Post-layoff workloads heavy

No one wins in a layoff. Someone loses his job, his co-workers have more work to do and the manager has to figure out how to get it done. Lawrence Lorber, a partner at Proskauer Rose LLP, says he’s seeing the results of last year’s rash of layoffs via lawsuits from people who claim they’re being given too much work or grunt work.

Lorber says there are two important steps to take to avoid problems:

1. Make sure the work is divided equally. “People are getting their job plus a quarter [of a layoff victim’s],” he said. Managers should avoid situations in which all the good, challenging assignments go to some people and all the grunt work goes to others. Share the plum jobs – and the crummy ones – equally.

2. Check the exemptions. Most job descriptions are broad enough so employees can be given additional work when necessary, Lorber said. Before you assign extra work, however, determine whether the employee is exempt or non-exempt from overtime pay. You probably don’t want to be stuck with a big overtime bill, given that your company just laid people off due to financial difficulties.

“Particularly in the IT world, there is a growing fuzzy line regarding who is exempt and who is the non-exempt employee,” he says. Consult your HR department for guidance.

Lorber says he’s been receiving call after call from clients who need his help deciphering the U.S.’s Federal Fair Labor Standards Act and Wage and Hour regulations. “The legal component to this is trying to figure out what is the work that is being reallocated and what’s the nature of the work,” he said. “If some of that work is historically non-exempt work, you’ve got to make sure you don’t overload everyone with it.”

Consider charting the leftover post-layoff work and determining which are the good tasks and which are not so hot. Draw up a plan for reallocating those jobs and huddle with your HR department to ensure you’re in compliance.

“You have to make sure the work is divided equally,” Lorber adds. “Hopefully something can be done in a way that’s not going to affect the quality of work, morale or raise these legal issues.”