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They survived hell and their bosses want them to enjoy their vacation

The Washington Post / Mark Felix / Getty

DALLAS – They first had to face the nightmare of a winter storm, a historic assault that wiped out their electricity, heat, water, or all three at the same time.

Now they have to face bosses who refuse to pay them.

Company internal emails and texts obtained by The Daily Beast indicate that dozens of employers in Texas, many in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, have told people who were unable to go work or work remotely due to loss of electricity during the winter. Storm Uri that they must consider the lost days as a vacation, otherwise go without pay.

They are not small businesses either. Several large companies are part of it, such as Bell Textron Inc. – formerly known as Bell Helicopter – United Ag & Turf, BAE Systems and the city of Dallas itself.

And the workers are seething.

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“We have to use vacations on stormy days when I had no heat or WiFi, or I could lose the money and not get paid,” said a Bell Helicopter employee, who like other workers cited in this story, said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, told The Daily Beast.

“I’m disappointed and nervous about next year,” the worker said, adding, “Even though I’m a salaried employee I’m at entry level, and suddenly my income will put me on the streets – and it’s terrifying . “

Bell representatives did not return a call or email requesting comment, but emails sent by management and reviewed by The Daily Beast clarified the policy.

“Employees who are not able to devote their full time and attention to company affairs due to current conditions should use PTO, vacation or flexible time off if they want to be paid today . Otherwise, employees who run out of PTO, vacation or public holiday hours or who do not wish to use their unused PTO, vacation or vacation time will not be paid for today. hui, ”read an email sent last week by Bell senior management.

The worker told the Daily Beast that the Bell facilities were closed all week, but at one point they were unable to access the VPN – a “virtual private network” that allows them to access systems business – meaning many Bell employees couldn’t work from home even when they had electricity.

Executives at United Ag & Turf – a John Deere equipment dealer – and executives at BAE Systems – a British multinational armaments, security and aerospace company – sent similar messages. But they also enabled employees to effectively borrow paid time off, which would come from their future allowances or payment, according to emails reviewed by The Daily Beast.

Some employees did not appreciate the offer.

“[I] just feel like people should know. It’s not fair, ”a BAE Systems employee told The Daily Beast.

A spokesperson for BAE Systems told the Daily Beast: “As a government contractor, there are regulations we must follow for labor billed by our employees. The events of the past week are unusual and we are working with employees on how to properly manage whenever they are unable to work. In addition, we have activated our Immediate Response program to support our colleagues and provide financial assistance to affected employees and their families.

Employees at United Ag & Turf, meanwhile. they were even told that they had to take responsibility for maintaining a balance of leave in case such events occurred in the future. This is despite winter storm Uri and the associated electrical crisis being “the biggest insurance claim event in Texas history”.

“To be prepared for such circumstances in the future, every employee must manage their PTO and be encouraged to always keep a balance in the event of unforeseen situations such as health issues and inclement weather. This type of assistance will no longer be offered in the future, ”read an email from United Ag & Turf senior management.

United Ag & Turf did not respond to a request for comment.

“I’m angry. They could have said nothing and be fine. They could have paid people for the canceled days and looked like heroes. They instead chose to add insult to injury,” one said. worker at United Ag & Turf.

For-profit employers weren’t the only ones who told their employees they had to use their vacation days. Even some government workers have been affected: An email sent to the Dallas City Library Department told employees to use personal time off for lost work. The veracity of the email was confirmed by Dallas City Council member Adam Bazaldua, as well as city communications representative Catherine Cuellar.

“It’s really disheartening that HR (who has worked entirely from home over the past year) is just deciding whether people are getting paid or not,” said a city employee.

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Cuellar told the Daily Beast that for those who don’t have paid time off available, they can either “catch up on the pay period” or request paid emergency administrative leave.

“No one can ‘decide’ about anything; we have processes and levels of accountability for taxpayer dollars, ”she said.

“So it becomes a question at the federal government level as to whether paying emergency administrative pay to this worker was a necessary expense during the weather event,” Cuellar added.

“This has been the city’s policy on weather-related emergency pay for a decade,” she said.

When asked if the policy could be changed to cover all employees, Cuellar said things would be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Kevin Austin, an Austin-based employment lawyer, described these situations as a consequence of a lack of adequate labor protections in a state with notoriously weak guarantees for workers.

“There is no requirement in Texas that people pay vacations. There’s just no safety net, or anything like that, ”Austin told The Daily Beast.

This means that it was entirely up to employers to decide how to manage the fallout. Some, like Cisco, not only paid their employees for the days lost, but also offered offices as a refuge and sent resources for mental health support.

But it seems that they are in the minority. And without any clear sign of government action – Gov. Greg Abbott hinted at the relief of workers facing sky-high electricity bills, but nothing else – they appear to be alone.

“In my opinion, the state that turned off the power grid should be the one paying,” Austin said.

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