The National Hurricane Center has stated that Hurricane Florence, which is classified as a Category 4 storm, may hit the East Coast as early as Thursday, September 13. As a result, residents of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and the surrounding areas are preparing for 130 mph winds, floods, and heavy rains (and in some cases, evacuating the affected areas). Businesses with operations or employees in those areas could also be affected by power interruptions, disrupted communications, and transportation difficulties—in addition to concerns over their employees’ safety.
How an employer navigates a significant crisis like a hurricane can have a lasting impact on business operations, its reputation with customers, and its employees. Here are some helpful resources for employers preparing for a hurricane or any other disaster.
Hal A. Shillingstad (a shareholder in the Minneapolis and Sioux Falls offices of Ogletree Deakins) has a thorough checklist for employers facing disaster in two articles: Hurricane Matthew and Crisis Management: An Employer’s Checklist and Hurricane Sandy and Crisis Management. The key components of this checklist are:
- creation of an emergency response plan;
- assignment of a crisis management team;
- implementation of a communication plan;
- access to and maintenance of the company’s electronic information and technology;
- communication with the employer’s property insurer; and
- management of employment law issues, specifically related to:
- nonexempt employees;
- exempt employees;
- record keeping;
- the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988;
- the Family and Medical Leave Act;
- benefits and continuing coverage;
- workplace safety; and
- emergency responders.
In their article, Hurricane Harvey: Wage and Hour Issues in the Wake of the Storm, Andrew T. Turner (a shareholder in Ogletree Deakins’ Dallas office) and Steven F. Pockrass (a shareholder in Ogletree Deakins’ Indianapolis office) discuss in detail the myriad wage and hour issues that affect employers during and in the wake of a storm, such as the following:
- Obligations with regard to exempt employees in the event of:
- office closures
- employees’ failure to report to work
- Obligations with regard to nonexempt employees in the event of:
- Weather-related absences
- Reporting time pay
- On-call time
Ogletree Deakins’ Disaster Resource Center serves as a portal for all of our disaster-related resources and provides employers with the information they need to prepare for business interruptions and to recover in the aftermath of a devastating event. In addition to the above resources, the Disaster Resource Center includes guidance on employer donations and disaster relief payments, state-provided employee protections (such as California’s wildfire advisory notice and Alabama’s job protections for emergency responders), and considerations for handling inclement weather.