I work in a supervisory position in IT. My employer is, like everybody else, doing some belt-tightening in response to the economy. Among other things, they have announced a series of unpaid furloughs for this summer.
For scheduling purposes, they’re being treated as extra (but, of course, unpaid) vacation days: the office will remain open, and individual employees will take their furloughs at different times. My question is, how do we reconcile the concept of the “unpaid furlough” with salaried employees who are usually on call for emergencies? Under normal circumstances, I’m happy to investigate, say, why the email stopped working at 4PM on Saturday. (Well, not “happy,” but . . . you know what I mean.) I’d be considerably less amused to get a call on a day when I was “furloughed.” The most obvious answer is to schedule things so that there’s always somebody on call who’s not taking their furlough (just like we do for vacations); and we will of course. But the reality is we’re a small shop, and not everybody knows everything about everything. Murphy’s Law suggests an inevitable situation where the “right” person to solve a problem will be on furlough. Looking forward to your Evil reply!
One of the definitions of a salaried, or exempt, employee is that they are paid for the job, not by the hour. For that reason, being on call is not a big deal for a salaried employee. (By not a big deal, I mean legally, not emotionally or in relationship to a work life balance.)
But, you’re in a conundrum. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be one. I’m sure someone will jump in and let us know if my advice is problematic. At least, I hope so.
Anyway, here’s my advice: Let management know that if a member of your staff gets called in when they are on furlough, they will have to be paid. No ifs, ands or buts.
I think you could probably safely pay by the half day, but to be safe you may want to pay by the day. I don’t think you can say, “hey it was a 15 minute phone call, we’ll pay him for 15 minutes worth of work.” That would be dangerously close to declaring someone to be an hourly worker, which would make that person eligible for overtime in the future. I don’t think you want to do that.
Try your best to not have to call those people who are on furlough, but let everyone know that you will have to pay if they are called in.
Vacation, by the way, is different because they are getting paid on vacation. At least, that’s my opinion.
Hopefully everyone will be able to pull together and the company will do better, so this won’t be necessary again.