they've stated that no one should be working during unpaid leave - not even answering emails, or attending virtual meetings. A few of my coworkers are working, though. They sent me some of their ideas for an upcoming marketing campaign. We received an email today from the CEO encouraging us to basically think about May, and how we can share ideas now so we're prepared for ''post-COVID19." And, how we should be contacting our clients now, to gear up for when ''this is over.''

    Sorry dude, that's called ''work,'' of which you're not paying me for this month. What a fool, he put all of that in writing.

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    I'm going to sit back and observe, and I may contact an attorney. Employers shouldn't be exploiting their employees ever, let alone during a pandemic. One of my coworkers said that she's afraid she won't be ''brought back'' if she doesn't show that she ''cares'' about the company. I said, that's illegal - to ''fire you'' because you're not willing to work without pay.

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    https://www.natlawreview.com/article/leave-time-covid-19
     
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  3. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    So far that's OK. HR is doing the right thing, and employees are free to do whatever they like on leave (including work - if they want to.)
    Think about May - nothing really wrong with that. They are still employees, and getting ready to go back to work is not much different than the unpaid time a new employee spends getting ready for a new job.
    "Share ideas" - gray area. Talk to people if you want? You could argue that that's fine as long as people aren't told what to discuss. "Talk to your boss about some new ideas we expect you to have" would be work.
    "contact your clients." That is unambiguously work.
     
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  5. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    If you’re on unpaid leave or furloughed, you shouldn’t be working. I’ve discussed this with a few HR people outside of my firm and they all echo one another that having employees working, even by choice, under unpaid leave, opens up employers to liability when those employees can claim they were forced. Best to not have them work for the duration of time mentioned.

    In my case, we are being asked and encouraged to contact clients while on unpaid leave. That’s illegal and I’m not doing it. It’s also illegal to fire me for not “working” while on unpaid leave.

    Employers can’t have it both ways, that’s why we have laws. *shrug*
     
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  7. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    I agree that from the company's perspective, it's best if people don't work. But from a personal perspective - it's up to them.

    As an example, a friend of mine went on maternity leave a while back, and she spent her spare time keeping track of email and reading journals to stay current. They found out and shut down her email account. That protected the company, but sucked for her.
    Agreed that the company cannot ask you to do it, or take any action against you for not doing it. However, if you want to do it, you should feel free. It is your time to do with as you please.
     
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  8. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    That makes sense and I can see both sides in that scenario. In this case with my firm, due to CV19, this is an involuntary unpaid leave/furlough.

    At first, I viewed this whole thing as an unpaid sabbatical lol (I’ll enjoy the time off, kind of thing) but we have had two meetings with the CEO, whereby he emphasized calling clients (now) so we have potential business in May. So, setting up calls and discussing their marketing strategies, offering proposals etc. That’s called “work”.

    Anyway you slice it, it’s shady. I have a few friends who are engineers who were laid off until business improves in their industry, and I would rather be laid off. Then, I’m no longer an employee and there are no grey areas. :/
     
  9. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    If you had rather be laid off, discuss that with your CEO.
    I agree that it's illegal if you are fired for not working during unpaid time off.

    It's it's a company that's just trying to hang on and keep from going out of business and they are trying not to do that and they are continuing your health plan and your 401k contributions I can also see people choosing to plan ahead a little if keeping the company afloat is in their best interest.
     
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  10. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    This makes sense - I can work if I choose (and I may) but they can’t expect it. I’m thinking of traveling abroad after all of this is over - and taking time off to explore life. I wonder if anyone will pay me to do this. Hmm.
     
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  11. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    They could but it would be illegal so you're on your own.

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  12. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Lol
     
  13. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    I'm in a rather fortunate position of being on furlough, and with the government stepping in to foot much of the salary of such people, I've taken a pay cut but not one that I can't survive on. So basically I'm on up to 9 weeks of part-paid leave.
    However, because the government are footing a large chunk of the salary of such people, there are tight controls over the furloughed people so that they do no work at all for the company that has put them on furlough. Sure, I could think about work, and scribble some notes and so on, but I'm not being allowed to access any work files, not use any work assets, not take any work calls. In nearly every operational aspect I am not part of the company during this furlough.

    I guess having government intervention is somewhat different to situations where the only ones ruling the work you do are you and your company, but given that the company are paying me (with government support) a fair chunk of my salary to do absolutely no work whatsoever, if they ever put me on unpaid leave (with my agreement) then that time is absolutely my own, to do with what I see fit. They might expect I use the time to plan things and do some groundwork for various projects etc, but it wouldn't be the first time that their expectations of me are point-blank refused. Simply put, if they don't pay - they don't get anything from me. I didn't give them anything before they hired me, I won't give them anything once they no longer employ me, and I won't be giving them anything while they opt not to pay me.

    But ultimately it's an agreement that you need to reach with your company - what will they provide you, and what will you provide them in return.
     
  14. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Thanks, Sarkus. I’ve decided to call an attorney tomorrow to see what my rights are. I know what the law states about unpaid leave - you’re not permitted to work. Now, I’ve attended two virtual meetings and put in a few hours last week which didn’t bother me but I’m being asked to attend two meetings tomorrow, and there are various emails circulating that are subtly expecting work. (And some not so subtle) This is illegal to expect work and not pay any wages/salary. (I’m not hourly, I’m salaried.)

    So, I’m not attending the meetings tomorrow, I just can’t accept being treated this way. Going to simply email whomever to let them know I won’t be attending. I have friends who are furloughed and they’re absolutely not working. Employers can’t have it both ways otherwise all of them would do this. Or at least just the evil ones.

    I’m not unwilling to work a few hours here and there but at my discretion ie: staying in touch with my clients, answering emails etc I’m not interested in attending brain storming sessions for three hours and not get paid. Nope.

    According to the law, an employer can’t fire an employee who refuses to work at all on unpaid leave. I have savings and I’m not concerned about that - it’s the principle and I’ve lost all respect for my CEO. Meanwhile, he’s a millionaire. He doesn’t care about his employees and it took a pandemic to reveal that, although quite a few of my colleagues have often said he’s deplorable. I guess I never saw it until now. *shrug*
     
  15. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

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    This is way out of my area, but I'm curious: How did the company determine which employees, or departments, to furlough, and which to put on unpaid leave?
     
  16. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    If you’re not “tied” to a billable client meaning, the client is still billing. Many clients suspended their contracts with us because of social distancing etc so we can’t meet with them to complete the projects. But, there are only a handful of clients who are willing to work through video conference, and those employees who were already working with them, are not on unpaid leave. So a large number of employees have been furloughed/put on unpaid leave. But it’s not “leave” if you expect me to still work. I’m not unwilling to work, of which they should be grateful but it’s not turning out that way. The CEO has sent numerous emails out about “doing our part” to ensure the longevity of the company. And they go on and on, basically encouraging us to work. And by calling meetings, now you’re expecting us to work. It’s gross.

    I look forward to hearing what my rights are specifically, from an attorney tomorrow. Can’t hurt to get advice.
     
  17. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Kudos to going that route rather than getting advice from the Internet.
     
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  18. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Yea, complaining to you guys is fun and all but, I need some legal advice. Lol
     
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  19. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

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    Ah. I'd always thought there was more of a distinction between furlough and unpaid leave, but it appears that they are functionally the same.

    This is a novel scenario, of course, but it seems fishy that certain types of work are deemed "non-essential," but given that pretty much all work of such a nature is likely also "non-essential," there is no opportunity for you to pursue other work, realistically, during this time. (Very bad sentence.). Still, you are not working at behest of the government, yet you are not compensated in any way for that "service?"

    I think that word salad makes some sort of sense, at least.
     
  20. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

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    A long time ago, following a performance, a woman approached me and asked for legal advice regarding some sort of contract with a label. After this long spiel, I asked her, "Why on earth would you think that I know anything about entertainment law?" It was weird.
     
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  21. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    I would guess the legal advice will be, don't do any work without pay and if you get fired for that reason you have damages and can sue.

    Unless/until that happens there is really nothing to do other than just relax and enjoy the furlough.
     
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  22. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Hmm, that is an odd thing to bring up out of the blue to a performer after a concert. lol
    Can I hire you? lol The challenge is this. I’m being asked to work and to attend meetings, I had a few people calling last week to discuss business strategies etc. The problem is...they’re not letting me enjoy my furlough.

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  23. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    I’m going to forward this to the CEO and see what he thinks

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