do you have to be paid if your office is closed because of a hurricane?

With parts of the U.S. braced for the impact of Hurricane Irma, I’m getting a lot of questions about whether you have to be paid if your office closes because of the storm. Here’s a quick run-down.

If you’re a non-exempt employee (eligible for overtime): If your office closes because of the storm and thus you don’t work on those days, your employer is not required to pay you for those days. Some employers still will, but the law doesn’t require it; it just depends on what your employer’s policy is.

If you’re an exempt employee (salaried and not eligible for overtime): If you work any portion of the week, you have to be paid your full salary for the week … even if your office closes because of the storm. They can, however, require you to use a vacation day for that day. (But if you’re all out of vacation days, they can’t dock your pay to cover it.) Smart employers will not make you use vacation time for these days, but they’re not all smart.

What if your office is open but you can’t get to work because of the storm? If you’re non-exempt, nothing changes. If you’re exempt, however, it’s a little different:  In this case, you’re not considered “ready, willing, and able to work” — even though that’s not within your control — and so your employer can dock your pay if you miss a full day. If you only miss the part of the day, they can’t dock any pay; that’s part of being exempt. But most employers will let you use vacation time for these days, and some won’t charge your accrued leave time at all.

So the answer, as it so often does, comes down to whether you’re exempt or non-exempt.

Of course, employers can choose to do more than they’re legally obligated to, and good employers think carefully about the morale problems associated with paying exempt workers for missed days while not paying non-exempt ones, particularly in a context where people are fearing for their safety and their homes.

{ 170 comments… read them below }

  1. You're Not My Supervisor*

    For those of you living in the area where the storm will hit, I am curious: how is your employer handling this? Obviously some are closing the offices without pay, hence the emails to Alison, but I wonder if those are the majority or the outliers here

    1. Thornus67*

      As mentioned in the open thread, last year, my girlfriend’s job made them use sick days to be paid for the full week when evacuated for Matthew. She thinks they might make her use sick days next week if the office is closed due to the server being located in the path of Irma even though she’s now in a geographic area which won’t have to evacuate.

      When I had to evacuate for Irma, my bosses just straight up didn’t pay me. However, I’m an attorney, and attorneys are basically super-exempt from the FLSA – employers don’t have to comply with the salary basis or salary level test. I also got zero PTO (no sick days, no vacation days, no nothing), so whenever the office closed (natural disaster, closed for a holiday such as Fourth of July, etc), I wasn’t paid. And they docked me my daily rate. They took the attitude that if you weren’t in the office (or court), you didn’t get paid and were docked accordingly (so that included being docked if out of the office for mandatory training they paid for, mandatory in person CLEs, etc). They only paid office closures for Thanksgiving and Christmas (“because we wanted to reward all of you for doing such a good job”). And no you couldn’t make up for expected closures/absences by working on the weekend either. There’s a reason that job is an ex-job, and their office closure policy was a big part of it.

      1. Specialk9*

        That’s awful. They required training but then docked your pay for doing it?! That doesn’t seem legal.

    2. The Grammarian*

      I am nonexempt and am allowed to work from home or hotel. For this weather event, I may use vacation days, a floating holiday, or leave without pay if I am unable to access the internet/Wi-Fi. I plan on using holiday/vacation day hours if the electricity goes where I am evacuating to.

    3. Stocking up on bottled water in South Carolina*

      I work for a national A/E firm and work at a branch office in South Carolina, we also have offices in Florida. We received an email yesterday saying that the offices will only close if the office is under a mandatory evacuation. And like Alison explained above, non-exempt employees will not be paid if they do not come to work and then they can try and make up the hours or use vacation. In most offices, 95% are salaried employees making a lot more money than people who are hourly ie admins, assistants and technicians.

      I am an hourly, non-exempt employee who hasn’t been at the company that long so I don’t have a lot of vacation time banked and was very frustrated. It now seems unlikely that the storm will be headed our way, but if it did I would be forced to choose between making money and staying safe. I depend on working 40 hours to pay my bills and it seems disproportionately unfair to hourly employees. Also, what would happen if our office was offline for more than a couple days? This all stems back to how in a lot of places hourly employees are treated almost second class to salaried. Also the are not in positions to challenge or change policies.

    4. CR*

      There was a good post on AskReddit about this yesterday. It’s shocking how many employers don’t give a sh!t about the safety of their employees.

    5. Florida*

      I’m in Orlando. My employer was open today, but I worked from home today. Office is closed on Saturday beginning at noon, Sunday, and Monday. Everyone who is scheduled to work will get paid. For now, office is open on Tuesday, but who know what will happen.

    6. kittymommy*

      I’m in government and am exempt. We closed at noon today (I still worked late) and for Monday. Now they just decided to course Tuesday as well. My org pays the time as paid admin leave, regardless of you are exempt or non exempt.

    7. Kimberly Martin*

      I have an exempt employee that works from home from Florida (the main office and the rest of my employees are in the Atlanta area). She is not in the direct path so is staying home. If she is not able to work due to storm damage, power out, no internet, or simply is out helping others, I will let her take the time needed without her using any PTO time to do so.

    8. Snowglobe*

      I’m in Central Florida. All exempt and non-exempt employees whose work location is closed will be paid their regular rate based on their normal work schedule. Our employee handbook has a severe weather policy that clarifies this.

    9. Portia*

      I’m in Houston. The school I teach at was closed for a week; thankfully, it did not affect our salaries AND the state is not requiring us to make up those days, as they normally would if we closed for inclement weather. However, some parents have requested partial tuition refunds since their kids missed a week of school. Don’t think they’ll have much success there…

      1. Classified Staff*

        The classified staff WILL get screwed on the days that were missed. So teachers dont have to make the days up, but paras, janitors, and other classified staff do have to make up the hours or be docked in pay.
        We just went through this in my state due to weather related closures last winter.

        1. Portia*

          Oof, I hope not! We are a private school, so maybe it’ll work differently? We have a small janitorial staff and we really prize them.

        2. RecruitTexas*

          Most of the major school districts here in Houston got board approval to pay for all non-exempt employees during the time lost because of the storm.

    10. MechE31*

      I work at a large company on the East coast of Florida about mid way up the state and am exempt. Last year during hurricane Matthew, they closed for one day and said that we would have to take PTO or offset the time. After a week of people complaining, they changed course and paid us without using PTO.

      This year, they have already stated that they will pay everyone if they site is closed.

    11. JustAnotherAnalyst*

      Tampa Bay area here. I am exempt and worked today from a remote location until about 3:30, at which time my boss IM’ed me and told me to go home. I do expect to get paid for the whole time.

      There have been many many weekends and after-hours where I have put in extra time working on getting stuff done, so my employer is still way ahead hours-wise. May be working from home Monday. No one is allowed in the building til this blows over, since our office is too close to the water (great for dolphin watching, but nowhere to be at a time like this.)

      I don’t know how our hourly employees were handled. I know some skedaddled out-of-state as early as Tuesday, but I think they had enough tools (laptops, phones) to get work done remotely. The good thing is I can work from anywhere with a internet connection. Even my hallway closet :)

    12. Zip Silver*

      I’m exempt and getting paid for the week. We’re also paying all the non-exempt folks for their scheduled shifts on Monday and Tuesday, with the expectation that people start showing up Wednesday to help with the cleanup (other duties as assigned).

      We’ve only got 3 people who went out of state (all New Yorker transplants who were panicky even though we’re not on the coast, lol), and I think we’re handling them differently. As far as I know, if they don’t get back by Wednesday, then they’ll get charged PTO or not get paid, because all are hourly non-exempt.

    13. EW*

      I’m near Central Georgia and my manufacturing facility decided to close on Monday and Tuesday out of an abundance of caution. My manager is running the crisis shutdown and lobbied to get the hourly employees paid time, which is not how our typical sever weather policy works. The reasoning is we are telling them they cannot come to work, vs during icy road conditions they could still choose to come in if possible. We do have a crew of essential personnel that will be getting paid time and a half for any hours they work.

      Which really, this is how it should be handled, and we are setting the standard for any future natural disasters for the company.

      1. Kay*

        My husband is non-exempt and employed with the City of Houston. They paid him and everyone else who were unable to work due to Hurricane Harvey for their usual hours. Given the situation, we both thought that he would only be paid the equivalent of working 8 hours per day even though it was his 4-10s week, but they were amazing and honored the full 10 hours per day that the office was shut down. The city is also offering counseling services to employees and has made provisions to assist anyone who sustained losses from the hurricane.

        We just moved to Houston (the weekend before Harvey hit—we have such “brilliant” timing), and I do not have a job here as of yet, so I can’t speak of the current situation, but in the past I when I was working as a nonexempt manger for a retail chain I was not paid for days lost due to a storm nor was I allowed to use sick or vacation time to make up the difference.

    14. Ruffingit*

      I live in Houston and work for a large agency. We were given a small amount of leave to use for storm specific issues and otherwise had to use our PTO. The company did give every full-time employee $500 (amounted to about $335 after taxes) for flood relief regardless of whether your home was flooded or not. That was a nice gesture and appreciated, but honestly they should have given employees who were flooded out of their homes a couple of weeks of paid leave on the company’s dime because this disaster ravaged our city and having to try and work while dealing with insurance adjusters, finding a new place to live, etc is just too much in my view. But then, my company isn’t known for compassion so there’s that.

    15. Specialk9*

      I’m thread-hacking high to let people in FL and TX know something important about govt funds that FEMA won’t tell you: be aware that if you take a govt loan to rebuild, you won’t be eligible for the (interest free) govt grant.

      “America’s two-tiered system for delivering money to disaster victims. The first and most immediate form of relief is loans: The Small Business Administration issues low-interest loans to struggling homeowners and businesses, giving them access to cash as quickly as a few weeks after the disaster, which they have to pay back with interest. The second form of relief is grants, which are more valuable—homeowners don’t need to pay them back—but can take much longer to receive.

      The catch: every dollar for which disaster victims are approved for an SBA loan is a dollar less they can receive from a federal grant. In other words, if a victim who is eligible for $120,000 in assistance is offered a $90,000 SBA loan, she can only receive grants worth $30,000—no matter if she accepts or declines the loan.”

    16. Elsajeni*

      Not Irma, but Harvey: my workplace closed mid-day on August 25, stayed closed for a full week and reopened after Labor Day. Once the decision was made about when we would reopen (the closure started out as just the half-day on Friday and was extended several times), everyone was automatically issued paid “weather emergency leave” in our payroll system for their scheduled hours on the days we were closed. This isn’t the first time that leave category has been issued, but I think it is the first time that we didn’t have to go into the system and book it ourselves — they just automatically assigned it to those days and hours. I assume that’s because there was also a payday during the closure and they didn’t want to leave anyone with a shortfall that wouldn’t be corrected until the next payday.

    17. Kriss*

      I’m a seasonal contractor with my company, it’s a travel job & I do work for the local in the off season

      I was scheduled to go from Houston to Orlando for a training session in our home office but Harvey blew into town & the airport closed & the intersection I would have had to travel through to get to the airport was 16 feet under water. My trip was cancelled. They gave me a storm number to put my travel & training time on so I could still get paid.

      The local office was closed Monday through Wednesday & people were back to work on Thursday. Everyone was given the storm number to enter their time for Monday through Wednesday & anyone who was still dealing flooding or clean up & couldn’t come into work was allowed to continue charging time on the storm number through Friday. they are handling it on a case by case basis for those who still need to be out.

      On a side note: if you lost work time & your employer is not paying you for it, you can make a claim with FEMA through your state unemployment office

    18. Elemeno P.*

      The storm hit us Sunday and Monday. My employer closed the business both of those days and paid an 8 hour shift for anyone who was scheduled to work at those times. I was scheduled to work Monday, but received pay for it while the last of the storm went through. It was nice of them!

      1. Monica*

        My employer paid us for the days they were closed due to power loss. But now they are asking for it back ? Is this legal?

    19. n0mansland*

      Part of my company…we’ll call it Company A was recently bought out by Company B, but we still function as one company in the same building so nothing has really changed. I’m currently a contractor through an employment agency at Company A.

      The permanent employees and contractors at Company B were paid for the full week missed due to Hurricane Harvey.

      Company A paid it’s permanent employees, but not the contractors (there are only 8 of us compared to the hundreds of other employees). We received an email at 7:32 PM on the day before the checks were supposed to pay out from our site manager at the agency that I work for stating that there had been a miscommunication, and that Company A never approved us to be paid. It stated that only the contractors at Company B were being paid for the missed week, and that our checks were cancelled pending approval from the client…which of course hasn’t come.

  2. Elizabeth West*

    The first one does depend on the individual employer. My work was closed Monday following the 2007 January ice storm and all hourly employees got paid for that day. It did not count against our vacation time. We had an inch-and-a-half of ice (yes, really) all over everything after three days of freezing rain, and nobody could go anywhere safely. Power was out almost all over town, too. That was the ONLY time since I’ve lived here that my landline ever went out in a storm. It was epically bad.

    An inch-and-a-half of rain is nothing. That much ice is catastrophic. They took the high road and paid everyone.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yep, and yep it was epic. It was the deciding factor for me getting the hell out of here. The city didn’t bother to keep up with the tree trimming, which was why the power outages were so bad. They ended up picking up ALL our storm debris for free. They burned it and for months, everything smelled like a campfire. SGF is a designated Tree City USA city–we lost so many we were in danger of losing that status.

        1. Katrina*

          I was just happy on Day 10 when power was finally restored to my house.

          I moved, too, mostly due to property crime rates. This city mostly sucks, but I’m chained to the area.

        2. Katrina*

          Also – the eclipse ruled. I took my little dude up near the Jeff City to see totality. 10/10 was worth it.

    1. No hurricanes, just snow*

      ha! that always irks us midwest people. We have offices all over the place, and when our southern offices close early for a potential ice storm or a snowflake, we get grumbly. We are expected to be here, as close to on time as possible, no matter how much snow/ice gets dumped on us. We’ve closed twice that I can recall in a decade due to weather.

      I 100% understand it’s because you don’t have the equipment to deal with it, but it always creates grumbling in our midwest offices cause we’re here no matter what. It feels unfair to us, even though it’s really not.

      1. Sara M*

        I lived in the “big city” (about 50,000 people). Whenever the radio would announce school closings, it was always the small towns surrounding us. Mom explained the small towns didn’t have the snowplows, plus they had more rural students, but it still felt horribly unfair. And if we were closed in the big city, every other district around was always closed.

        One time they closed everyone _except_ us, and we were all so bitter. I was in high school and we just sat in our classrooms and told our teachers we weren’t going to learn. Many of the teachers refused to teach. We had our own mini-protest that day, which in retrospect was kind of funny. (and they totally should have closed us, 25% of the kids didn’t come in anyway, and it was dangerous out there).

      2. The OG Anonsie*

        Yeah, regional preparedness is a big deal. The weather patterns for ice and snow are different, too– the places I’ve lived with snowy winters it was way easier to get out and about even if you were leaving before the plows came through than it is in the South when it ices. You get that sheet of black ice on all the roads in the South and most cities don’t have fleets of de-icing trucks for the once a year it happens, so everyone just agrees to be cool about it and open late once the sun starts melting it haha. I’ve gotten up early to shovel and drive in through crazy snow and slush in New England but you wouldn’t catch me out there trying to inch along an icy road in the South first thing in the morning.

        1. paul*

          Yep! When I moved out of the mountains I was amazed at how little snow or ice it takes to shut this place completely down but I guess it makes sense. If you shut down for 6″ of snow in the Rockies you’d be closed up for 1/3 of the year. Here it’s more like “oh well, it’ll melt by the day after tomorrow.”

        2. nonegiven*

          A lot of years it doesn’t even snow once, then every few years we get an inch or more of ice or 2 feet of snow and lose power for a week in town and as long as a month out in the country.

      3. Mrs. Fenris*

        OK, I’m sorry, but this is a bit of a peeve for me. I live in Atlanta. I can drive in ordinary snow just fine. What people don’t realize is that Southern snowstorms are a bit different from other areas. When it snows here, the temperature is usually hovering around 30 degrees. The snow melts and re-freezes, often multiple times, and creates pockets of black ice under the snow that you can NOT see until the moment you are skidding across it. Atlanta in particular is fairly hilly and has lots of curvy roads. My husband made a 75-mile trip during the blizzard of 1993 (don’t ask) and he was completely fine until he was 4 miles from his destination, then skidded into a ditch. I managed to drive the 12 miles to work during the ice storms of 2011 and 2014, because I worked at an emergency animal hospital and we were trying our best to stay open, but I’m not sure how wise it was.

        1. Callie*

          Thank you. I am SO ANNOYED with people who whine about how everything closes down in the south for “a few flakes.” It’s insinuating that we’re a bunch of wusses and can’t handle a few snowflakes, when in reality it’s ICE and freakin dangerous and everyone who isn’t us needs to just CTFD and deal with it. Yes, we get ice. Yes, civilization shuts down. Yes, you can deal with that for a little while.

          1. Creag an Tuire*

            Let’s be honest, Chicago would shut down for “a few flakes” if we didn’t budget over $20 million a year for salt and snowplows.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          We get black ice here too. It sucks. The road looks wet but it’s not and you can’t tell until you hit it that it’s actually slick AF.

          I have brand new tires this year–we’ll see how they do, as I’ve got a sinking feeling we’re not going to get off as easy as we did last year.

        3. many bells down*

          Seattle is kind of like that too. The hills are ridiculous, and often the snow alternates with a drizzle as warm air comes in and out. So we get that melt/freeze cycle. AND most of the snowplows are in the parts of the state that get more than an inch of snow. I’ve never seen a snowplow here, only in the mountain passes. So everything closes if we get an inch.

          Last winter, my I had to drop off my car at the mechanic. When my husband came to pick me up he hit part of the (sloped) parking lot that was coated in black ice. He managed to slide sideways into a parking space without hitting anything, but even in my snow boots it took me 10 minutes to navigate the 40 feet to the car.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            Yes! I live in Seattle and drove to work this past winter right after that snow we got. There was black ice everywhere! I almost slid into the gate in front of our community because our parking lot is also sloped and I didn’t realize there was black ice on it until I was literally sliding on it.

        4. nonegiven*

          One year Atlanta was in the news for being nearly shutdown over the snow. DH’s works uses software that is supported from an office in Atlanta. He had to call for help one day. The support guy said he was the only one there and the only reason was because he lived close enough to walk.

        5. Specialk9*

          Yeah. People from really cold places love to be smug and condescending, but really-cold snow and ice is generally safe to drive on, even before accounting for your DOT actually owning the right equipment and being fully staffed to clear roads fast.

          Southern snow and ice is way more dangerous! It hovers around freezing, going back and forth, so you hydroplane on water on top of ice, or have hidden black ice unexpectedly, and few if any friendly salt trucks and plows working their magic.

          I moved from the South to the North. I will drive happily after a huge northern snowstorm. I will stay the heck off those terrifying southern roads after 1″ of snow.

      4. Essie*

        HECK YES. I once had to come into work in New England in over a foot of snow because our North Carolina office freaked out and closed over a QUARTER INCH of snow.

        They were the call center, so everyone in R&D and engineering in New England was unsuccessfully taking all the re-routed customer service calls with absolutely no training, and basically just telling people to call back once the weather improved.

        That company was awful for a whole host of other reasons.

        1. Callie*

          First of all, they had no way to know it was only going to be a quarter inch. Second of all, 99% of the time that quarter inch of snow is preceeded by an inch of ice. We don’t have de-icing trucks. You want people to drive around on ice? No. Seriously.

          1. Julia Gulia*

            So you think it’s better to foist off deadly driving conditions on the northern people, just as long as it isn’t your problem? Not cool.

            1. Optimistic Prime*

              I’m not Callie, but I’m positive she didn’t mean that. I think rather the issue is that Northeasterners often don’t understand how hazardous small amounts of snow are in the Southeast and other warmer parts of the country. It’s not just the fact of the snow, it’s the ice and the temp – the temperature hovering right around freezing causes a freeze-melt-refreeze cycle that can make the roads even more dangerous than if it were just a foot of snow. Add to that we don’t have any de-icing trucks or snow plows. When I lived in New York, if we got one foot of snow they’d have the major roads plowed in like two hours and it was business as usual. In Atlanta, 2 inches of slow was a “wait until it melts” game.

              The ideal situation would’ve been to require no one to come in and put an automated message about the weather on the call center.

                1. HR in Tysons*

                  I have spoken to ex-military and police officer who have said, they don’t care about a few feet of snow, but no black ice please.
                  Black ice is scary.

            2. Specialk9*

              Yes, yes we think northerners can drive on a lot of snow and ice just fine, while a little snow and ice will kill southerners. I’ve lived in both regions, and it’s just not deadly in the same way up north. Plenty of people in this thread have explained why. Stop complaining, it’s ugly hearted and makes you sound like a jerk.

        2. blackcat*

          I now live in New England, and use to live in the south.

          I have, unwisely, driven in both the middle of epic blizzard up here (no choice, had an emergency, and the T was shut down, no cabs would come), and during an bad ice storm down south (no excuse, I was being a dipshit).

          It was far easier, and I felt far safer to drive in the middle of the blizzard. Roads were snow covered, but not ice covered. There were of other cars on the road, but most people knew how to handle it (as best as one can). The anti-skidding system in my car worked like a charm. Driving over the bridge was a REALLY bad idea, but that was because of the wind/visibility issue, not the snow. The other issue was turning back onto my street–the plows on the cross street had sorta made a ridge, and it took a few attempts to get my sedan to go up and over it. While that was hard, it was not dangerous.

          Ice storm in the south was a BIG FUCKING DEAL. My car had no hope on a hill (I’m super lucky I didn’t hit anything at the bottom). Other cars slid everywhere. There is no traction to be had on untreated, pure ice. The few cars that were out where like projectiles–it was a combination of people being idiots (driving fast when they did have traction) and the 100% untreated roads.

          Same car, same tires in both situations. Inner suburbs of large city here in New England, near downtown of mid-sized southern city.

          Give me a New England blizzard any day.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        And sometimes they don’t do it when they should. Same job–we had a bad sleet storm at the end of the day, and the new boss (not the same one as the ice storm) wouldn’t let us go until five. We were in an industrial park with one main egress. When we finally got out of there, along with all the other employees of other businesses in the park, it took me almost TWO HOURS to get home for a drive that normally took ten minutes. It took over an hour just to get out of the industrial park!

      6. Bryce*

        My hometown was in the SW high desert, and we tended to get black ice which would then thaw out once the sun came out so school was usually delayed a couple of hours when that happened. If we got snow on top of the ice though, things would become a mess quite quickly since even a small layer would insulate it and turn the curving mountainous roads into a real hazard that needed actual equipment to shift (and since we were rural, they had a lot of road to cover). One year in high school we got a new superintendent from the Midwest, and he had thresholds of when to delay/cancel school that were way too high for our area. That first winter before he came around was interesting; lots of relaxed rolecall standards.

      7. Specialk9*

        Well, maybe it’ll make your grumblers feel better to know that some Southerners usually die due to the ice and snow. So, you know, yay?

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I remember that ice storm! Whenever the university is closed due to inclement weather (snow, ice, etc.), university HR sends an email instructing everyone to enter a leave code of “I” on our leave reports and everyone gets paid for it. Sometimes we have an official late open or early close instead of a full day, and they instruct us to enter two hours (or however much it was) of inclement weather leave. If the university isn’t closed and an employee can’t make it to work, then they have to use their vacation days or comp time (if they have any).

      1. Elizabeth West*

        It was a multi-state event! Here, people with fireplaces or wood stoves stayed home and also invited others to stay with them. I had to evacuate. I could get along without light, and I had hot water, but I had no heat–my furnace wouldn’t work without electricity. I stayed in a motel and then came back to town and stayed in a hotel my bosses had rented, but they let me have the room for the duration of their stay, as they were able to go home. I just had to pay them back later, no biggie. And one coworker let me spend a night at her house when I was in between places.

        I was out of my house for twelve days before the power came back on. I worked the whole time too, even when I had to drive back and forth from Branson. It was rough, but I managed. As if it weren’t nasty enough, the sun did not come out for TWO WEEKS after that storm. It stayed at around 20 F or below and cloudy the whole time. We had tree service trucks from all over the place, even as far as Florida, coming to help clean up. I talked to some of them at the motel in Branson and they said their employer had sent them over to help.

    3. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I lived and worked through the 1998 Ice Storm. The power outages were mainly in the country and since I lived in the city I had power and could walk to work. I can’t recall exactly but the federal govt didn’t close down but many depts were down by 50% or more personnel because people simply couldn’t come in. I believe the govt created a special code so people filled out their leave forms and still got paid. I’m not sure about non-govt employees but I think most recognized that it was a once in a life time event.

      1. nonegiven*

        This one year, DH worked from dawn until way after dark 3 weeks in a row. All he and another guy did was call around and find restaurants with power and order food, then they they’d go get it and drive around eleven counties delivering warm food for the construction crews that were in from all over the country to rebuild rural power distribution lines. There were about 100 people in total on the crews. The rural roads were so bad and the trucks so heavy that there were places that they had to push the trucks to the next pole they needed to set with bulldozers.

  3. Anna*

    Right now a wildfire is raging near our main location and all the students were evacuated. Staff have been sent home currently being paid, although that may change depending on how long they have to be out. But our director and HR manager are going to try really hard to make sure the people who can’t work due to the fire are not forced to go through all their vacation, personal time, or have to take unpaid time off.

  4. Woo One*

    I live in the Houston area. I work for a small office of about 12 employees and I believe all are exempt. The Friday before Hurricane Harvey hit, my employer closed the office at noon so that we could all get out and make last minute preparations for the storm. The Monday after the storm had begun to wreak havoc on our region, our office remained closed indefinitely. We ended up being closed all of last week, and we all have been paid our usual salary and were not required to use vacation or sick time.

    This week we went back to work after Labor Day, although anywhere from 50-75% of our staff has been off-site volunteering for Harvey relief efforts. I love that our employer gave us this option as I feel it has been great for morale. We are all expecting to return to normal office hours next week. We haven’t achieved “normalcy” yet and it will probably be a while before we are fully there, but I think my employer handled this situation better than any of us could have anticipated.

    I’ve been watching the Irma forecast and hope that it doesn’t turn out to be as bad as they are saying it will be, but so far it doesn’t look good. :( I hope everyone stays safe and that employers in the area are able to take care of their employees as best as they are able to.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I think that’s extremely awesome that you had the option to go volunteer without getting pay docked!

      1. Woo One*

        Ha, unfortunately not at the moment but we are hoping to grow and add a few positions within the next year or two! :)

    2. Project Manager*

      Yeah, my mom’s office made them take PTO after Ike – the office didn’t even have power; I guess she should have navigated all the downed tree limbs to get into town to sit in a hot, dark office doing nothing – but they did give the week after Harvey paid. Several offices (including my husband’s) did reopen on Thursday following landfall depending on where they were located.

    3. Specialk9*

      My old company gave us paid volunteer days. We had a big emergency management group, so people would use it for FEMA deployments, or locally to volunteer. It was pretty cool.

  5. really loving my employer right now*

    My employer shut down all offices in Houston for the entire week following the storm. Our resiliency team began locating and accounting for all employees on Friday so they could prepare for providing assistance. All hourly employees will be paid for their normal hours. No one is required to use any leave time to cover the shutdown. I was able to evacuate but was not required to attempt to work remotely (even though I did). Lots of survivors guilt right now.

    Employees stuck in locations outside the city were provided funds to help cover their expenses until they were able to return safely. Employees whose homes were damaged or lost are able to apply for grants from the Employee Assistance Program to help with recovery. EAP is also working with them to ensure they’re aware of all resources available to them and providing guidance to avoid scams. Our internal web page has a constantly update page full of information and links to resources. We are having all charitable donations and donations to the employee-to-employee fund matched. Employees can apply to the E2E fund and that is separate from the EAP money they may have already received.

    In short, they’ve been amazing. BTW, I work for a very large bank.

    I have seen reports on the news of employers firing employees for not showing up to work during the storm when doing so would have gone against direct orders from the city and county emergency management groups. I have seen other reports where employees who lost everything have been fired for not returning to work, even though they have no means to do so. I wish they would name the employers so they could be publicly shamed.

    1. azvlr*

      If this is the employer I think it is, one of the first notifications I read said, “NEARLY (emphasis mine) all employees have been accounted for.” Then no update whether ALL employees are safe. Generally speaking I agree that this is an awesome company, but this notification has left me on the edge of my seat.

    2. Specialk9*

      “Our resiliency team began locating and accounting for all employees on Friday so they could prepare for providing assistance. All hourly employees will be paid for their normal hours. No one is required to use any leave time to cover the shutdown. Employees stuck in locations outside the city were provided funds to help cover their expenses until they were able to return safely. Employees whose homes were damaged or lost are able to apply for grants from the Employee Assistance Program to help with recovery.”



    My husband’s job is 100% telecommute – his entire team is distributed. We are just barely in the path and they already called and asked him if he was safe, had a plan for evacuation, and to let him know he will not be penalized if he needs to call out due to the hurricane. He won’t be paid, since he is non-exempt. But he, and anyone needing time off, also won’t get a mark for unapproved absence. Which we are totally fine with. We aren’t likely to be as affected, but I am sure being such a large team there are a number of people in the direct path. I hope they feel better knowing they can leave without getting in trouble, even if it is without pay.

    I am exempt, but not everyone at my company is. Non-exempt employees get up to two consecutive days paid if we are closed due to inclement weather (so, if we are only closed 1 day or a partial day, they are paid for the full day. If we are closed 3 days, they get 2 of those days paid). Inclement weather rarely happens where we are so I think it is a more than fair policy.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I work for a company that’s like that. It’s good.

      Way back in the 90s I worked for another company. A hurricane was to strike Boston – imminent – yet our office didn’t close. I chose to remain home (30 miles away) to protect my home and family.

      They docked me a day’s pay. DUH. It was worth it.

      Now what happened to those that DID show? No, they were not docked. The hurricane struck Boston at around 9:30 am. A few minutes after that they closed the office – AND SENT PEOPLE OUT INTO THE HURRICANE TO TRY TO GET HOME SAFELY!

      not making that up — glad I took the docking… well worth the lost money….

  7. paul*

    We actually had people contacting us because they were told they’d be fired if they evacuated for Harvey or didn’t report to work like normal (since most areas weren’t a mandatory evacuation or were told to shelter in place); I honestly don’t know the laws around that and we’ve been connecting those people to TWC for guidance, but man, those make me livid. Employers that do that put lives at risk and make first responder’s and relief worker’s jobs a hell of a lot harder.

    It’s a damn hurricane. Don’t ask people to report to work the day of or after landfall. Just…no.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      In Boston – when a weather disaster is coming, the authorities declare a travel ban in advance. That way, an asshat boss cannot order his employees in, because their commute to work would be a crime.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      The problem is – if the bosses live in “Executive Luxury Tower” – and walk two blocks to work, they sometimes see “ah – there’s no problem here. After all **I** made it in, I can’t see why others couldn’t.”

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I have an acquaintance like this. Her firm gives her a housing allowance if she lives within a certain walkable radius of the office and she fails to recognize that her situation is quite unusual. I had people over right after Sandy and we were talking about how chaotic it was, and she seriously did not understand why people had to stay home. “Uh… power was out, trains were down.” “So? Can’t they walk?” Sure, honey, sure. I walked 40 blocks to work one morning, but my boss wasn’t about to walk across a river to get to his office.

      2. Delta Delta*

        I worked with someone like this. He couldn’t understand why, after a serious natural disaster, I couldn’t make it but he could. He failed to ac count for the fact that the road going from my house to the workplace no longer existed but the road going from his house to the workplace was unharmed. “I made it, I don’t see why you can’t” was met with a photograph emailed from my blackberry (yay! many years ago!) showing that there simply was NO ROAD. I didn’t get docked that day’s pay, but I didn’t get an apology, either.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Ugh, my bosses at Private Firm were like that. They lived three blocks from work on flat city streets and did not understand why people who lived on hilly, curvy country roads couldn’t make it to the office the same as they did. Then when it was finally brought to their attention, they just humble-bragged about how privileged they must be to be accustomed to such a prime residential location.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Right after Sandy, I met a woman who owned a manufacturing business and insisted her employees come into work the day after the storm and docked them if they didn’t. Even though the bridges were closed and the trains weren’t running. When several of us objected to this, she said, “I’m open, they need to come to work.” Which makes business sense, but when a commute becomes exponentially longer and more difficult, and your business doesn’t involve pushing oxygen into people’s lungs or something, it didn’t make a lot of people sense.

      1. Mike C.*

        It doesn’t even make business sense if customers can’t come in or your logistics are shot because infrastructure is down. It reminds me of those random shops you see open during massive winter storms because YOU HAVE TO BE OPEN OR YOU MIGHT MISS A FEW DOLLARS even though no customers ever come in.

        Even if you completely exclude the human costs, there are massive risks to being open during a disaster. What if it gets out to the media that you heartlessly decided to fire employees who couldn’t make it in?

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Where I live, a small amount of ice and snow shuts everything down because we have absolutely no infrastructure to deal with it. My nail place shuts down. The grocery store shuts down. The pizza place shuts down. If the staff can’t make it and the customers aren’t coming in, they take the hit. I feel bad because people aren’t getting paid, but I also know they’d rather not deal with the dangers of being out on the road and it rarely lasts more than a single day.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I remember an old job I was temping at being open on 9/11. Of course we were over a thousand miles away from NYC, but seriously, the phone only rang twice all day. Nobody came in. Nobody was out around town much either–I went out to get cookies and a special edition of the paper in the afternoon, and the grocery was practically empty. Everybody was glued to the TV.

          It was so quiet that day. Creepy quiet. No planes–they were all grounded. I hadn’t realized how much air traffic we had until we didn’t.

          1. Pat Benetardis*

            I didn’t realize places outside of NYC closed on 9/11. I was in nj and we were already at work when it happened. It was crazy, as people were trying to locate spouses, smoke filled the sky, etc. but we were never sent home. Of course some people left, depending on their personal situation. Nobody actually worked, though.

          2. Paul*

            I worked at a grocery store during 9/11; I was in school at the time . When I got to the grocery after school, it was full fledged panic buying. Kind of freaked me out tbh. I remember thinking if we we under attack so badly that we were getting hit in the rural rockies we were hosed anyway.

    4. Brett*

      When I was working emergency management, we had this all the time in winter storms.

      People would contact us because their employers were threatening to fire them if they did not come into work, even though we had requested emergency vehicles only on the road. Unfortunately, our laws did not give us the authority to ban travel (not even the governor could), so their employers would rarely back off.

      Unfortunately, this did definitely lead to people getting seriously injured and killed.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This reminds me of the letter from an OP who could not go to work because of Sandy, and then her supervisor tried to write her up for an “unexcused absence.”

      This is really awful. Wasn’t a shelter-in-place order issued for Harvey? If so, I bet there’s a legal hook (not that that helps, but your employer’s behavior is really despicable).

      1. paul*

        Oh, my employer didn’t do that; it’s clients we’re talking to that experienced it. My employer isn’t perfect, but our offices in the impacted areas shut down the day before landfall and told employees to stay safe.

        I’ve personally (during pre screening stuff) talked to 300+ people with concerns in that regard this past week.

    6. Kimberly*

      I’m in Houston and would love to know who to never do business with. Hope it wasn’t HEB, Kroger, (Opened limited hours after storm but during flooding, so people could get more food) Gallery Furniture or Hilton Furniture (provided shelter in their stores) Yes, we didn’t evacuate for good reason. Harvey went from remnants of a storm to a Cat 4 in 48 hours and we would have drowned on I45N I10 and 290. (Note almost everyone who died in Houston died in a flooded car). Even with all this destruction the death toll is lower than Rita, which was almost all evacuation related deaths. That is what scares me with the current evacuation in Florida and other states in Irma’s path. I hope they have enough time to get off the roads. Houston was also incredibly lucky – we just had the rain, not the wind. The vast majority of Houston didn’t lose power unless it was shut off due to flooding. We had internet and mobile phones. That allowed first responders, and the Cajun and Texas Navies to rescue flood victims. Rockport, Port A, and other small towns are gone because of the wind.

      I currently have 16 fans crammed into my Prius to take to a home Houston Oasis is cleaning out tomorrow.

      1. Specialk9*

        I think most of them had time to evacuate (at least by the pix of deserted highways), if they had the means and money, and people seemed to be taking it seriously. My friend in Orlando evacuated late, and made it just fine. I’m hoping that was a common occurrence.

  8. OrganizedHRChaos*

    During hurricane harvey most if not all of Houston was under water and we obviously were closed. We paid and are still paying those still out, both exempt and non-exempt along with excusing all weather related absences. We also set up an internal relief fund of $500,000 to help employees affected. We are a family owned company of about 120ppp. We also kept in contact with the 18 new hires that start this Monday so see if they were affected and need assistance. Most of our employees had minimal damage but a few lost everything and we are honored that we are able to help our staff family.

  9. CDM*

    OldJob was closed seven days during/after Sandy due to lack of power. I don’t know what they did for the 30-ish FT staff, but several hundred staff were PT hourly and were not paid.

    My director had been there just three months, and liked to do daily “check-in” meetings with those of us who worked 35 hour weeks PT no benefits. The first day back, he spent ten minutes extolling how amazingly wonderful his wife’s employer was to pay her for the time missed due to Sandy even though she was brand new and PT. I finally broke in and asked: “You’re telling us this why? To make us feel good about working *here*?”

    He couldn’t understand why his staff that was out a week’s pay wasn’t super excited about his wife getting paid for her time off. I was gone 6 weeks later. (this was just the tip of the dysfunctional iceberg)

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      And when is 35 hours per week “part time”? Full time at where I work starts at 30 hours.

  10. JamieS*

    I’m not really understanding the logic behind employers being allowed to make employees use vacation days when they, the employer, closed the office thereby not allowing the employee to go to work. Is there some sort of rationale for that?

    I can see if the office is open and the employee doesn’t want to come in so takes a vacation day but not if the employee doesn’t have the option to come in.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Honestly, I think the logic is my hourly employees are not performing work for me so I don’t pay them just like I don’t pay them any other time they work.

      Or the business is not making any money (and could experience costly damage), so the business can’t afford to pay people they are not legally obligated to pay.

      It’s just putting the business before the employee and not seeing employee safety, satisfaction, and loyalty as a benefit to the business.

    2. Karin Shirts*

      I’m a non-exempt employee which means I get paid hourly. My company is taking our vacation and and paid time off to make up for the missed days even if we don’t want them to I can’t understand how that is legal or right. I would rather keep my time off to use when I want to be off not when the office is closed.

  11. Bored IT Guy*

    One added point to Alison’s advice – If you are a non-exempt employee covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement, there may be some clause in the contract regarding this specific situation. When I was union, our contract specifically said that if the company removed a shift (because the company was closed) within a certain period of the start of the shift, they’d have to pay us for the originally scheduled shift, even though we didn’t work.

  12. anon for this one*

    When we’re expecting weather-related emergencies (smaller scale and less predictable, like snow, not a hurricane), my office tends to have you come in, and then if things are getting bad, they send you home (which means some people commute a distance, and then hit the roads when they’re unsafe). My husband’s office tends to close pre-emptively (which means they sometimes close when it turns out the weather doesn’t really get bad after all). I’m curious as to how everyone’s employer handles this.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Pre-emptively. They are concerned about our well-being.

      They also realize that if you are seriously injured trying to get to work – it’s not good – they have to pay you disability, they have to pay your medical bills (under standard health insurance) – and they lose your services.
      The cost goes up. The morale goes down.

    2. Gaia*

      I really like how my company handles weather related issues like snow. I’ve worked places where people are explicitly told they have to come in if the office isn’t closed, even if it might be unsafe to drive where they are. Here, our weather policy clearly states that no one is to take any risk they deem to be unsafe, even if the office is open and operating as normal. If you don’t feel it is safe to come in, but the office is open, you just take a day of leave.

    3. Horse Lover*

      When the employer decides to close after it’s getting bad and sends everyone out in it–that is always the worst. Sadly, that’s pretty much how all of the places I’ve worked operated.

      I usually just make my own judgement call. If I think I can make it in safely, I go in. If I think it’s unsafe, I call in; PTO available or not. I don’t care, my life is worth far more than my butt warming your seat in the cubicle farm.

    4. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      I work at the corporate office for a large company with offices all over the US. They have flat out stated that the corporate office will never close. Ever. Even during storms that leave an inch of ice on the ground. We are forced to take PTO or go unpaid if we don’t want to risk our lives coming in.

    5. Specialk9*

      They leave it to people’s discretion, but stay open to pinch pennies. (We were open, you made that choice not to come to work.) So the well paid people who can telework don’t take a hit, and the ones who have to come in to get paid… Don’t get paid. But then, the price of disasters are usually paid by the poor.

  13. Gaia*

    I’m not impacted by the hurricanes, but I am impacted by “hazardous” air due to fires nearby (to the point where people were being told to shelter inside and not go outside at all without a properly fitting specialized mask).

    Our office remained open but employees were told to work from home if they could. If they couldn’t, they had the option to come into the office (company provided masks and did the appropriate fittings) or take PTO. We’re back to good air quality now but if it returns, it has been decided to close the office and pay normal wages to those that cannot work from home.

  14. Polymer Phil*

    My company has a policy of forcing hourly workers to either use a vacation day or not get paid when there’s a site closure for severe weather. I always thought this was an obnoxious thing to do, since the policy doesn’t apply to salaried people, and it seems like a way of screwing low-level employees while protecting management. Looks like it’s legal based on Alison’s post. Is this common, or are we an outlier?

  15. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Best Irma-related employer:

    My friend and his wife live in Miami and come from respectively a somewhat wealthy and a WHOA, RICH! family. So when the commercial flights out were all full, his MiL got a private plane to get them.

    Their cleaning lady of 10 years sadly said she couldn’t help them get ready to leave, she had to leave by car which took much longer. Meanwhile, Miami proper is nearly out of gasoline.

    My friend looked at her (funnily enough, the lady’s name is Irma), and said, are you insane, you and your family here are coming with us. Are several plane seats left. And if your family doesn’t take them all up let’s fill the plane anyway.

    AND Irma’s paid as though she is still working; they agreed as long as she helps them like she usually does around their Miami home, it really doesn’t matter where or what she is cleaning.

    1. Gaia*

      That is kind of them to think of her and her family in what must be a very stressful time for them all.

    2. Specialk9*

      That’s wonderful.

      I’m haunted by a newspaper picture of an adult and ~6 year old girl striding through pre-hurricane winds in Miami, right by the ocean. I really hope they live through this storm. (Just cuz the eye is missing them, it isn’t safe there – Irma is the size of Texas.)

  16. No hurricanes, just snow*

    I think it’s craptacular not to pay these employees. Unless you’re a small business who truly can’t afford to, why not extend the goodwill to your employees.

    That being said, I work in the midwest, and we don’t get hurricanes, but we do get the occasional snowmageddon. In the decade I’ve been here, I think the office has been closed twice for snow, and that’s because the state police issued a travel ban. Non-exempt people didn’t get paid, they had to use PTO. And if they were out of PTO, tough potatoes. I don’t agree with that. It wouldn’t have broken our bank to pay them.

    I do recall one Saturday we had some major floods due to rain and no one could get in, so we had to close. The non-exempt people didn’t get paid, even though they had tried to come in. Ugh.

    We are under new management now, so that might change, but it hasn’t occurred yet. We do have people in Irma’s path, so I guess we’ll find out. I hope they are able to find shelter.

    Now if we aren’t closed for weather, and you call off due to weather, you have to use PTO. And even if you are a person with attendance issues, chances are you won’t get written up.

  17. Gaia*

    The best employer I heard of was the cruise line that is evacuating their employees (and family) by ship. A cruise was cancelled, they needed to move the ship anyway and so offered their workers in Miami free passage for them + up to 7 others leaving today.

  18. T*

    I am non-exempt at a non-profit. We are getting paid while closed for the storm. Our PTO is not being docked. They closed early than needed in the week to let us prepare. Love it here.

  19. a girl has no name*

    Nothing to add to the convo about time off and pay since I live in the heartland (no hurricanes-only tornadoes). I just want to tell everyone to be safe, and we’re thinking of you and sending good vibes your way.

  20. Foreign Octopus*

    Please, everyone, be careful and safe.

    I’m watching all of this unfold from Spain and it’s just awful to witness. I have never experienced any type of weather like this. We don’t get extreme weather in Europe, not to this scale, so just do whatever it takes to stay safe.

    Your job is not worth your life.

  21. Beth Anne*

    I work at a restaurant on the water and it’s scary to think I could potentially not have a job to come back to. Not getting paid while we’re closed sucks as well but it’s life.

  22. sunshyne84*

    As a federal contractor we did not get paid. We just switched companies so I was recently paid out my leave balance which covered the last two weeks as I am just returning today. We were given the option to use leave (that we have yet to accumulate), but I didn’t want to. The govt employees got paid. I just applied for disaster unemployment to get the wages I missed.

  23. Coastal Living*

    After Katrina/Rita, most of us were out of the office (and out of town) for 2 – 4.5 weeks. No one got paid for any of those days unless you had vacation to supplement it.

    For Isaac, the office was closed the entire week before Labor Day. We got paid for the entire week, but had to report back to work on Labor Day.

    For Cindy earlier this year, we closed for one afternoon because they were expecting heavy rainfall. We had to use vacation or take leave without pay.

    I didn’t realize that the exempt rule applied to the whole week, I thought it was a daily thing. I don’t think my bosses realize this either. Then again, they treat most of the staff as hourly exempt. (Yes, I know there is no such thing.)

  24. anon, now*

    After Harvey, my employer introduced an independently-managed employee-assistance fund. Employees can contribute money that is pooled so their fellow employees can apply to receive assistance during emergencies. My employer will also contribute to the fund. I feel…..conflicted about this. Employer has not stated how much they will contribute. I work at HQ but we are a retail chain. The employees in our stores are not exactly well-paid. I have to wonder if it would be better just to give people raises, rather than effectively asking low-paid employees to subsidize each other’s emergencies? I think I would feel differently if we all had office jobs. I’d love to hear what others’ experiences have been with this type of employee emergency fund.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      My large employer has such a program entirely funded by employee contributions including a regular paycheck deduction you can opt in to. If you do opt in, you get a fancy button to wear on your ID badge, so it’s kind of a peer pressure thing in my opinion. The thing is, to actually receive financial assistance from the fund, you have to prove your indigence. So while the disbursements are anonymous, I doubt many employees actually receive anything from it unless they are somehow truly and sustainably (? probably the wrong word) down and out. And in fact, the fund is so rich (in the mid 6 figures) that each year a committee decides how to deal with the abundance of money by awarding half of it to … something that benefits the organization (think expansion or new wing or maybe equipment for a department). This program is highly touted, but I personally would rather have lower prices in the cafeteria or clothing allowances even.

    2. Chicken Superhero*

      My large intl retailer did the same. It strikes me as weird too that they are asking employees to subsidize each other’s disasters. To be fair, the company put in $1M to the fund. But, I mean, at that level that’s not that much. I personally save the company a multiple of that every year. So I go back and forth.

    3. KellyK*

      Yeah, I’m not sure either. The company not saying how much they’ll put into it is kind of a red flag. I mean, they might not be able to make the same contribution every year or promise far in advance, but they should at least announce their current contribution. If they’re putting a decent amount of money into it, they might be able to provide emergency help more effectively than by giving raises, because emergencies don’t happen every year (at least not usually).

      *BUT* having an emergency fund that’s partly or mostly covered by your employees is no excuse for underpaying people.

  25. Jess*

    I work for a company that is based in the Midwest but has satellites across the country, including areas affected by the wildfires. We’re able to work from home due to air quality, though if we didn’t have an at-home setup we probably would have to take PTO. That was the case during record snowfalls.

    Incidentally, the midwest office historically refused to let us close for snowfall, not understanding the differences between Pacific Northwest infrastructure and Midwest infrastructure. It was only when a higher-up happened to be in the PNW during a “blizzard” that they realized how much we truly shut down. After that, the local office heads have had control.

  26. JAM*

    There are days when I say “Really!?” because there’s a lot of snow and we are still open. But when Harvey hit we closed our office, even though it was in the clear because we knew people couldn’t commute safely. We’re just now requiring people back in the office, with the exception of the three people who sustained damage. During the Ferguson protests in St. Louis we used our car service for employees who took public transit to the affected zones until it was safe and even shut down an office location ahead of protests for a day. We even have a time code for these kinds of emergencies so we all keep getting paid. In a crisis, they treat us like people and not managers of policy and it matters.

  27. LizM*

    I worked in retail in Denver. One year we had an epic snowstorm (airport closed for the first time in 30 years, all highways in and out of the city were closed for several days, gas stations were running out of gas, etc.).

    Magically, the mall was still open and I was still expected to come in, and when I tried to call out, was told it would be considered an unapproved absence and I’d be written up. We could only have 3 write ups a year, and I already had 1 for a bout of the stomach flu (yes, I was written up for not getting pre-approval for that), so I dug out my car, and took an hour to drive the 5 miles to my job. The only thing my manager said was to remind me of the dress code, and that my shoes were too skuffed.

    After all that, I worked for 1 hour of a 6 hour shift, only to be sent home because we didn’t have enough sales to justify the number of people we had on the floor.

    I wish so much that I’d had enough money or the economy had been good enough for me to tell my manager exactly how I felt at that point.

  28. Cajun Lady*

    When we flooded last year my company paid everyone at our location for the week and told us NOT to come in at all. It was coded as natural disaster. We all worked that week but not our real jobs. The employees that flooded (myself included) worked on gutting our homes and the ones that were lucky went house to house and helped. It was a real team effort. The last thing anyone needs to worry about in a dangerous weather situation is if they will get paid or not.

  29. Kaden Lee*

    My company’s corporate office is in Houston. After Harvey, they sent out a mass email that all employees in the affected area would be paid for a full 40 hour work week (unless they worked more than 40 hours in which case they’d get what they worked) and offering pay advances for anybody needing to replace a house or car or major property.

  30. Biff*

    In at least some states, if you are scheduled to work a shift, and the employer cancels it within a certain time frame, they are required to pay you for it. I believe this is true in Oregon, Washington and California, at least in some municipalities. So please do check your LOCAL laws.

  31. XK*

    Our non-profit was closed over a week due to Harvey, but we were all paid, and not docked any days. The tough part about Houston is that it is so large, with such varying neighborhoods.. I think it’s good when businesses can make the call themselves on when to re-open. Some places will need at least another week, while others were back up by Monday.

  32. Becky*

    I know one of our offices in TX was closed just after Harvey, but I don’t know how or if it was compensated. I do know they kept in contact with everyone affected to make sure they were safe.

    My company has an office in Nepal and when they had that terrible earthquake a few years ago our office closed, made sure people were safe, covered accommodations if they were needed and even made internal recovery loans.

    Then there is the story of Sandy– our HQ is in Jersey City. The offices are on the 20th floor of a high-rise. We had backup generators for the servers housed there in case power was out…but in the planning stages no one thought about how you would get the diesel fuel up 20 flights of stairs with put power. After the danger passed, but before power got restored they got some healthy strong employees to help get the diesel fuel up to the generators.
    They moved the servers to a different location after that.

  33. Workaholic*

    My employer has an office in Houston. They put those employees displaced with nowhere to go up in a hotel and everybody got paid their regular pay even if they were unable to work.

    They also purchased quality face masks for everyone working in the northwest offices due to smoke from all the fires.

  34. Anon and Agog*

    My employers expected everyone to swim to work on Monday morning. While Harvey was still flooding.

    People with good employers, please post something on the AAM LinkedIn.

  35. Elizabeth West*

    Somebody mentioned tornadoes–in 2009, we had a super derecho (a landlocked storm with gale-force winds) that hit our area one morning in May. I drove to work and it was so black out all the streetlights were on (scary). The storm hit here around 8:30 and spawned 39 tornadoes, one of which hit our work (OldExJob). Look it up on Wikipedia- May 2009 Southern Midwest Derecho.

    We had two buildings–the office and one plant, and the other plant across the road. Part of the roof was peeled off the other plant and rolled up in a giant ball of metal. It looked like a colossus had spit out a piece of gum into the shiny wrapper and dumped it beside the building. There was insulation everywhere. Some of the letters of the company name were sucked off the office/plant 1 building and we never did find them. A tree was snapped in half, the power was out, and a semi-truck trailer parked at the dock had fallen over. It even moved a guy’s pickup from his parking place out into the road. Didn’t flip it–just moooooved it and left it facing the other way. o_O People’s car windows were broken (not mine; I was lucky). One of the maintenance guys was out in the dump truck, and he said he got caught in it and the damn wind lifted the truck up off its back wheels and he nearly peed his pants, he was so scared!

    Some of the employees went to help clean up the water and insulation and get tarps, etc. The phone still worked so I had to answer it–people were going, Why is my fax not going through? Well, we just got hit by a tornado. OMG are you okay, yes we’re fine, etc. The rest of us got nothing done. The power came back on later that afternoon, and finally my bosses let us go around 4:30. I was exhausted.

    Most of the time, we don’t have derechos, and this one was abnormally large and fierce–so much so that it actually coined a new designation of super derecho. That didn’t exist before this storm.

    Usually, we have tornadoes spawned by supercells. They are unpredictable, and employers have to deal with the aftermath, if employees have been affected. There isn’t much you can do until it’s already passed except have a disaster plan AT work. They have a statewide tornado drill once a year, and most businesses I’ve worked for with disaster plans do a drill along with it. The city tests the sirens once a week during spring and summer (unless it’s actively storming, so they don’t freak people out). Every Wednesday, ten a.m.

    And flooding. Lots of flash flooding around here, but that’s also very unpredictable. We just don’t have much call to evacuate–the ice storm was an exception and not everybody had to.

    1. Chicken Superhero*

      I experienced a derecho. Most scared I’ve ever been. The air was shrieking out through any crack in the building it could find, the sky was a boiling green purple, and transformers blew, making it literally look like an alien invasion with gunners shooting from the ground. Utterly terrifying.

  36. Katriona*

    When Sandy hit I was working at a sporting goods store (readers in the northeast might recognize it as the one you “gotta go” to). I called out the next day because… honestly, I just didn’t feel like going in and I wasn’t being paid enough to bother. Turns out I made the right decision, because the store didn’t have power either. But since there was a theoretical chance the power might come on that day, and some customers might decide they needed some soccer cleats or whatever badly enough to drive around fallen trees and debris to come buy it, management refused to close the store. I heard later that my co-workers who did show up spent the entire day sitting in a circle on the floor in front of the doors, because that was the only spot in the building that got any light from outside. If I had to sit around with no power all day, I’m glad I got to do it comfortably on my own couch.

  37. Lumos*

    I work for local government and I’ve been activated for the response so I am not allowed to leave and keep my job. The storm just shifted west again and we’re anticipating our worst case scenario. One of my co-workers who was activated just evacuated so that her family was safe, even though it might cost her her job. Right now, I have to work overnight tomorrow and I’m somehow supposed to report Monday when Irma is right on top of us, so I plan to ask how they want me to handle the fact that I might be stuck wherever I am.

  38. Lady at Liberty*

    Ugh, during Sandy (officially known as “this beyotch Sandy” at my former employer) they opened the office when the MTA had shut down buses and trains, then promptly closed the office at 11 AM when conditions worsened. But if you couldn’t make it in in the first place, you still got docked a day of personal time. First of all, why are you knuckleheads opening when you’re, like, four blocks from a creek? Second of all, how exactly did you expect your employees to get there? The buses that weren’t running? The trains that weren’t running? The cabs that would have been hard to come by and cost the entire day’s pay to get?

    So glad to be shut of them.

  39. DCGirl*

    My previous employer, located in Washington, DC, had to be open any day that the New York Stock Exchange was open. I had to go to work in some truly awful snowstorms because the weather wasn’t that bad in New York so the NYSE was open. On the flip side, we closed for Tropical Storm Sandy, which flooded lower Manhattan and closed the NYSE, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky in DC. It made no sense.

  40. Anonymous in Florida*

    Living in Central Florida here. We got a company wide email stating we would be closed Monday due to Irma and we wouldn’t be paid for this day. If we want to be paid, we must use PTO.

    A co-worker who works a 2nd job at a national chain restaurant was written up for calling out on Saturday night so she could get ready for the storm.

  41. SchoolStarts!*

    I feel for all of you who have terrible employers and for those of you who are simply fretting at home waiting for it to be over.

    During the Ice Storm of 1998 in Montreal, my employer shut us down for one day (as per the City’s instructions as everything was covered in ice and the ice could fall down in large sheets) and we were paid. Had it gone to two days or more…I’m not sure how generous they would have been. We were a small firm!

    My friends down in Old Montreal, where there are shorter buildings, they were told to come in. And they did…under duress. They were not happy…

  42. SchoolStarts!*

    I just remembered: we had serious flooding here in Canada’s capital region just this spring. The government offices on the Quebec side were closed for two days to keep people off the roads so emergency and army vehicles could go around more freely. We offered the same for our office for the first day, and only if truly needed for the 2nd. But was it paid for the fed employees? I think it was.

  43. Kathlynn*

    Best wishes for everyone here, whether you are facing forest fires, tornadoes or hurricanes. It’s not a safe summer to be in North America

  44. WillowSunstar*

    This makes me very glad I live where there are no hurricanes to deal with. However, if there is snow, and it is bad, they will close the office or delay start time. But it takes a major blizzard for that to happen. I think they pretty much rely on everyone either working from home or using PTO when possible for weather issues.

  45. HR in Tysons*

    Fortunately we do not have any Florida employees.
    And for better or worse, a few of our Houston employees were stuck in Boston during Harvey. The company is covering their hotels for the entire time.
    For those who were still in the Houston area, overall they were lucky. A few employees have sent emails saying that they need a day off for cleaning up. As I am the one tracking PTO, I am not using their vacation time for cleaning up. However, if someone is claiming clean up at Thanksgiving, I will be a little suspicious.

  46. Sofia*

    I am in Houston and our office officially did not close at all after Harvey. The building was on the higher ground and the owners live next door, so they could get it. No one else could get in on Monday, and some people could not get in all week. Couple people lost their houses and cars to the flood. We are all exempt in the office, and non-except in the warehouse.
    None of use are getting paid for the missed time, since the office was officially open. But they are cheapskates overall already.

  47. tony*

    i work for a company inside of a navy base has a contractor our company gets paid pre quarterly they mad us take 17 hours with out pay do to hurricane Irma and my ? is are they aloud to do that even do they have already being paid but don’t want to pay us for ..of course if they don’t pay that just a fat bonus check for them

  48. Janice in FL*

    I’m a non-exempt employee in FL as well. The facility that I work in closed Mon & Tuesday due to Irma. They’re paying us for Monday but told us we have to use PTO for Tuesday.
    There was no work from home option, or option to work if able to. Even their automated hotline stated they will be closed.
    So of course we’re upset, especially the people who has no PTO left.

  49. Karin Shirts*

    Can an employer require a non-exempt employee to use their paid time off or vacation pay if the office is closed due to a hurricane? I know the words can they legally take our time if we don’t want to use it for the two days that my office was closed and no one was allowed to work?

  50. Karin Shirts*

    Can an employer require a non-exempt employee to use their paid time off or vacation pay if the office is closed due to a hurricane? In other words can they legally take our time if we don’t want to use it for the two days that my office was closed and no one was allowed to work?

  51. Jacqueline Diez*

    I am an exempt employee, normally working around 55 hours per week, my employer is asking me to work more than those 55 hours per week, so I can “pay” for the hours that I didn’t work after Irma, because they paid my full salary. Is this legal?

  52. Greg*


    I work for a company that delivers frozen/fresh food to grocery stores, my title is Route Sales Rep. I’m a salaried employee and we usually work M-F. During Hurricane Irma we were obviously not able to work Monday due to it just recently passing us. We came back on Tuesday and were told it was mandatory to work Saturday now as well. Should I be paid for Monday thru Saturday (6 days)? I got my paycheck and I was only paid 5 days, my full salary. Just curious if I should’ve gotten paid for Monday as well seeing that’s one of our usual business days.

    Thank you!

  53. Rebecca Sepulveda*

    I’m paid hourly and overtime has to be approved so I’m unsure if that means I’m an exempt or non exempt employee. Anyway, I’ve had to take a pto for the two times the office was closed due to the past nor’easters, I only get two weeks of pto for the past 11+ years of working at this company. I have this suspicion that my co-worker was paid for the past closure.
    I don’t know what to do and how to go about this.

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