With all of the wild fires, shootings, hurricanes and earthquakes going on right now, we must remember that these events go on all of the time and it is not always in a cluster as it seems right now. That being said, it is a great reminder that employers have a responsibility to their employees as well as to the business, to have a plan in place for such emergency situations.
Practice Your Emergency Plan
First on the list, do you have an emergency action plan. If you are an employer in California, you should have an IIPP (Injury Illness Prevention Program) and as a part of that program, you should have an Emergency Action Plan in place. OSHA requires this and most states require a similar safety program. It makes great sense and many insurance companies will ask for it as well.
But it is not enough to have an plan, you have to actually practice it. When was the last time you had a fire drill? Do your employees know how to give directions to your building? How do you notify your neighbors if there is an emergency? What happens if YOU are not there? Where do your employees meet and who checks to make sure everyone is accounted for? All of these questions and others should be addressed and practiced.
California employers must also have a Fire Prevention Plan (FPP) that details the fire hazards your employees may face and how to handle a fire should the situation arise.
(these are California rules and may be different in your state)
Even in an emergency, employers must be mindful of obligations under state employment laws and consider pay issues for exempt and nonexempt employees related to office closures.
Employers must pay exempt employees a full weekly salary for any week in which any work is performed. If the business is closed for the whole week, however, employers don’t need to pay exempt employees.
In emergencies, special pay rules apply for nonexempt employees.
If your business shuts down for any of the following reasons, you must only pay nonexempt employees for the hours they worked prior to being sent home:
- Operations can’t start or continue due to threats to you or property or when recommended by civil authority;
- Public utilities such as water, gas, electricity or sewer fail; or
- Work is interrupted by an “Act of God” or other causes not within the employer’s control.
However, if you shut down your business at your discretion (and not for one of the above reasons), reporting time pay may be owed. When a nonexempt employee shows up for work as scheduled and is not put to work or is given less than half of his/her scheduled hours, the employee would be eligible for reporting time pay: pay for one half of the scheduled shift, no less than two hours and no more than four hours.
Of course, employers are always free to pay employees or let them use vacation or other personal time. Many employers may choose to provide some paid time during emergency situations. Just remember to be consistent!
Leave of Absence
You may be required to provide various leaves of absence for your employees after an emergency including sick leave, medical leave and leave due to closed schools, loss of housing, etc. So, be ready to aid your employees with these measures as well. The state requires the employer by statute to follow certain guidelines and imposes fines for failure to comply. In all cases, error on the side of helping the employee during stressful situations.
As always, if you need any help or have questions, HR Mobile Services, Inc is here to help. You may contact our office at (559) 625-2322 and direct your questions to the Loss Prevention Department or the Legal Department (depending on your situation). We are here to help!