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Quiet a legal storm: Close during weather emergencies

by on
in HR Management,Human Resources

The hurricanes that battered Florida and the Gulf states this summer pushed an HR question to the forefront: Can employers require employees to report to work during an ordered evacuation or major disaster?

According to media reports, several Florida employers courted legal trouble by requiring employees to drive to work in the midst of a hurricane warning, threatening employees with termination if they didn't show.

Employees can file civil lawsuits against employers under federal Occupational Safety and Health Act for forcing them to work in unsafe conditions. And while criminal charges are rare, prosecutors say businesses could be criminally tried for negligence if they force nonessential employees to work in unsafe situations and they're injured or killed as a result.

Best bet: Don't jeopardize safety to stay open. Follow state and local weather mandates and government advisories. And check your state labor law to develop your policy.

In Florida, for example, no state law requires employers to pay employees a minimum amount for reporting to work when the employee is then sent home due to inclement weather. If your business is closed due to weather, you must pay salaried employees (but not hourly employees) for the days missed.

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