Hurricane Harvey raises FLSA, FMLA questions
- Hurricane Harvey and other natural disasters can raise both wage and hour and leave questions for HR, employment attorneys have noted in recent days.
- The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), for example, imposes recordkeeping requirements on employers, and issues can arise when records are lost or workers are unable to use an employer's usual method of timekeeping, according to law firm Fisher Phillips. Moreover, employers should remember that under most circumstances, employees cannot "volunteer" for their employers, and are entitled to overtime pay for any extra hours worked, even during a disaster, the firm notes.
- Crises also raise questions about the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), reports Jeff Nowak of Franczek Radelet on his blog, FMLA Insights. While employees likely won't be entitled to leave just because of a natural disaster, a confluence of events (a medical condition exacerbated by the event, for example) could certainly require that an employer grant an employee time off under the law, Nowak writes. In addition, if your business shuts down during a disaster, employees already on FMLA leave generally can't be docked for those days.
Federal employment laws and regulations don't change during disasters. Employees must be paid, and paid properly. Employees also must be permitted to take leave for either their own serious health condition or a family member's.
FLSA and FMLA compliance (along with other requirements, like disability or religious accommodations) can all be included in disaster planning, so an employer isn't caught off guard by these issues. A disaster management team and pre-determined policies can go a long way.
And employers can ensure that legal compliance is included in contingency plans by including HR from the very first stages of planning.
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