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BusinessColumnistsCarrie Mason-Draffen

Bad weather closure can mean less pay for hourly workers

For hourly employees, no work can legally mean

For hourly employees, no work can legally mean no pay. Photo Credit: Getty Images / iStockphoto

DEAR CARRIE: The nursery school where I work closed for two days because of the snow storm in early January. I did not get paid for those days. I am wondering what my rights are as an hourly employee. — Storm Pay Due?

DEAR STORM: Alas, your employer has to pay hourly workers only for the hours they work.

Some companies allow workers shut out of work because of inclement weather to use paid time off in order to get paid for such days. It’s generally up to the company to decide.

But, the bottom line for hourly employees is that no work can legally mean no pay.

DEAR CARRIE: I’m wondering if you might be able to comment on whether an employer, in an effort to discourage too many employees from taking off the day before or the day after a company holiday, can legally “double count” such days off. For example, when the business closes for a holiday on a Friday or a Monday, if an employee takes one earned vacation day either the day before or the day after said holiday, the employer counts it as two vacation days. Is this permissible, and if not, what information could I provide to my bosses to advise them accordingly? — High-Stakes Vacation

DEAR HIGH-STAKES: In all the years that I have been writing this column, I had never heard of this approach to punishing employees who take certain days off.

Is it legal? Most likely.

Bear in mind that companies aren’t obligated to offer paid time off, unless a union contract or employment agreement requires it. So when companies provide benefits they generally can set the terms for them.

But a company has to let employees know its paid-time off policy ahead of time. Otherwise, the two-day charge policy might be construed as a way to cheat employees out of accrued paid time off.

Here is what the New York State Department of Labor’s website says about paid time off:

“Under the New York State Labor Law, payment for time not actually worked is not required unless the employer has established a policy to grant such pay. Holidays, sick time and/or vacations fall under ‘time not worked.’ When an employer does decide to create a benefit policy, that employer is free to impose any conditions they choose.”

And finally here is what the department says about notifying employees about a company’s paid time off policy:

“Every employer shall notify his employees in writing or by publicly posting the employer’s policy on sick leave, vacation, personal leave, holidays and hours.”

DEAR READERS: Two weeks ago this column addressed the importance of incorporating compassion into a strategy for dealing with a bad-smelling co-worker. Here is a reaction to that column:

“I read the column about the smelly co-worker with interest, and appreciate your recommendation of a compassionate approach. This will probably be a very difficult problem to solve. The reason is that the co-worker’s home, and everything in it, is probably saturated with this smell. The home probably has a mildew problem. I have several good friends, as well as my in-laws, who have this problem in their homes and have no recognition of it. They do not know the problem exists. Perhaps they have always lived in homes that smell this way. I do know that every item of clothing, and every item from their home with any degree of porosity, such as a book or pillow, smells this way. The people I know have no financial barrier to solving this problem — but they just don’t realize there is a problem.”

Go to bit.ly/LITimeoff for more on New York labor law and paid time off.

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