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Closing the Office During Inclement Weather

Closing the Office During Inclement Weather

This time of year, many cities close or consider closing city hall due to weather related issues.  The next consideration is whether they have to pay employees for the time that the offices are closed.  Basically, it depends on whether the employee is exempt or non-exempt.

If the employee is a non-exempt employee (eligible for overtime) and the city office closes because of the weather, and the employee doesn’t work on those days, the city is not required to pay the employee for those days. See Fact Sheet #72: Employment & Wages Under Federal Law During Natural Disasters & Recovery(http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs72English.htm), which states that the FLSA “does not require employers who are unable to provide work to employees due to a natural disaster to pay non-exempt employees for hours the employees would have otherwise worked.”  The same is true if a non-exempt employee chooses not come to work because of the weather when the city offices are still open. 

Also note that even if you pay a non-exempt employee for the time the office was closed, the payment is not considered in the calculations for overtime.  Calculations for overtime only include hours actually worked. 

If this is an exempt employee (salaried and not eligible for overtime) and they work any portion of the week, the employee must be paid the full salary for the week, even if the office closes because of the weather (See 29 C.F.R. § 541.3 section 13(1)(a)). Cities can, however, require that the employee use vacation time for the time off due to bad weather. (But if the employee is out of vacation days, the city cannot dock the employee’s pay.) See 2005 DOL opinion http://www.dol.gov/whd/opinion/FLSA/2005/2005_10_28_46_FLSA.htm

If an exempt employee chooses not to come to work because of the weather and the city offices are open, an employer can dock the pay for a full day because the employee is not considered “ready, willing, and able to work.”  If the exempt employee only misses part of the day, the city cannot dock any pay, but can require the employee to use vacation time.  In addition, under the FLSA if an exempt employee performs no work whatsoever in a given workweek, the city does not have to pay any wages for that week. This would be the case even if the city chooses to close for the entire week.  (See 29 CFR § 541.602.)

The city also needs to think about the morale problem they could face if they pay exempt workers but not non-exempt ones.  In addition, including inclement weather policies in the personnel manual, as well as reviewing these policies with employees periodically, will prevent any surprises and confusion when bad weather looms. 

For more information or sample policies on this or any other personnel related matters contact Andrea Shindlebower at ashindlebower@klc.org.   


City Personnel Files Preservation, Safekeeping and Retention
Posted on December 29, 2015 by Andrea Shindlebower in Personnel Files and Documentation

Over the next few weeks, I will be reviewing personnel files.  This series will include such things as how to maintain them, what needs to be maintained and what documents are subject to the Open Records Act. We will review some of the legal requirements in regards to personnel files as well as several practical tips.

First, let’s look at some issues to be aware of when creating a personnel filing system.  Personnel files can be maintained in paper form or maintained electronically. No matter what format is used, the preservation, safekeeping and retention requirements that you need to know are the same.

If the city maintains the files electronically, you need to ask these questions:

  • Does the city have a good document management system?
  • Has the city established clear guidelines regarding which employees have access to which files, as well as when and where they can review?
  • Has the city implemented verified security and password protections to ensure access is provided only to those with a need to know?
  • Does the city have a backup system in place to ensure data is not lost?
  • Does the city have a secondary backup system in the event both the software and its backup are destroyed?
  • Has the city trained users on how to properly use and safeguard information in the document management system?
  • Does the city have a policy in place regarding the steps to be taken in the event there is a breach of security?
  • Do you know what information is subject to Open Records, who has the authority to access the records when a request is submitted and what the law is in regards to response times?
  • Is this information contained in your city personnel policy?

Or, if the city maintains paper files of personnel records, you need to ask these questions:

  • Are the personnel files maintained in a locked and secure cabinet?
  • Has the city established clear guidelines regarding which employees have access to which files, as well as when and where they can review?
  • Have all documents that contain protected information been removed from the main personnel file?  Remember, that documents which include medical information, Social Security numbers or other protected class information such as age, race, gender, national origin, disability, marital status and religious beliefs should not be accessible to supervisors, or anyone making an open records request.
  • Are personnel files organized in a logical way so that information within them is easy to find?  The two most common practices are to maintain files in chronological order or to have files with different sections for different types of documents such as performance information and training documents.
  • Do you know what information is subject to Open Records, who has the authority to access the records when a request is submitted and what the law is in regards to response times?
  • Is all of this information contained in your city personnel policy?

How long you keep the records that you have maintained is determined by the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives (KDLA).  The searchable Record Retention Schedules can be found on the KDLA website.  The website also contains important information on the proper destruction of records.

Next week will look at the law regarding what should be in what files, as well as some good practice tips.  For questions on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, Personnel Services Specialist, with the KLC Legal Department


Cell Phones in the Workplace
Posted on December 29, 2015 by Andrea Shindlebower in Behavior and Work Etiquette

Weekly HR News – Cell Phones in the Workplace

The use of mobile devices in the workplace is more popular than ever before. Because of this, cities may find it necessary to enforce proper mobile phone etiquette at work and in many cases incorporate cell phone policies within the employee handbook.

Here are some tips for cell phone etiquette at work:

DO turn your ringer to vibrate or silent. Remember that you share a space with others, so keep your ringer off when bringing your mobile phone into meetings. Doing so will help keep calls or notifications from being disruptive. If you must keep your ringer on, select a discreet, professional ringtone and keep it on the quietest setting possible.

DO remember to include an email signature on messages that come from your mobile phone or tablet. This is often overlooked and emails from mobile devices only have your name and the type of device the message was sent from. It’s important to include your city contact information so people can easily respond to you.

DON’T take personal calls at your desk if you share close space with co-workers. This can be distracting to those sitting near you and can make for an uncomfortable atmosphere if you’re discussing private matters.

DON’T take a call or text if you are having a face-to-face conversation with someone. Let the call go to voicemail and read your text after you finish your conversation.

DON’T talk or text and drive.  If it is a call or text that you have to make, pull over to do so!

Lastly, keep in mind that as we discussed in last week’s Weekly HR Newsarticle, electronic messages that are created, received, used, or disposed as part of city business can be considered open records and must be treated as such in regards to retention and disposal. 

For sample policies or more information on this or any other personnel matter, contact Andrea Shindlebower at ashindlebower@klc.org.

Excerpt with changes from Michael Swearingen’s June 6, 2014 article Cell Phone Etiquette at Work - reprinted with permission. 


Human Resources Audit - The Five "Ws" to Keep Your City in Compliance
Posted on December 29, 2015 by Andrea Shindlebower in Human Resources Audits

Weekly HR News - Human Resources Audit - Five Ws to Keep Your City in Compliance

Who needs to do an HR Audit?

The HR personnel as well as the executive authority for the city needs to be certain that HR audits are being done.  Persons within these positions are on the frontlines of all the personnel action and are the ones who should be keeping up with changes in the law, as well as being a resource for the employees and management.

Why do you need an HR audit?

Federal, state and local employment laws can be very complex, to say the least. Violations of these laws, even when unintentional, can lead to lawsuits, fines, bad publicity and even employee frustration.  Issues also present themselves when you have in place rogue management, or those who do not have sufficient training to handle employment issues as they arise. Eliminating those risks is a significant responsibility of HR.

When should the HR audit occur?

Typically an HR audit should be done at least on a yearly basis; however, some cities find that several mini-audits throughout the year make this task less cumbersome.  Changes in the law occur on a yearly basis, so in order to maintain legal compliance the city’s policies and procedures need to be updated at least annually.  In addition, if there is an issue with employees or management finding out about these issues can keep employment issues from spiraling out of control.  Making time to do a complete HR audit not only ensures compliance with the laws, but it also provides opportunities to improve the effectiveness of the city’s HR practices such as employee performance and engagement.

What should be audited?

The first thing any city should do when completing an HR audit is to create and review a comprehensive checklist.  At the very least, the city should review the following areas:

  • Employment Law (federal, state and local)
  • I-9 Forms
  • Discipline Procedures and Documentation
  • Equal Opportunity
  • Wage and Hour Administration
  • Job Elimination/Separation Documentation
  • Hiring Process
  • Benefits Administration, ERISA and COBRA (state continuation coverage)
  • Personnel Files and Records
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Workplace Harassment  and Sexual Harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Uniformed Services Act (USERRA) and Kentucky Military Law
  • Background Investigations
  • Drug Screening
  • Complaint Process

However, it isn’t enough to check these items off your list, even if all of your policies are completely up-to-date and legally compliant.  If city officials do not practice what they preach, the risks increase significantly. For example, even if you have a legally compliant workplace harassment policy, it will not create a respectful workplace. If the executive authority or supervisors ignore or allow disrespectful behavior, the policy is not worth the paper on which it is written.  As part of this process, you have to be certain that the policies are being followed as they are written.  Do this by auditing employees for their feedback and reviewing any employee complaints that may have been filed to look for holes in the process.

Where do you take the results?

The results should not sit on the shelf.  Once any potential issues have been identified, be certain that the executive authority in your city is aware of the issues.  The executive authority must then make changes to city policies or HR processes to get your city into compliance.  Do this by updating personnel policies and by providing training to employees, supervisors and management personnel.  Especially target those in management who are not following procedures. Emphasize the fact that any employee or supervisor not following the policies and procedures will be subject to discipline, including termination from employment. 

No matter what your HR audit looks like, it is important to engage in continual observation and improvement of the city's policies, procedures and practices.  By doing this, you will ensure that your city never ceases to improve. 

For a sample HR Audit Checklist or questions on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services specialist.


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