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Labor Law: Give thanks to workers - and show it
Labor Law

Labor Law: Give thanks to workers - and show it

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20150817_MBZ_KAREN

RTD Metro Business law columnist, Karen Michael.

Thanksgiving will look a lot different this year not just at home, but also in the workplace.

For those who are employed, we have a lot to be thankful for.

This year has been tough for many workers. In Virginia, the state’s unemployment rate peaked at 11.2% in April, which was up from just 2.6% in February, before the pandemic forced businesses across the state to close.

By comparison, during the Great Recession of 2009, Virginia’s unemployment rate peaked at 7.5% in February 2010. Previously, the highest jobless rate the state recorded since 1976 was 7.9% in December 1982.

The state’s jobless rate stood at 5.3% in October, down from 6.2% in September.

If you are working and employed, show your thanks by helping those who are not.

For any of us who manage other employees, we have a lot to be thankful for, and need to show it. This can be done through:

  • appreciation;
  • money; and
  • time off

Avoid showing “thanks” by asking for more time from your employees. They are exhausted.

Avoid hosting a “virtual” anything around Thanksgiving unless suggested by workers. Avoid giving employees additional work — like sending in reflections to be read at a team meeting or creating a favorite family dish recipe swap.

In normal times this may seem sensitive and sentimental. During the pandemic, employees don’t need another event or activity. They need a break — a mental and physical break from work.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in late October to U.S. employees that he planned to reward employees with extended time off over Thanksgiving. “The idea here is to give as many people as possible a break. I hope you can disconnect and take the time to rest and recharge before the final push of the year,” he wrote to employees in a letter.

In talking with employers, I have been surprised at how few of them have scheduled any time off through the end of the year. They are working nonstop to survive and keep up.

So during this week, consider giving employees a break from work, even if it’s just few hours. And, sending an employee an email during the “break” telling the employee not to respond until Monday violates the break.

If the work doesn’t allow for a break or unexpected time off, consider a bonus, gift card or something demonstrable. Make sure that it is noted as a discretionary payment/gift to avoid any FLSA issues.

And, of course, a handwritten letter of appreciation is always in style any time of year.

Karen Michael is an attorney with Richmond-based KarenMichael PLC. She can be reached at kmichael@karenmichaelconsulting.com.

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