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EMPLOYER OPTIONS DURING BAD WEATHER

Not one RLF attorney or staff member can remember a time when the entire 268,820 square miles of Texas was covered in a winter storm warning, much less covered to some degree in ice and snow, and dealing with the aftermath of power and water outages. That just doesn’t happen here. But in 2021 fashion, it did! And now, San Antonians have a lot of questions to work through. While there are legal conditions regarding pay and employment, there are also the “human factors” that will influence payroll decisions during the week of forced closure.

What is required by Texas employment law if your business closed due to bad weather, utility outages, or your staff was unable to travel to work?

  • Exempt employees must be paid their full weekly salary if they work at any time during a week in which a business is closed due to bad weather when the employee is ready, willing, and able to work.  However, if the employer has a paid leave policy, the business can require exempt employees to use paid leave for absences during a business closure. If the business is open, and an exempt employee does not report to work, and the employee does not have paid leave, the employer may deduct each absence from the employee’s pay.
  • Non-exempt employees are generally only paid for the hours they work and do not have to be paid if the business is closed or if they are unable to travel to work.  However, the employer may allow non-exempt employees to take paid leave for any absences consistent with the employer’s paid leave or bad weather policy.

How does working from home affect any of these contingencies? 

  • Many more employers have integrated work from home policies for their employees over the past year.  Barring utility interruptions, remote work may make it easier for employees to “report to work” during bad weather, regardless of whether the physical worksite is “open.”   Employers should clearly communicate expectations to their employees and pay special attention to documenting actual hours worked for non-exempt employees.  Our firm encourages employers to create a detailed remote work policy to avoid confusion and maintain compliance with Department of Labor and State pay laws. 

The Texas employment laws detail an employer’s legal obligations, but there are other considerations only management can weigh. Employees might have been facing hardships before the winter storm, or now be dealing with expensive deductibles or repairs, utility bills, food replacement, and more. Tenures can range from a few weeks to decades, and their hard work and dedication to your company can be considered.

Employers have a vested interest in retaining employees in whom the company has spent dollars and time training, and you certainly don’t want their knowledge and experience leaving your company. The time to find and train a replacement, plus the extra stress placed on remaining employees covering their jobs, combined with the knowledge gap their departure will leave, may prove to have more of a financial impact on your bottom line than covering payroll during an unusual weather event and aiding staff continuity.

Morale is an intangible financial factor as well. Employees are more focused on job duties and business, are more efficient, and make fewer costly errors when they are less worried about external factors. Discontent spreads like wildfire, and one unhappy employee can spread ill will throughout the entire staff quickly. Covering pay in a unique situation like this eliminates one worry for the employees, and can engender goodwill, respect, and trust between staff and ownership.

Only the business owner or management can determine the best way to handle employee pay during weather events. Consider the laws along with human factors, then communicate clearly and quickly to allow employees to adjust their budgets and recovery plans. If you need further assistance, Rosenblatt Law Firm is ready to help!