attendance in a 'state of emergency'

I am wondering if anyone knows whether we can require people to come to work during a "state of emergency"- such as the one that was declared during the recent snow-storm?


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  • We are a municipality, and require many of our employees who are designated as "critical for City services" to report to work in emergencies. They are aware of this up front and understand that failure to appear, if physically possible, will result in discipline. For the other employees, laughingly designated as "non-essential", we have a policy stating that if the Mayor announces an emergency situation and tells the employees not to report to work, it is a free day. If the Mayor does not announce, then they must report. If they can substantiate that they cannot report, such as flooded in or unsafe, they must either make up the time or use vacation time to cover their absence. Make up must be done within the pay period if time; if not, within the very next pay period.

    Sometimes it is difficult to "prove" that they were flooded in, but I have actually ahd employees bring a picture to prove they couldn't get out of their neighborhood. We generally don't have much problem with this policy.

    Hope this helps.
  • Wouldn't it be great if you could require your employees to do anything?
    Actually, you can't make someone come to work, but you can dock their pay
    under certain circumstances when your plant is open and they don't show up.
    If they are non-exempt, you do not have to pay them for hours they don't
    work. Your company policy may allow them to take a vacation day under such
    circumstances, but if they are not eligible for vacation or don't have any
    left, you don't have to pay them. If the employees are exempt, you normally
    cannot dock their pay, but if they have taken an unexcused personal day, you
    are not required to pay them for that day. They too should have the option
    of taking a vacation day if your policy allows. I would caution you about
    disciplining these employees if there has been a declared "state of
    emergency," however: An employee could argue that the government precluded
    them from coming to work, thereby evading disciplinary consequences that
    might lead to termination. If you have any further questions, you can email
    me directly at [email]sfentin@skoler-abbott.com[/email]. Good luck!

  • As an alternative thought, have you considered putting in place a formal policy disignating the absolute positions or skeletal positions to keep business open during "state of emergency"? Have you discussed these possibilities with the employees during new hire orientation? Have you asked for volunteers? Are you being reasonable considering where they live and what transportation they have? And I'm sure you would not want anyone to put themselves at risk during such an
    emergency. During our unexpected snow storms or even with Floyd (serious hurricane) We asked for volunteer employees (qualified only) who could get here to help keep our medical clinic open and other nurses to visit the patient at home. Keep in mind the employee is the most important asset the company has. Take good care of them.

  • We are a private firm in Seattle (recently known as the earthquake capitale) and have decided that there will always be employees that take advantage of any emergency available to take time off. Our policy states that employees who feel their safety is at risk should stay home. They are required to use sick or vacation time, and if they do not have accured time they must take time without pay. They are not allowed to "borrow" time. If the office is "offically" closed, and emploees arrive because they can walk, or have appropriate transportation, ect., they are rewarded with time off that is not taken from their accrued vaction or sick time. People who do not come in use sick or vaction time. Hope some of these ideas are helpful. [email]lfrink@kellerrohrback.com[/email]

  • I have one client company who will not allow employees to take vacation time to cover inclement weather. They miss a day of pay if they do not come to work or they must stay extra hours to make up the time lost during that work week. They believe that this encourages people not to stay home. If the mayor shuts down the city, they allow employees to take vacation for that day. They also pay what is known as "disaster pay" for earthquakes, flooding, tornados or hurricanes. They tell employees who have sustained damage due to a natural disaster to take time off to care for themselves and their family and pay them for up to three days. I may be able to get a copy of both policies for you if you are interested in going this direction. Call me at 615-371-8200 if you want to discuss this further.

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