Hurricane Harvey, Irma, What’s Next? It’s Time to Know the Labor Laws

When a hurricane, earthquake, flood, fire or any other emergencies occur, numerous employment laws are implemented to protect your business. It’s crucial that you follow the Fair Labor Standard Act after any natural disaster, especially storms like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. DecisionHR wants to ensure that your business is staying compliant during these devastating times.

Below are the laws that your business should follow after a natural disaster occurs:

Fair Labor Standards Act: Reduction of Pay and Work Hours

Nonexempt employees: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay nonexempt employees only for hours that the employees have actually worked. Therefore, an employer is not required to pay nonexempt employees if the employer is unable to provide work to those employees due to a natural disaster.

An exception to this general rule exists where there are employees who receive fixed salaries for fluctuating workweeks. These are nonexempt employees who have agreed to work an unspecified number of hours for a specified salary. An employer must pay these employees their full weekly salary for any week in which any work was performed.

Exempt employees:  An employer will be required to pay the employee’s full salary if the worksite is closed or unable to reopen due to inclement weather or other disasters for less than a full workweek. However, an employer may require exempt employees to use allowed leave for this time.

Exempt employee chooses to stay home because of weather: The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) considers an absence caused by transportation difficulties experienced during weather emergencies, if the employer is open for business, as an absence for personal reasons. Under this circumstance, an employer may place an exempt employee on leave without pay (or require the employee to use accrued vacation time) for the full day that he or she fails to report to work. If an employee is absent for one or more full days for personal reasons, the employee’s salaried status will not be affected if deductions are made from a salary for such absences.

However, a deduction from salary for less than a full-day’s absence is not permitted, although the employer may make a partial day time deduction from the employee’s leave bank (if there is insufficient time in the leave bank, no deduction from salary can be made).

Caution is recommended in docking salaried employees’ pay. Moreover, many employers instead require employees to “make up” lost time after they return to work, which is permissible for exempt employees. This practice is not allowed for nonexempt employees, who must be paid overtime for working over 40 hours in a work week.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with these labor laws before and after any disaster so your business can stay compliant. Contact your Human Resources Business Partner at 888.828.5511 for further information regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act.