Corrections or additions?
These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared for the
April 18, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Laws Governing Time Off
Employees may be entitled to unpaid time off from work,
with no adverse consequences, because of their own illness or that
of a family member. Protected time away from the job may also be
for a number of other reasons, including disability, bereavement,
military service, jury duty, or religious observance. Steven
an attorney who runs the labor and employment law group for Buchanan
Ingersoll in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York City, says it
is amazing how many employers don’t understand their obligations —
and their rights — under state and federal laws governing time
Berlin, who earned his J.D. at Brooklyn Law School, is a 1977 graduate
of the College of Journalism of the University of Maryland at College
Park. While he never worked as a journalist, Berlin says "the
tools are the same." Both law and reporting, he observes, entail
gathering facts and presenting information so that it achieves
impact. On Thursday, April 19, Berlin, along with colleagues Shacara
Boone and Beth Cole,
laws on employee leave, vacations, and holidays in New Jersey,"
in an all-day seminar beginning at 9 a.m. at the Princeton Marriott.
Cost: $209. It repeats Wednesday, April 25, at the Parsippany Holiday
Inn. Call 715-833-3959.
Knowledge of the laws governing protected leave can save employers
from exposing themselves to liability, and can also keep them from
agreeing to burdensome accommodations they are not required to make.
Buchanan Ingersoll is now winding up a case in which a major employer
ran into "very serious practical ramifications" when a worker
went out on leave. The business was not completely aware of the
rights, Berlin says, and did not use the law to minimize the amount
of time off and the consequent disruption to its operations. Berlin
says employers should be aware of the following nuances:
law and federal law governing absences from work are similar, but
not identical, Berlin says, adding that both are confusing. For
federal law allows employees to take leave "in the smallest
of time," while New Jersey law uses half a day as its minimum.
Both laws state the total amount of time off allowed in weeks, and
Berlin says it is no easy matter to calculate the end of a leave for
an employee who takes the time sporadically, and in increments that
can equal mere minutes in extreme cases. Factors to be taken into
consideration include the exact number of hours in an employee’s
In addition to keeping track of federal law and law in its own state,
employers need to be aware of where an employee requesting leave
Says Berlin: "If an employer in Pennsylvania has just one employee
in New Jersey, he could be required to comply with the New Jersey
illnesses are one-time situations, others, asthma for instance, may
be chronic conditions. The requirement for employees to obtain
for a doctor is different with a chronic condition, which might not
require documentation with each new incident. This can become a
for employers, says Berlin, because a worker may be able to call in
frequently and without notice, and say "`I won’t be in today,
I’m having an asthma attack,’" a claim the employer may not be
able to verify.
many requests for unpaid time off arise from the birth or adoption
of a child, an illness, or a family medical crisis, employees with
disabilities may also request leaves. In those cases, Berlin says,
the employer may be required to grant the time off under the Americans
with Disabilities Act. The ADA states that employers need to make
reasonable attempts to accommodate a disability, and time off may
be such an accommodation. And while family leave laws limit the total
amount of time an employee may take, the ADA does not.
while situations differ, Berlin says an employer’s goal should always
be to "get the maximum you can from your human capital without
Summer’s coming. Are you buying extra batteries for
your laptop so it won’t run out of juice in Yellowstone Park? You
might want to think twice, says Gil Gordon, a Monmouth
authority on telecommuting who has just written "Turn It Off:
How to Unplug from the Anytime-Anywhere Office without Disconnecting
Gordon speaks on re-establishing boundaries that separate work and
personal life on Saturday, April 21, at 2 p.m. at Barnes & Noble on
Route 1 South in North Brunswick. Call 732-545-7966.
In the book, Gordon talks about how we have gotten ourselves tangled
in our own wireless web, and suggests strategies for working free.
Here is an excerpt:
up my free time on weekends, answer my pages during dinner with my
spouse, and carry my laptop on Vacation." Those intrusions of
work into our personal time result from a process of slow erosion,
not sudden upheaval. As employees, we ourselves have unwittingly
to that process and ended up stretching our workdays and workweeks.
One of the characteristics of office work up to the 1980s (and thus
before the deluge of technology) was the containment of most office
work within the office. Certainly, the briefcases came home, the
businessperson worked on the plane or in a hotel room, and the sales
rep caught up on paperwork in the car. But when far less office work
was as easily portable as it is today, the types of work that could
be packed into that briefcase were much more limited.
Employees who still had items on their to-do lists at 5 p.m. were
more likely to stay late in the office than to simply pack up the
briefcase and plan to finish everything after dinner. Briefcases
big enough to contain a file drawer’s worth of information, and there
was not easy way to look at a set of engineering drawings or a year’s
worth of budget printouts on the kitchen table. At-home evenings and
weekend work was mostly limited to reading, drafting memos and reports
on yellow pads, and grinding out budgets using a pocket calculator
— absolutely archaic activities by today’s standards.
If we fast-forward to the late 1990s, we can see that the limitations
on the kinds of work that could be done from afar disappeared almost
entirely. Looking for the sales reports from the last two quarters?
Just log on to the corporate network and download the files. Need
to get out a rush memo to the entire sales force? Draft it on your
laptop and upload it to the mail server, and it’s in the sales reps’
mailboxes in seconds. While every aspect of every job was not
enough were to enable most office workers to leave at a more desirable
hour, get home in time for dinner, and still be able to finish the
day’s work at home after having had at least a little time with the
spouse or family over the dinner table.
So far so good — until the point when those of us taking work
home slipped into some bad habits. The idea that came to us for the
new marketing campaign could now be sketched out on the laptop at
10 p.m.; instead of being hastily scribbled down on a note to be taken
into the office and worked on the next day. The budget planning that
was going on with the overseas offices could now be compressed from
weeks to days because global fax and E-mail meant that the morning
message sent from Tokyo could be read in the evening — a home
— by the financial analyst from the New York office, and so on.
. . . As the technology became more complex and more integral over
the years, it became evident to me how my technology-enabled work
was squeezing free time out of my life, and squeezing me out of my
family’s life. I became intrigued by how common these problems were
for others as well and started paying serious attention to work-life
boundary issues in the early 1990s. . .
This book isn’t meant to stir up a revolution against today’s portable
technology. Instead it’s meant to help you use and deal with that
technology more effectively in three ways.
play in your life, and determine whether they might be hurting as
much as helping;
line between the part of your life that you’re willing to devote to
anytime/anywhere work, and the rest of your life that you’d rather
reserve for yourself;
your use of these tools, and then discussing your plan and its
with your clients, managers, and co-workers — in a way that will
gain their cooperation.
more with less — and do it faster" is the guiding principle.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that the nonstop work made possible
by today’s technology is really good over the long term for you or
your customers and clients or your employer.
Corrections or additions?
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