Working And Getting Paid at a Time of an Emergency Due to a Hurricane – What’s the Rule?

By Ilona Demenina Anderson

It’s still hurricane season through the end of November. When the area is under a hurricane watch, on top of whipping winds, pelting rains, overwhelming storm surges and flash flooding, the things foremost on every employee’s mind is: how do I get to work? Would I get paid if I don’t get to work? Would I get paid even when our workplace is shut down due to the storm? If these questions swirl around in your mind, this article is for you, so, read on.

Two kinds of employees

There are two kinds of employees, basically: the non-exempt employees and the exempt employees. Don’t worry, this isn’t rocket science: “non-exempt employees” are those who are paid by the hour and get paid for overtime work equivalent to time-and-a-half. For the purpose of this article, we can call them “hourly” employees. (Note, however, that some non-exempt employees may receive a salary; the method of payment alone does not control the classification.) “Exempt employees” are those salaried employees who usually do administrative, executive and supervisory work and are not entitled to overtime work. We’ll call them “salaried” employees.

General rule for “hourly” employees

Non-exempt employees or “hourly” employees are generally subject to the “no-work-no-pay-rule.” Because their pay depends upon the number of hours actually worked, if they do not actually work, then they will not be paid. In practical terms: if a hurricane warning is issued by the government weather service and your employer tells you to go home as soon as all the windows are boarded up, you will get paid only until you’ve finished boarding up your place of work.

For all those days that you are waiting for the hurricane to strike, waiting for the effects of the hurricane to subside, waiting for power to be restored, waiting for streets to be cleared of debris and waiting for your place of business to actually begin operations again, since you are not doing any work at all, you will not get paid.

General rule for “salaried” employees

Exempt employees are those who are paid a specific salary regardless of the actual number of hours worked. Because their pay does not depend on the number of hours actually worked, they get paid even when they do not work or even when they only do a bit of work or when they work at home.

In practical terms: if a hurricane warning is issued by the government weather service and your employer tells you to go home, you can relax and take the time to prepare for the storm because you will get paid even when the office is closed, even when you aren’t doing any work.

Thus, for all those days that your employer’s place of business is closed and you are waiting for the hurricane to strike, waiting for the effects of the hurricane to subside, waiting for power to be restored, waiting for streets to be cleared of debris and waiting for your place of work to actually begin operations again, even when you are not doing any work at all, you will still get paid your regular salary.

Exceptional circumstances

So, what if you’re a salaried employee, the hurricane has passed and your place of work has resumed normal operations but you cannot get to work because your neighbourhood is severely flooded and you’re trapped on the roof, or there are fallen trees on the streets and you cannot get to work? What happens then? Will you still get paid for missing work? You may get salary deductions for days when you do not get to work after your company has resumed operations, or your employer may treat it as vacation time, sick leave, or personal time off.

Of course, if your employer allows you to work from home for the time that you cannot get to the office, then you will be paid as though you were at the office and working even if you were working at home. This applies to both exempt and non-exempt employees.

It pays to know your rights to a fair pay. If you have any questions at all regarding the pay you have received or not received during a natural disaster such as when there is a hurricane, feel free to call us. Competent and experienced employment law attorneys are available to listen to you and explain things to you.

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