Last year’s hurricanes served as reminders to us all about the importance of crisis management planning complete with examples of what to do—and what not to do. Remember the Pizza Hut manager who threatened to punish employees who evacuated for too long during Hurricane Irma? Well, Pizza Hut isn’t the only one revisiting policies on how to handle employees in natural disasters. A proposed ordinance went before Miami-Dade County in Florida that would prevent employers from retaliating against employees who evacuate under county orders. Under this proposed ordinance, if a non-essential employee complies with county evacuation orders during a declared state of emergency, employers may not withhold wages, demote, or terminate the employee for not working. Penalty for noncompliance will start with a base of $500. According to the county’s code, essential employees are those who are “critical to the performance of the employee’s department or agency’s mission during disaster situations within Miami-Dade county.” This proposal also narrows the essential employees to those employed by specific employers like hospitals and health care providers, public and private utilities, and government agencies.
Other companies like Starbucks have already stepped up without ordinances to offer pay to employees who were not able to work due to evacuation. Whether or not your county prohibits retaliation against county evacuations, your company should revisit the issue. Experts expect more counties in natural disaster prone areas to follow in Miami-Dade’s footsteps.