Is Your Company’s Hurricane Plan Ready?

With the first tropical storm of the season bearing down on the Gulf Coast, it is a good time to dust off your HR Department’s Hurricane Plan and make sure it is up to date. If you don’t have one, it is an even better time to put one together. Attachedis Cozen O’Connor’s HR Guide for Hurricane and Disaster Preparation. This is a handy checklist for the most common Human Resources issues that should be addressed in such a plan. These issues include:

1. Compliance with Chapter 22 of the Texas Labor Code: This law protects from discrimination employees who are absent because if an evacuation order. This law has certain exceptions, including emergency services personnel or those required to provide services for the general public during emergency situations. That said, companies who require such employees to work during a storm must provide emergency shelter.

2. Payment for Employees Who Are Absent Due to Weather: The FLSA treats exempt employees differently from non-exempt. Non-exempt employees must only be paid for actual hours worked. Exempt employees, however, must be paid if the work site is closed or unable to open because of weather for less than a full workweek.

3. On-Call/Waiting Time: Weather events often create unique circumstances that don’t fall neatly into existing policies. Employees may be stuck at work waiting for the weather to clear before they go home – is this compensable time? What if employees are on-call to return to the office after the storm has passed. Is this compensable “on-call time?”

4. Protected Leave Under FMLA: Disasters often create family issues, especially where there are elderly or sick family members who must be moved or cared for during such an event. These situations could trigger protection for absences under the FMLA.

5. Payday: No one wants to miss a paycheck. Make sure your company has a contingency plan in place to communicate with employees and maintain personnel functions like payroll and benefits processing even during a disaster.

David Barron

David L. Barron is a member in the Cozen O'Connor - Houston office, focusing his litigation practice on labor and employment law. David joined the firm in 2011. David assists his clients with all their labor and employment needs including representing clients at trials involving wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, collective action overtime claims and whistle-blower suits, before a variety of state and federal courts. He counsels clients on labor negotiations, elections, strikes, and corporate campaigns by unions; litigates disputes before the National Labor Relations Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Department of Labor; and advises management on various employment issues, including wage and hour, federal contractor compliance, employee terminations, discrimination and harassment claims, drafting and enforcement of noncompete agreements, Sarbanes Oxley, and OSHA matters. David has been quoted on employment law topics by the Houston Business Journal, The Houston Chronicle, Texas Lawyer,, and numerous other newspapers and magazines. He also has appeared as an employment law professional on talk radio and the local CBS and Fox affiliates in Houston. David is board certified in Labor and Employment law and has been named a Texas Super Lawyer Rising Star in Texas Monthly magazine. David attended the University of Houston, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1994. He then earned his J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center in 1996.

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