In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, evacuation orders are lifting and recovery efforts are in their early stages. Employers are facing a number of storm-related issues as they prepare to resume normal operations. Here are just a few of the questions employers are asking.
1. Does the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) require me to pay employees who miss work because of the weather? It depends on whether the employee is exempt or non-exempt. If the business closes because of the weather, the FLSA requires employers to pay an exempt employee his or her regular salary for any shutdown that lasts less than a week. If the business remains open but an employee cannot get to work because of the weather, an employer can deduct an exempt employee’s salary for a full day’s absence. Employers generally are not required to pay nonexempt employees for any days that the employee does not perform any actual work. However, this does not apply to nonexempt employees who are paid on a fluctuating workweek basis.
2. Am I required to pay an employee for on-call time? Under the FLSA, if the employer requires an employee to be on-call while the office is closed due to weather emergency and the employee cannot effectively use the time for his or her own purposes, the employer must pay the employee for the on-call time. Employers are not required to pay employees who are at home and available to the employer but able to use the time for their own purposes. Check your state laws for any additional requirements.
3. Are employees who are discharged as a result of the storm entitled to unemployment compensation? Employees who are out of work for reasons other than their own misconduct generally are entitled to unemployment compensation as long as they have met the requirements of the state’s unemployment compensation laws. In some states, an employer’s unemployment compensation account is not charged when an employee is discharged because of a natural disaster.
4. Are workers’ compensation claims the exclusive remedy for employees who are injured at work due to conditions that resulted from a tropical storm or hurricane? Generally, employees who are injured during the course and scope of employment are limited to workers’ compensation claims and cannot sue the employer in court over the injuries. If, however, the injuries are the result of an employer’s deliberate or intentional conduct rather than an accident, the employee may have the ability to sue the employer in court. Employers should check their state laws.
Employers may be faced with a variety of employment-related issues during the hurricane season. As Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts continue, it is important to keep in mind that employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. Employers are required to protect workers from the anticipated hazards associated with the response and recovery operations that workers are likely to conduct. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has some excellent resources available on its website to help employers make decisions to protect workers.