HR Management & Compliance

Disaster Pay: What Happens When We Have to Close?

In the wake of recent disasters, we have realized that we don’t have good policies for dealing with pay during emergencies. For example, what if we have to close because of a power blackout? Also, the few times we’ve closed in the past, some people who lived close by came in anyway. The people who stayed home were angry that we paid the people who showed up. Any suggestions? — Rose Ann, HR Specialist in San Jose

The HR Management & Compliance Report: How To Comply with California Wage & Hour Law, explains everything you need to know to stay in compliance with the state’s complex and ever-changing rules, laws, and regulations in this area. Coverage on bonuses, meal and rest breaks, overtime, alternative workweeks, final paychecks, and more.

We asked Scott Silverman to tackle this question.

Normally an employer is required to pay employees for half their regularly scheduled workday if they report to work but are not put to work. However, California law, as set forth in all of the orders that govern wages, hours, and working conditions in various industries, does not require an employer to pay employees when they are unable to work because the employer has had to shut down due to the failure of public utilities to supply electricity or due to weather that prevents work.

Thus, in the scenario Rose Ann described, the company is not required to pay the employees who live close by and come in to work if they are not put to work because of weather or a power blackout. The company is also not obligated to pay employees who are told not to come in and who stay at home. The company’s choice to pay the employees who show up because they live close by does not create an obligation to pay the employees who do not show up.

For good employee relations it would be best for the company to have a consistent policy either to pay all employees who show up or not to pay any. If the employer wishes to pay those who show up, I suggest the following policy statement:

Because of weather and/or power blackouts, it is sometimes necessary to shut down the company. In such cases, employees will be notified in advance, if possible. Employees who do not work because of such a shut down will not be paid for days that the company is closed. Employees who show up for work but are sent home before the end of the work day will be paid for half of their regularly scheduled workday or for time actually worked, whichever is greater.


Scott Silverman is a partner at the Los Angeles office of law firm Morrison & Foerster.

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