by Kim Silvers, SPHR, PHRca

How many ways can we say “unprecedented” without repeating this dreadfully overused term? We’ve sent out weekly COVID-19 updates since the first week in March. I’m over it. How about you? Oh, but wait – the waves of the “Return from COVID-19” adventure continue to roll in. So, in these unparalleled times, there are a few things coming in we want to share. We’ve decided to forgo any talk about the PPP, FFCRA, EPSL, EFML, CARES and any other number of acronyms we’ve all learned this spring. (And if you don’t know those acronyms…well then, you’re either not reading our emails or you’re not an HR nerd.)

Vacation/PTO – OK, there’s nowhere to go for summer fun for any length of time right now. Your employees may have made plans to take the family to Disneyland, but that’s not happening anytime soon. The vacation time they planned to enjoy is still in the account.

California does not require private employers to offer vacation or Paid Time Off (PTO), but when employers do roll it out there are a number of regulations around how this time off is managed. One of the restrictions is having a “use it or lose it” requirement. (For example, avoid stating, “All vacation hours not used by December 31st will be voided.”) Vacation/PTO is considered an earned wage in our great state and, as such, once earned (accrued) it cannot be taken away. However, an employer may set a cap on how many hours of vacation/PTO an employee may accrue.

Here’s where your inner “Gumby” may come into play. If you have a vacation/PTO hours cap (and we suggest you do) and employees are having to cancel/postpone time off due to YOU KNOW WHAT then you may consider some flexibility on that cap for a while. Some employers are allowing an exception to the cap for a stated period of time. We suggest employers give employees a predictable period to use this time (maybe 3 more months). Everyone has a bit of cabin/shelter fever. Give them a break to take some time off at a later date and not lose their vacation/PTO accrual. And don’t forget to take some yourself.

Employment Posters – in these inimitable times (another term for the “un…” word) there are many employees still working from home. Some employers are communicating: “Employees will work from home forever.” (We don’t advise you use the “forever” word with your employees, but that’s another article.) Many of our clients have been asking for an electronic version of the federal and California required notices (posters) for employees working remotely.

Well, we have heard you and are pleased to be able offer an electronic version to our clients. This PDF notice can then be provided to your employees. If you are interested please contact Kate Kriner at the office, kate@silvershr.com or 916-791-8506, for purchase.

We’ve been advised that if your employees report to your physical office location from time to time and you have the paper version posted at your worksite you should be covered.

But wait, there’s a caveat – Current California law does not specifically speak to employees having access to employment posters online vs the actual hard copy posters on site. Based on our conversations with employment counsel, we believe there is a small risk in having posters only available online. For example, under the Fair Labor Standards Act regulations employers must physically display posters “in conspicuous places in every establishment where such employees are employed so as to permit them to observe readily a copy” (29 C.F.R. §516.4). Required posters must be displayed so they are easily visible to the intended audience, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Of course, you may want to have “belts and suspenders” and purchase the hard copy all-in-one poster for each teleworker. We still offer those in paper and laminated versions via our Silvers HR website shopping cart.

Harassment Prevention Training is due for most employees this year. We’re receiving inquiries about the possibility that employers will have more time to complete this in light of YOU KNOW WHAT. Our exceptional season (another “un…” word) has not caught the attention of the CA Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing to allow an extension for this mandatory training. Everyone (managers and employees in organizations with 5 or more employees) must complete the one or two hour training by the end of the year. We offer several versions of this training in English and Spanish. Check out our website or give a us call if you want a personalized class or a webinar.