Do I have to pay employees in a hurricane shutdown?

Do you pay employees during an emergency closure due to a hurricane?  When bad weather or a natural disaster occurs, a business can be forced to close down for a time.  The closure might be caused by current weather conditions (high winds, flooding, etc.), or the closure could be caused by the results of the hurricane (damaged building, damaged roads, loss of customers, etc.).  Are you required to pay your employees during that time when you are closed for business?  The answer is “yes”,  ”no”, and/or “sometimes”.

NO– You do not have to pay hourly employees when the business is closed down due to an extended emergency, especially if you have a written policy stating that you do NOT pay during closures due to inclement weather or natural disaster. 

Get your policies in writing: It is important to put your policies in writing and communicate it to all employees.  Consider purchasing a professionally done Employee Handbook, which will cover this policy along with many others.  For a reasonable price, the pros will do all the work for you:

SOMETIMES– Some states do insist on Reporting-to-Duty pay that says you must pay any employee who shows up to work as scheduled even if there is no work available.  Among those states are CA, CT, DC, MA, NH, NJ, NY, OR and RI, though some limit it to certain industries while others only to minors (OR).  So even if the business is closed, if the employee makes it to the worksite you have to pay.  The rules differ by state on Reporting-to-Duty Pay, but they usually require a half-day’s pay: 2 hrs minimum, 4 hrs maximum.  Some states also limit Reporting Time Pay to just those who are scheduled to work 4 or more hours.  See your particular state’s website for details on applicable labor law.

Plan ahead:  Be prepared in case of an emergency shutdown by having an up-to-date contact list for your employees.  If your business must close, especially for more than a day, then call all employees and revise their schedules as needed. 

YES– Salaried exempt employees must be paid if they work anytime during a workweek and are available to work the remaining days, whether they actually work or not.  You cannot cut an exempt employees pay just because you cannot get your full 40 hours out of them this week, just like you do not have to pay them OT during those busy weeks when they work more than 40 hrs.  Be sure you have your employees correctly classified.  Some businesses think they can classify anyone as Exempt, but that is not true.  Generally, these jobs demand an advanced degree, pay in commissions, or are an executive position.  The usual employees who can be exempt are:
1. Upper Management
2. Certain Other Management
3. Certain Creative Professionals
4. Certain Advanced-degree Professionals
5. Certain High-Paid Technical Employees
6. Certain Highly Commissioned Sales People

Have the correct policies in place: Once again, this is an area where a good Employee Handbook can help.  Set up your employee policies for OT, Exempt Employee Deductions, Inclement Weather, Natural Disaster, and Report to Duty Pay.  Consider a professionally designed Employee Handbook, customized to your business:

Safety Requirements:  Additional concerns for a business owner/ manager is safety during times of inclement weather.  Below are some good sources for your safety signs and equipment.

Do you need safety signs or asset tags?  For safety reasons or OSHA compliance, many businesses need safety signs, equipment labels, and asset tags.  Consider Seton, an excellent online source for your warehouse signs, warning labels and more:

Do you need help with material handling, clean-up, or storage?  Consider C&H Distributers for everything from pallet jacks to HazMat spill kits to storage bins:

C&H - Business and Industrial Equipment

Do you need Labor Posters or OSHA Posters?  Safety is not just a concern during bad weather;  some areas need attention every day.  Every business MUST post Labor Law posters (specific requirements differ by state).  In addition, some industries also need to post certain OSHA safety posters.  See Personnel Concepts for your required posters:

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