When Disaster Strikes: Picking Up The Pieces
The last few weeks have been a struggle for many Americans dealing with natural disasters. As employers and businesses attempt to make sense of losses and get back to business, below are some suggestions that may help during the recovery process.
- When making decisions regarding employees, note that Texas employees have certain protections during times of natural disaster. Texas Labor Code Section 22.002 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees for leaving the employee’s place of employment due to an emergency evacuation order. This law applies to employers with one or more employees. Employers in violation are subject to liability for lost wages, benefits and could be required to reinstate the employee to the same or an equivalent position. Note: Emergency services personnel are exempt from this rule.
- When making decisions regarding employees’ pay, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires that an exempt employee be paid for absences as a result of disaster-related evacuations or office closings because the employee was “ready, willing and able to work” but unable to do so because of the disaster. Employers are expected to pay non-exempt employees only for actual hours worked and therefore are generally not required to pay non-exempt employees for disaster-related absences.
- Small Business Administration
- The SBA helps individuals and businesses recover from natural disasters. Specifically, the SBA provides low-interest, long-term disaster loans to businesses of all sizes (including landlords), private non-profit organizations, homeowners, and renters to repair or replace uninsured or underinsured disaster damaged property. More information can be found here.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- FEMA provides the Individuals and Households Program (IHP) which grant payments to individuals for critical expenses and losses incurred as a result of disasters and that are not otherwise reimbursable through other means such as insurance. FEMA may also provide grants to cover specific needs such as childcare and medical expenses caused by the disaster. Affected individuals can apply for assistance for up to 12 months after the date of disaster. More information can be found here.
- Contributions given to employees for reasonable and necessary expenses incurred as a result of qualified disasters are not considered income to employees and therefore are not subject to federal income taxation as long as the expense is not otherwise reimbursed through other means such as insurance. Individuals and businesses affected by disasters could also be eligible for postponement of deadlines to file tax returns, pay taxes and perform other time-sensitive tax matters. More information can be found here.