Someone I know, let's call her "Alice", is on the receiving end of the following situation, and I'd like to become better informed before providing my opinion. This is in the US.
Alice is an exempt employee in a consulting company. She works remotely from Puerto Rico, a US territory, for the company, which is based in the US mainland.
Due to hurricane Maria back in September, Alice was left completely incommunicated for over a month, meaning she could not perform work during that time. The company continued to pay her salary during this time, which is required by law as far as I know. Currently, she's working from somewhere else in the US mainland, and has been doing so for over a month now, too.
However, Alice's boss/manager met with her and told her that she has to update her time sheets to mark her vacation/PTO as having been "used up".
To be honest, that seems inappropriate to me for a few reasons:
- Natural disasters are outside everyone's control.
- Alice was the victim of a severe natural disaster; she didn't voluntarily seek to use vacation/PTO nor did she have control over the Island's power outage and lack of Internet service.
- The vacation/PTO was "consumed" without her consent (i.e. against her will), not by choice to actually use it up.
The best thing I could find was this article, but the closest thing there is the section on "Exempt employee chooses to stay home because of weather" (my emphasis), which isn't exactly applicable here.
I don't know how closely this may get to walking the line between ethical/unethical behavior, if at all, but it at least seems inappropriate to me as it seems to be "punishing" the employee for something outside the employee's control.
The questions are as follows:
- Is it ethical/appropriate for the employer to do this?
- What steps can/should Alice take to better handle this situation?
- What is a good/tactful and effective way for Alice to communicate her concerns to her boss so that the chances of having her vacation/PTO restored to pre-disaster days are higher?
There's a pre-scheduled conference company staff will attend (2 days from now), and Alice will be meeting her manager in person there as well; this topic will likely be brought up again in-person.
[EDIT-1]: She does have a 'backup' plan to negotiate some things if it comes to that, but that's different to knowing whether this is or isn't something that's even permissible to do by employer and, if so, how employees could/should handle the situation.
[EDIT-2]: She just got out of the meeting, and they did take away her vacation/PTO. I've updated the question on this basis.