United States: Hurricane Ready: 5 Ways Florida Employers Can Prepare For The Next Big Storm

Last Updated: September 11 2017
Article by Rachel A. Morris

With the peak of hurricane season here, the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey fresh in our minds, and Hurricane Irma approaching, Florida employers may want to familiarize themselves with employment laws that may be implicated in the event of a storm and be prepared to address storm-related issues, such as closing their businesses and resuming normal operations. Below are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) and guidance addressing some federal and Florida laws to consider in case a storm hits Florida.

1. What can an employer do if it loses time records for work already performed and not yet paid or an employee is prevented from verifying or logging time electronically?

Federal law, specifically the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), does not provide specific guidance on this issue. However, the FLSA requires payment for the hours that an employee worked. Employers may decide to create the most accurate time records possible if the original time records are lost or damaged. There may be a few approaches to this problem. An employer may decide to pay each employee based on the number of hours normally worked (assuming this information is available). Another option could be to ask each employee to estimate, as accurately as possible, the number of hours he or she worked. Regardless of the approach an employer chooses to take, employers might try to obtain written authorization from the employee allowing it to make corrections (and possibly deductions from future wages) if more accurate time records become available.

2. May an employer require an employee to report to work even if he or she believes it is unsafe to do so because of weather?

Unlike some states, Florida does not have a law that prohibits employers from taking action against employees who refuse to work because of an impending hurricane. However, such a situation requires caution. 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, "every working man and woman in the Nation" is assured "safe and healthful working conditions." This applies to all employment in any workplace within the United States as long as the employer has one or more employees. Hurricanes and other disasters present obvious safety concerns that employers need to consider when asking employees to come into work during adverse weather, including vehicle accidents, slips and falls, flying objects, electrical hazards from downed power lines, exhaustion, and dehydration. An employee that reasonably believes he or she has been put in imminent danger because he or she was forced to go to work during a hurricane may file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration against the employer and then ask for whistleblower protection. 

3. May an employer count absences due to the storm against an employee's Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allotment if the employer's facilities are closed?

The FMLA regulations do not specifically address natural disasters. The regulations state that if, for some reason, the employer's business activity has temporarily ceased and employees generally are not expected to report for work for one or more weeks (e.g., a school closing for two weeks for winter holidays or an employer closing a plant for retooling or repairs), the days the employer's activities have ceased do not count against the employee's FMLA leave entitlement. Thus, it appears that if an employer's business is closed for a week or more because of a storm, the days the business is closed would not count against an employee's FMLA leave allotment.

If the business is closed for less than a week, the FMLA's regulation pertaining to holidays provides guidance. The FMLA regulation provides, "the fact that a holiday may occur within the week taken as FMLA leave has no effect; the week is counted as a week of FMLA leave." Similarly, if a business is closed for a day or more during a week in which an employee is on FMLA leave, the entire week would count against the employee's FMLA leave allotment. If, however, the employee is taking FMLA leave in increments of less than a week, only the days that the business is closed and on which the employee would be expected to work can be counted against the employee's FMLA allotment.

4. Are employees entitled to take leave after a hurricane?

Eligible employees are entitled to take leave under the FMLA for a covered serious health condition, including those caused by a disaster such as a hurricane. Additionally, employees who must care for a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition may also be entitled to leave under the FMLA regardless of the hurricane.

For those employees who are part of an emergency services organization (such as the National Guard or Army Reserve), the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) may apply. USERRA prohibits discharging, denying initial employment, denying promotion, or denying any benefit of employment because of a person's membership, performance of service, or obligation to perform service in uniformed service. While USERRA does require advance notice of military service, there is no time limit within which notice must be given; notice must simply be "timely." In the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster, there would be short notice. The notice may be written or oral, and it may be provided by the employee or an appropriate officer of the military branch in which the employee is providing uniformed service.

Further, the FMLA, as amended by the National Defense Authorization Act, extends up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave protection for the spouse, child, or parent of a uniformed service member called to active duty. This leave may be taken for any "qualifying exigency" arising out of the family member's commitment, and leave may commence as soon as the service member is notified of an impending call or order.

Even in the absence of state or federal protection, an employer's internal policies may extend protection to individuals affected by natural disasters. Of course, there is nothing that prevents an employer from voluntarily extending an employee's leave, even in the absence of any legal obligation.

5. Are employees who are discharged as a result of the storm entitled to unemployment compensation?

Employees who are out of work for reasons other than their own misconduct generally are entitled to unemployment compensation under Florida law. However, in Florida, like many states, an employer's unemployment compensation account is not charged when an employee is discharged because of a natural disaster.

That said, a hurricane can present unique circumstances. For example, in one Florida case, an employee's failure to report to work without good cause after the employer expressly directed him to do so as a result of Hurricane Ivan constituted misconduct and unemployment insurance was rightly denied.

The Bottom Line 

Planning for a hurricane ahead of time can save employers thousands of dollars in lost revenue.  Florida employers can prepare by creating a business emergency disaster and recovery plan to protect both the business and its employees and by planning for potential legal and human resources issues that may arise.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Littler Mendelson
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Littler Mendelson
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions