Natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, are often powerful reminders of how devastating inclement weather can be. But even when the weather doesn’t reach the level of Sandy’s far-reaching devastation, it can disrupt our lives. When this happens, the last thing on most employers’ minds is complying with State and Federal Wage and Labor laws.
But, as this recent article by David M. Katz and Martha Zackin points out, compliance with these laws is important, even in a time of disaster. There are no exceptions built into Federal or State Wage and Labor laws for natural disasters, no matter how severe. Therefore, ensuring that they are in compliance with the law is an important step, necessary to protect employers from costly and time-consuming litigation at a time when they have so many other burdens to bear. In addition, it is important for employees to know what their Wage and Labor rights are, to make sure that they are protected from unfair business practices.
Under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-exempt employees only have to be paid for the hours that they actually work. Therefore, if an employee calls in, the employer is not required to pay him or her. One exception to this is employees who work from home; however, those employees are responsible for keeping track of the time they worked in order to be fairly compensated. Another possible exception is a collective bargaining agreement. Some may include provisions about pay during involuntary shutdowns. In that instance, the agreement would dictate.
It is important to remember, that some state laws may affect the information above. For instance, several states have “reporting time” laws, which dictate that an employer must pay a non-exempt employee a certain amount of wage, if he or she shows up to work and is sent home because there is no work to be performed. This varies from state to state, and no such law exists in Ohio.
If employees are classified as exempt, they must be compensated with their entire weekly salary, even if the only work a portion of the workweek. If the employee has vacation or paid time off, the employer may reduce the PTO in accordance with the hours of work missed, provided that the employee receives their normal salary. This means that if employees have exhausted all PTO, they must still be fully compensated.
The law surrounding exempt employees changes if the business is open, and the employee is unable to make it to work. In this case, the employer may deduct a full day’s pay, as long as the employee does not work from home. An employer is also not required to pay exempt employees if the business is closed for the entirety of the workweek.
Wage and Labor law can be complicated, and it is important that employers make sure they are in full compliance with both Federal and State law. This holds especially true during a natural disaster, when so many other issues seem more pressing. The best way protection for employers is a familiarity with the Wage and Labor laws, both Federal and State, that way when disaster strikes, they will already know what they need to do to comply.
As with any rule, there are exceptions.
Please seek professional assistance with any questions or specific situations.
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