Help Wanted: Safety of late-night departures
Carrie Mason-DraffenCarrie Mason-Draffen
Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.
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DEAR CARRIE: I sometimes have to work alone in the
office until 9 or 10 p.m. The security guard leaves at 8 p.m. So not only am I alone, but when I leave I walk out into a poorly lit parking lot. Can companies legally require employees to work alone after hours?
-- Late-Night Jitters
DEAR LATE NIGHT: Regarding the parking lot, you address two issues really: the poor lighting and the potential for crime. You may be able to get some help regarding the latter.
The lighting issue falls under the category of "there ought to be a law." The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which enforces workplace safety, has standards for illumination, but they apply to construction projects or to general industry things such as emergency-exit-route lighting, said Tony Ciuffo, who heads OSHA's Long Island office.
"Unfortunately they don't fit the scenario you described regarding illumination in a parking lot/garage," Ciuffo said.
Your concern ultimately deals with a potential for a random act of criminal behavior, such as robbery, something OSHA would not typically regulate, Ciuffo said. But that potential could push the issue into the category of workplace violence, for which OSHA has rules. "OSHA does . . . address workplace violence and may pursue a general-duty clause citation," he said.
Under that general duty clause, the agency's website says, employers are required to provide a workplace that is "free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm." So you should contact OSHA with your concerns at 516-334-3344.
DEAR CARRIE: I will reach my full retirement age of 66 on Aug. 15. When would I become eligible to receive Social Security benefits, from Aug. 1 or Sept. 1?
-- When to Apply
DEAR WHEN: I got an answer straight from the Social Security Administration's New York regional office. Since you will reach your full retirement age on your birthday, if you filed for benefits then, Social Security will consider you retired for the full month. So the beginning of your benefits period will stretch back to Aug. 1, even though your birthday falls mid-month. Even if your birthday were on Aug. 31, you would be considered eligible for benefits for the entire month, again because you would reach your full retirement age.
Had you applied for benefits early, say at age 62, you wouldn't have been eligible to begin collecting until the following month -- September.
DEAR CARRIE: I started working at my current employer in August and am wondering what labor laws say about giving employees holidays off or at least holiday pay when they have to work those days. I had to work on Martin Luther King's birthday, President's Day and Columbus Day. Doesn't my employer have to give me the day off or give me premium pay if I have to work? My previous employer would either give us the day off or holiday pay if we worked.
DEAR HOLIDAZE: I hope you thanked your former employer for its generosity. That company gave you more than labor law requires. Companies aren't required to give paid-time off, unless they promise to. And they don't have to pay premium pay, or overtime, until hourly employees work more than 40 hours a week. Both your employers acted legally. One gave you more than the labor law requires. The other gave you no more than the law mandates.