With the first tropical storm of the season bearing down on the Gulf Coast, it is a good time to dust off your HR Department’s Hurricane Plan and make sure it is up to date. If you don’t have one, it is an even better time to put one together. Attached is Cozen O’Connor’s HR Guide for Hurricane and Disaster Preparation. This is a handy checklist for the most common Human Resources issues that should be addressed in such a plan. These issues include:
1. Compliance with Chapter 22 of the Texas Labor Code: This law protects from discrimination employees who are absent because if an evacuation order. This law has certain exceptions, including emergency services personnel or those required to provide services for the general public during emergency situations. That said, companies who require such employees to work during a storm must provide emergency shelter.
2. Payment for Employees Who Are Absent Due to Weather: The FLSA treats exempt employees differently from non-exempt. Non-exempt employees must only be paid for actual hours worked. Exempt employees, however, must be paid if the work site is closed or unable to open because of weather for less than a full workweek.
3. On-Call/Waiting Time: Weather events often create unique circumstances that don’t fall neatly into existing policies. Employees may be stuck at work waiting for the weather to clear before they go home – is this compensable time? What if employees are on-call to return to the office after the storm has passed. Is this compensable “on-call time?”
4. Protected Leave Under FMLA: Disasters often create family issues, especially where there are elderly or sick family members who must be moved or cared for during such an event. These situations could trigger protection for absences under the FMLA.
5. Payday: No one wants to miss a paycheck. Make sure your company has a contingency plan in place to communicate with employees and maintain personnel functions like payroll and benefits processing even during a disaster.