Living in Florida, we all know we get a five-month yearly hurricane season. However, we seldom have to worry about it, since destructive storms within our state are few and far between. September 2017 was different. Not since hurricane Andrew in 1992, had Florida been hit as hard as what we experienced with hurricane Irma. And although our own Tampa Bay area received a weakened storm, Key West and other Floridians weren’t so lucky.
For many of us, this meant flooding, road closures, and keeping our business closed for days (and sometimes, weeks) at a time. When this happens, entrepreneurs are left with many doubts as to how to bounce back. If you made little to no income during recovery, do you have to pay your employees for the time you were closed? What about your monthly bills? How do you keep up with them when your bottom line was adversely affected? All of these answers will depend on your circumstances:
Do you have to pay employees for the time off?
The answer depends on whether your employees are exempt or non-exempt, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
- If you pay your workers an hourly wage, and they are entitled to overtime pay (meaning 1.5 of their regular wage for every hour over 40 hours worked in a week), then they are non-exempt employees.
- If your workers are salaried, and making over $455 a week, they are not entitled to overtime pay, and therefore are designated as exempt employees (exempt from overtime).
You also have to look at other factors: What are your employees’ job duties? Can they exercise independent judgment when performing them, or do they have to rely on rote instructions? Typically, administrative workers will be non-exempt, and professional and executive employees are exempt.
So in a nutshell, you do have to pay exempt employees for the time your business was closed during and after a hurricane. However, you can deduct those days from their PTO (paid time off). As for non-exempt employees, although you are not required to pay them, if it is feasible for you to do so, consider doing what’s best to ensure a continued good business relationship. Things won’t run that smoothly anyway if your employees jump ship as soon as they find an opportunity to do so.
Can I obtain any financial assistance for my business?
Yes. Both FEMA and the Small Business Administration (SBA) offer help to business owners in their disaster recovery efforts. FEMA walks you through the rebuilding process and how to mitigate damages for future events; while through the SBA, you can obtain low interest disaster loans to repair or replace damaged property. Also with SBA, you can request a loan deferment so that you can put your payments on hold while you get back on your feet.
While there is relief available for your business, you must always keep in mind that in order to determine what’s best or required by law, you should always consult with an experienced business law attorney. Hunter Business Law can assess the totality of your circumstances and guide you to the right path. Contact us to schedule a consultation. It’s the first step you can take towards your business recovery.
This Blog was written by Hunter Business Law Founder, Attorney Sheryl Hunter. View her profile HERE.
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