- Severe winter storms have been interrupting normal business operations, occasionally causing shutdowns, employee absences, shift changes, and also raising safety concerns. Labor and employment law firm Fisher Phillips said Wednesday that employers also should prepare for winter storms by brushing up on their Fair Labor Standards Act obligations. To handle a disruption in work schedules and hours, employers must know the rules that apply to exempt and nonexempt employees, the hours they work and how they’re paid.
- The law is clear about pay for nonexempt workers: they generally must be paid for the time they work — shutdown or no shutdown. If, however, an employer agrees to pay employees for hours they don’t work, it’s not obligated to count those hours toward the calculation of overtime, Franczek attorneys noted this week. Exempt employees can sometimes be subject to pay deductions if they miss work for personal reasons, but only if certain criteria is met, the firm noted.
- Winter weather also raises safety concerns. Citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Insurance reported reported that in 2014, 42,480 workers suffered from weather-related injuries, due largely from falls on ice, sleet or snow, and required at least a day away from work to recover. Employers can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries — and costly claims — by keeping walkways and parking lots cleared and salted and warning employees of slippery, unsafe surfaces, said Business Insurance. To reduce the risk of workers’ compensation claims and fines from the Occupation Safety and Health Administration, also can ensure employees are properly equipped for a cold work environment and understand procedures for reporting unsafe conditions.
Although compliance is a year-round concern in the workplace, severe weather conditions can complicate employers' efforts.
Employers generally can require employees to come in during bad weather, but such policies sometimes create more problems than they solve. Employees may be unable to get to work because of treacherous roads, school snow days or stalled vehicles. Building in elasticity for any inclement weather — be it hurricanes or blizzards — can help an employer better manage the issues that inevitably spring up when nature strikes.
Colleen Hutchings, vice president, operations and client services at ReedGroup, previously told HR Dive that she keeps track of which employees are office-based, who works virtually, who could work remote if needed and who could be moved to another location.
At the end of the day, however, employers have to remember just how important their workforces are; "Your first priority is always your people," Hutchings said.