The bad news beat goes on at the Kansas City Star. Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish emailed staffers today that they would get a second week of unpaid vacation this year.
“While we have had many signs of recovery, we continue to track below prior year revenue,” it begins. “As such, the decision has been made to require a one-week furlough in the second half of the year.
“Most full-time employees at The Kansas City Star will be required to take the furlough…”
Hold it right there and brace yourselves for a humility check.
“Including me,” her last sentence ends.
Yep. For the first time I can remember the publisher is telling news staffers she too will take off for a week without pay.
Which is interesting, to say the least.
Because Star staffers on furlough are said to follow rigid rules of not coming into the office, not checking their work email or voice mails, not doing nuttin’
Probably because of labor laws that could put the company at peril.
“The greatest danger of a wage and hour class or collective action arising from a furlough ‘is probably the claim that the employer has negated the exempt status of its salaried workers by making improper deductions based on either partial-week furloughs or else suffering or permitting exempt workers to engage in productive activity such as sending and receiving work-related e-mails during a full-week furlough and not paying the salary,’ according to Paul DeCamp, an attorney in the Washington, D.C., area office of Jackson Lewis and a former administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division, the chief office responsible for interpreting and enforcing the FLSA…” writes Allen Smith on Warn Lawyers.com. “When a furlough is for less than a full workweek and a salaried exempt worker performs any work during that week, a private-sector employer must pay the exempt employee’s full weekly salary, Decamp added. Most companies furlough salaried exempt workers only in increments of full workweeks because of the salary basis concern, according to DeCamp.”
In other words, performing work or duties while on furlough could be risky.
What’s significant here is that as the Star‘s publisher, Parrish is in the unique position of being accountable for each and every aspect of the Kansas City Star, 24/7.
For every single, solitary thing that comes up, seen or unforeseen, no matter what.
For example, what if Star sports scribe Sam Mellinger goes postal on 610 Sports and alleges that editor Mike Fannin is having another affair with a subordinate at the newspaper (like former Star sport Jason Whitlock did)?
Is Parrish gonna ride that one out for a week?
Can the newspaper afford to let the captain of the ship leave her post mid voyage? Can the coach abandon the sidelines and pop up to the owner’s suite for a brewsky and a hotdog during the third quarter of an important game?
Why are furloughs such a significant part of the newspaper’s sinking ship strategy? Two reasons. First, it enables them to make serious cuts without actually laying any actual reporters off and thus cutting staff.
“Companies that need to implement furloughs generally need to conserve cash immediately, thus the need to eliminate the need to pay workers the full weekly salary, DeCamp explained.”
“Use the furlough as the reason to start a home business,” advises empowernetwork.com. “Don’t let a furlough steal your dreams. Use the free time to better your financial future.”