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Inclement-weather policies help employers in stormy seasons

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Companies that make their open-and-closed policies clear for inclement-weather seasons — such as snowy winters and falls full of hurricanes — can keep employees informed, instead of in the dark.

“An employer does not have to have a policy and can simply tell employees that they must report to work when the business is open, regardless of what other businesses choose to do and are reported on the news,” Richele Taylor, an attorney in Fisher & Philips’ Columbia, S.C., office, told SHRM Online.

 

Be specific

“However, if an employer wants to have a policy addressing inclement weather,” she said, “it needs to explain how employees will be notified of a shutdown — text, call, number to call, etc. It also needs to provide direction on what to do, who to call, if the business is operating and an employee cannot make it due to the weather or is late.”

Taylor recommends that “whether it is in the handbook or elsewhere, if there is an absentee-point system, tardiness due to weather should be addressed. I would also address whether hourly employees can choose to use vacation time to cover those hours when the company is shut down — and address this early.”

Exempt employees must be paid their full salary for any week in which they worked. And with the increasing availability of telecommuting, that’s going to be most weeks. The odds of an exempt employee being at home and not doing any work are “pretty low,” noted Daniel Turner, an attorney in Ogletree Deakins’ Atlanta office.

As for nonexempt employees, organizations are required to pay them only for the time they worked, Turner said.

Other matters to address when creating an inclement-weather policy, advised Bill Allen, an attorney in Littler’s Washington, D.C., office, include:

• Designate someone to announce closures, and decide how the information will be communicated (e.g., email, dial-in hotline message, radio/TV, website, social media, phone tree). Email often isn’t suitable because many nonexempt employees don’t have it, Turner said.

• Identify whether any essential employees are expected to report to work when the office is closed, and determine the company’s expectations of those workers.

• Establish procedures employees should follow to notify the organization if they cannot make it to work because of a weather-related issue (or other emergency), including determining who should be contacted and how.

• Discuss how the business will treat absences of and tardiness by nonexempt employees for purposes of pay and vacation/leave time.

• Discuss contingencies for early departures or closures and late arrivals or openings, including how such information will be relayed and the effect on pay for both exempt and nonexempt workers.

• Explain whether nonexempt employees will be permitted to make up missed time.

• Decide whether and/or when nonexempt and exempt employees may work from home during absences due to bad weather or other emergencies (both when the workplace is open and when it is closed) and how that will affect their pay or use of leave time. The inclement-weather policy should be coordinated with any existing telecommuting policy.

• Emphasize that employees should prioritize their safety when deciding whether to report to work in bad weather when the company is open.

There’s a “fine line” between absenteeism for inclement weather and run-of-the-mill absenteeism, Taylor observed.

If a company is open one day and an exempt employee doesn’t come in, his or her pay can be docked for that day if the individual doesn’t work at home, she said, adding that that’s a big “if.”

 

Employee relations

Consider that employee relations may come into play and that nonexempt workers may have good excuses for not coming in when the organization is open. Their kids’ baby sitter may not be available, for example, or snowplows may not have made it out to rural areas.

“Be aware there may be a perception issue,” said Karen Luchka, an attorney at Fisher & Phillips in Columbia, S.C.

Consider employment actions from a human standpoint, agreed Paul DeCamp, an attorney in the Washington, D.C.-area office of Jackson Lewis PC. “Do you really want nonessential workers to be on the road?” An employer that is “overly demanding” in these circumstances may find that its workers are getting stressed out and starting to fake illnesses, he cautioned.

Allen Smith is the manager of workplace law content for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMlegaleditor.

© 2013, Society for Human Resource Management

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). 

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Tractor Supply keeps growing in Q4

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Brentwood, Tenn.-based Tractor Supply Co., the nation’s largest farm-and-ranch retailer, reported big gains in sales and earnings for the fourth quarter and full year. 

The company reported nets sales of $1.42 billion in the fourth quarter, up from $1.29 billion in the same quarter last year. Comparable-store sales increased 3.5%.

Net income for the quarter was $95.9 million, up from $79.5 million in the same quarter last year. 

“We are very pleased with our strong fourth-quarter and full-year results,” said CEO Greg Sandfort. “The fourth quarter marked our 17th consecutive quarter of positive comparable-store sales and our 23rd consecutive quarter of positive comparable transaction counts. In recent years, we have grown our business effectively despite challenging economic environments and volatile weather trends. We believe our results are a function of the balanced approach we take to run our business, through managing sales, margins, expenses and capital investments.”

For the full year, net sales increased 10.7% to $5.16 billion, as comps increased 4.8%. Those results came during a fiscal year in which the company opened 102 new stores and closed two stores. It had opened 92 new stores in fiscal 2012. 

Full-year net income surged 18.7% to $328.2 million.

Looking ahead, the company expects comp-store sales to increase in the range of 2.5% to 4.0% in fiscal 2014.

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Fortune Brands reports strong numbers

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The outlook for home repair and remodeling is fueling Fortune Brands Home & Security’s optimism for 2014. 

The Deerfield, Ill.-based multi-purpose home product company reported fourth-quarter sales of $1.10 billion, up 16% from the same quarter last year. Net income was $64.6 million, up from $18.6 million in last year’s quarter.

For the full year, Fortune Brands reported a 15.8% sales gain and 2013 sales of $4.16 billion. Net income for the year was $230.9 million, compared with $119.7 million in the previous year.

“Sales were up a combined 20% versus last year for our home segments in the fourth quarter as we benefited from new construction and continued repair and remodel momentum. Importantly, total company operating income before charges/gains increased 59%,” said Chris Klein, CEO of Fortune Brands Home & Security.

Kitchen & Bath Cabinetry net sales were up 34%. Sales increased across all channels led by dealers, with continued improvement in repair and remodel volume and mix. Operating income before charges/gains increased $21.3 million over last year to $33.6 million.           

Plumbing & Accessories net sales were up 7%, 10% excluding the benefit of a 53rd week in 2012. Sales grew in all channels, with wholesale leading the growth and operating income before charges/gains up 28%.

Advanced Material Windows & Door Systems net sales were up 13%, with entry doors sales up 19% and windows sales up 7%. Operating income before charges/gains for the segment increased 18%. 

Security & Storage net sales decreased 2%. As expected, a security sales increase of 8% was more than offset by a 16% tool storage decline, due primarily to timing of holiday shipments to the largest customer. Segment operating income before charges/gains was up 8%.

“We delivered another strong quarter and full year as we leveraged our structural competitive advantages and the market recovery to deliver profitable growth,” said Chris Klein, CEO, Fortune Brands Home & Security. “Entering 2014, our annual outlook calls for continued growth based on our strong execution and the continuing market recovery for both new construction and, importantly, repair and remodel activity.” 

The company completed its acquisition of WoodCrafters in 2013. Other Fortune Brands brands include Master Lock security products, MasterBrand cabinets, Moen faucets, Simonton windows and Therma-Tru entry door systems.

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