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After the Storm: Top Employee Considerations

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In the wake of natural disasters, most recently Hurricanes Harvey and Irma making landfall on the U.S., employers need to keep several considerations top of mind when it comes to their employees.

  1. Employee Communication – If you have an established communication plan in place, notify your employees as soon as possible regarding office and business closures. If your business does not have an established communication process, quickly determine the best way to reach out to all employees by way of phone calls, text messages, and/or email communication. Be sure to communicate information about business closures, local resources or shelters (as possible and available), and return to work expectations following the hurricane or weather event.
  2. Employee Pay - When a hurricane or natural disaster hits your area, business operations will likely cease for a duration of time. While compliance with the FLSA is of the utmost importance, it’s also important to consider morale issues related to docking pay during a natural disaster. Under the federal law, you must ensure that:  
    • Non-exempt employees are paid for actual hours worked. If the business is open for partial week or partial day(s) and the employee works, the employee must be compensated for all time worked.
    • Exempt employees must be paid their full salary if your business is closed due to a natural disaster for less than a full workweek. The employer may require the exempt employee to use paid time off or other paid leave for the days during business closure.
    • If the business remains open and an exempt employee does not come into work, you should treat it as an absence for personal reasons and do not have to pay the employee if the employee is out for a full day.
    • Any employee, non-exempt or exempt, who is able to work from home during a natural disaster or subsequent business closure must be paid for hours worked.
  3. Employee Assistance – Many of your employees have been displaced during the hurricane or natural disaster and upon return to their home may discover total or partial loss. The process of rebuilding can be emotionally and financially stressful and employers can help by providing assistance in a few ways:
    • Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
    • Time off with or without pay
    • Establishing a time off donation bank
    • Offering remote work options, as appropriate and feasible
    • Provide information about benefits. See more information from the Department of Labor here.

If you have questions about how you can accommodate employees when resuming business operations or if you would like to discuss any of these options in further detail, please reach out to your Cobbs Allen team today. 

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