Employment Law Tip: Paying Employees in a Disaster

The wildfires that have flared up in Southern California are a grim reminder that disaster can strike at any time and result in unexpected workplace closures. A special provision in the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders permits you to send nonexempt employees home—without having to pay a reporting-time premium—in any of these situations:

  • Operations can’t commence or continue due to threats to employees or property, or when recommended by civil authorities.
  • Public utilities fail to supply electricity, water, or gas, or there is a failure in the public utilities or sewer system.
  • The work interruption is caused by an act of God or other cause not within the employer’s control.

If one of these scenarios arises and your workplace must be closed as a result, you must only pay employees for the hours they worked before being dismissed for the day. Keep in mind, however, that there are different rules for exempt employees. You must still pay a full week’s salary to an exempt employee who performs any work in a week, even if he or she is sent home early because of a lack of work caused by a natural disaster or other reason.

We’ll have more on the topic of paying employees in a disaster situation in an upcoming issue of the California Employer Advisor.

Additional Resources:

Employer Response to Crisis and Emergency, an ERI Special Report (Start your guest access and get this now)

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.

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