Gannett Furlough: Don't Let Feds Catch You Working!

January 15th, 2009 6:30 AM

The news that the Gannett Company--the nation’s largest newspaper publisher, flagship USA Today--is forcing thousands of its employees to take unpaid leave is the latest, shocking, evidence of the ill health of the old media.

But for present purposes, let's focus on this odd nugget: Gannett has informed its employees that pursuant to federal and state law, they [emphasis added]:

must not work while on an unpaid leave. That includes reading or responding to e-mails, calling or responding to calls from colleagues and being on site at your location at any time during your furlough days.

Can't you just imagine the scenario?  A conscientious furloughed Gannett employee is at home trying to stay current by reading some emails, when suddenly comes a battering at the door: "FBI!  Put down the mouse and step slowly away from your computer!"

A quick Googling doesn't reveal the laws Gannett is referencing.  I have an email out to a labor lawyer friend in California, and will update as soon as I have more.

But what kind of legal system forbids people from helping save their employer--and their own jobs--by volunteering their services?

Update: FReeper  EBH passes along this advisory from the federal Department of Labor containing this passage:

An employer cannot sit back and accept the benefits of an employee’s work without considering the time spent to be hours worked. Merely making a rule against such work is not enough. The employer has the power to enforce the rule and must make every effort to do so. Employees generally may not volunteer to perform work without the employer having to count the time hours worked.

In the mind of the feds, I guess charity doesn't start at home--at least when it comes to saving your employer and your own job.