As Hurricane Harvey strengthens and threatens Texas and the Gulf Coast, it’s a good time for Texas employers to consider potential pay-related issues that can arise from inclement weather. Be it rising floodwaters or hurricanes in the Gulf (and the endless news coverage of the same), here are 5 tips to help your business when employees are absent due to inclement weather.

  1. Before the storm: You should remind your employees about your inclement weather policies before any storm hits. If you have not done so already, now is a good time to circulate your policies so that when inclement weather strikes everyone knows what to expect. If you don’t currently have an inclement weather policy, now is a good time to consider implementing one.
  2. Paying your non-exempt employees: When your office is closed due to inclement weather, under the FLSA, you don’t need to pay your non-exempt employees if they do not work. You only have to pay those employees for the time they are actually working. You may, however, choose to allow your non-exempt employees to use vacation time or PTO on the days your office is closed to ensure they get paid.
  3. Paying your exempt employees: If your office is closed, you must still pay your exempt employees. You may, however, choose to require your exempt employees to use their vacation time or PTO to cover the days closed. One limited circumstance in which you don’t have to pay exempt employees due to bad weather is if the business is closed for the entire week and the employee doesn’t perform any work during that time.
  4. Working from home: If you allow your exempt employees to work from home, regardless of whether your office is open or closed due to the weather, you must pay them. If your exempt employees choose to stay home and do not work, then you must still pay them, but you may require them to use accrued leave to cover the absence. If your non-exempt employees choose to stay home, you do not have to pay them, unless they work from home.
  5. Getting back up and running: What if your office floods and some of your loyal employees offer to help you clean up for free? Even though the offer is nice, you should not accept. If your non-exempt employees spend time helping you get your office back in shape, you must pay them for that time. Although your exempt employees can help with minimal cleanup, if they spend too much time performing manual jobs and other functions outside of their normal job description, their exempt status could be jeopardized, and you could end up owing them overtime.

Follow these tips and hurricane season will be a (gentle) breeze! Of course, certain states may have different wage and hour laws, so be sure to check for any state-specific requirements, including “reporting time pay” laws.