BART Strike – Getting Employees to Work

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Two weeks ago, we discussed the New Haven Train line outage, and the effect on employers. The same lessons apply for the nearly 400,000 employees who rely on mass transit in the San Francisco area.  Are you prepared?

10/22/2013 Update – BART management and its unions have reached an agreement that ends the four-day transit strike…More..

For alternate transportation options and updates, visit http://alert.511.org/

Advice from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission alert.511 website:

A BART strike could delay deliveries, client visits, and make employees late for work – even if they don’t ride BART. Advance planning will help your business. Download a PDF of employer tips from 511.

From the BART Website: Know Your Commute Plan During a BART Strike

What Employers Can Do

511 encourages employers to do whatever possible to reduce vehicle trips to keep the region moving and the economy strong during a possible BART strike. Here are several ideas:

  1. Request or require that information-based employees telecommute, or telecommute more often;
  2. Provide employees with technological solutions to allow them to telecommute if they are not already set up;
  3. Pay for parking for your employees who form 2, 3 or 4-person carpools;
  4. BARTEncourage employees to find carpools by registering at rideshare.511.org, downloading the Carma app (Car.ma and/or app stores), and/or casual caroooling;
  5. If you pay your employees’ parking costs in San Francisco, incentivize your regular parkers to carpool with employees who regularly take BART (e.g., cash, rewards);
  6. Relax policies about core work hours to allow your employees to avoid all peak hour commute traffic;
  7. Postpone or cancel meetings and customer business that require face-to-face interaction;
  8. Conduct meetings via phone or web conference;
  9. Delay or postpone deliveries;
  10. Allow employees who carpool use of fleet vehicles. Employees can carpool home and back, returning the cars to the fleet for business use during the day;
  11. Offer incentives to employees who drive to fill their empty seats with passengers;
  12. Tell employees to visit alert.511.org for information about what to do;
  13. Pass along information from alert.511.org about changes to HOV lane policies, travel options, supplemental transit service and more through your own employer communication tools;
  14. Recommend that employees get a FasTrak® tag to avoid long lines at the toll booths;
  15. Get FasTrak® toll tags for your fleet vehicles to help your employees stay on schedule for deliveries and meetings. Pick them up at select Costco, Safeway, and Walgreens locations. Click here for the locations;
  16. If you operate a shuttle service to/from a BART station, develop an alternative route and/or additional pickup locations. If your employees use a shuttle service to/from the BART station, find out what the contingency plans are for this service and inform your employees. If you need help contacting the shuttle providers, call 511 and say “Rideshare” to speak to a live operator who can assist you; and/or
  17. Other ideas and strategies that your company develops
  18. The majority of steps needed to prepare for this risk are operational. Unlike the disasters that most companies plan for, a transportation outage will not primarily affect equipment and facilities, but rather the people companies depend on to produce products and services. Additionally, assumptions about a transportation outage’s duration may push the boundaries of most existing absence-from-work policies. Therefore, organizations must thoroughly examine their human resource management practices and policies, refining and/or implementing policies that address the unknown timeline of a transportation outage event.
    English: map of bart system

    English: map of bart system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Points to Consider from Firestorm

Attendance / Absenteeism
Attendance related policies are traditionally designed to penalize employees who are late or absent from work. However, if there is a transportation outage crisis with accompanying traffic gridlock on major highways, employees who rely on public transportation may either be unable to arrive at work in a timely manner or at all. Attendance policies for an unexpected event of this nature must be examined and revised.

Questions to ask:
• If emergency preparedness plans are activated and a designated employee is sent to an alternative worksite, may a designated employee refuse to go?
• How will attendance policies be enforced?
• May an employee work a flexible work schedule in the event of a transportation crisis?
• Can management mandate an alternative work schedule?

Vacation/ Paid Time Off
Most existing Human Resource policies are designed to discourage sick leave. Employers must now consider either modifying their existing policies or extending time lines to address longer absences. In the wake of an extended transportation outage, will an employee be allowed to use sick leave?

The policies of many companies plan for fixed periods of planned leave (e.g., vacation, personal days), time off for illness, and unexpected time off for special circumstances (family medical leave, bereavement leave). An extended transportation outage, much like a pandemic, may have the potential to test the limits of each.

Questions for Consideration:
• What are an employee’s transportation options?
• If employees find alternate forms of transportation that add extensive travel time to their day, will they be compensated? Will they be penalized if they are still late due to additional traffic issues and tie-ups?
• Will employees be allowed to leave early to meet family obligations due to travel delays anticipated?
• Is it possible to provide company sponsored transportation?

Telecommuting
Telecommuting can also help employers retain functionality as infrastructure issues and other challenges make the main worksite difficult to access. The key to successful use of telecommuting in the event of a transportation crisis is an effective routine telework program. As many employees as possible should have remote work capability (i.e. current telecommuting arrangements, connectivity, and equipment commensurate with their work needs and frequent enough opportunities to telework to ensure all systems have been tested and are known to be functional). This may entail creative thinking beyond current implementation of telecommuting, drawing in employees who otherwise might not engage in remote access and ensuring their effectiveness as a distributed workforce.

Successful Telecommuting programs include the development and enforcement of: Equipment Policies, Telecommuting Policies and a Telecommuting Agreement.

Employers need not implement a telecommuting arrangement when the employee’s presence in the workplace is an essential function of the job. The law does not require employers to ignore or jettison essential functions when considering accommodation requests.

Questions for Consideration:
• How does an employee request a telecommuting arrangement?
• Can the employer mandate telecommuting?
• Can management prevent employees from telecommuting? Must an employer grant a request to telecommute?
• Can employees recover additional costs incurred as a result of telework (DSL line, additional phone line, increased use of electricity, etc.)?
• If an employee is not able to report to the official worksite and must telecommute from home due to a transportation crisis, will pay be affected?
• What are the rules about the number of overtime hours a supervisor may require employees to work?
• If an employee is working from home because of a transportation crisis, and chooses to work 4 hours in addition to their regular 8-hours-per-day work schedule, will they receive overtime pay for the additional 4 hours worked?

If you have concerns for your business regarding a reduced workforce in the event of a transportation crisis or disaster contact us. Inquire about our Employee Absenteeism Event Toolkits.

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