It would have been difficult for anyone to avoid the dramatic images of Hurricane Harvey’s impact on human life, from the positive stories of neighbor-helping-neighbor to the negative impact on lives, homes, automobiles and even businesses. As time passes and people begin to recover, Andrews Myers wants its clients to learn from these events and plan for business disruptions caused by a variety of crises.
To this end, Andrews Myers and Winkler Public Relations are working together to review the elements of our clients’ crisis planning, response, and recovery. We have reviewed several high-profile crisis incidents that impacted business with an eye towards helping our clients avoid those crisis pitfalls.
During Hurricane Harvey, for example, a number of our clients were directly impacted, with employees displaced and offices closed for several days. Part of any crisis management plan should deal with the potential for such office closures. Wage and hour laws require employers to pay exempt employees their full salary for any week in which they worked for any portion of the workweek. Thus, employers cannot dock exempt employees’ pay for days not worked due to Harvey-related office closures. The law, however also states that employers need only pay non-exempt employees (generally, hourly employees) for time actually worked; non-exempt employees’ pay, therefore, can be affected by Harvey if the employer so chooses. Employers can also require both exempt and non-exempt employees to use PTO in times of inclement weather or natural disasters.
Importantly, business closures do not mean lease obligations stop. If you are either the landlord or tenant of commercial property that has suffered flooding or other water damage from Harvey, (among the many other things that you are having to address) review the obligations under your commercial lease. Generally, a tenant is required to notify the landlord if a casualty has occurred at the leased premises. This notice is usually required immediately or within a certain period of time after the casualty occurs. After the landlord receives the notice, the landlord then has a certain period of time to respond to the tenant as to how or if it will repair the commercial property. Remember, the terms of the lease control in situations like these. Don’t assume that the other side will be lenient after an event like this, especially when money is involved (and that money may be necessary for one of the parties to recover as well).
Even though the evaluation of Hurricane Harvey’s impact is still ongoing, we are compelled to ask all of our clients: How prepared are you to manage the next crisis?
Author: Tony Stergio, Employment Attorney at Andrews Myers