Hurricane Harvey and Workplace Concerns
With Hurricane Harvey and the “unprecedented” flooding top of mind, questions are likely to arise among the workplace. Here, we present answers to questions receiving the most buzz.
Q: How, as an organization, can we collectively help the victims?
With the press coverage of the devastation, it’s only natural that your employees will inquire about how they can help the storm victims. It’s a sad reality that many scams are likely to surface when it comes to providing aid so you want to make sure you are donating wisely.
SHRM has compiled the following suggestions from reporting on previous storms and by organizations in Houston:
- Matching employee donations helps workers take part in their company’s corporation social responsibility pledges.
- After Hurricane Sandy, companies turned to Fundly.com to help employees pool their money and to match donations.
- The American Red Cross has made it easy for individuals to donate small amounts that add up to big relief. Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10. Companies can become corporate partners with the Red Cross, as well.
- Food banks may bear the brunt of relief efforts. It may be better to donate money instead of supplies, as delivery trucks may not be able to reach storm-damaged areas. Feeding Texas is a network of the state’s food banks.
- Diapers are not an item that disaster relief organizations often supply. You can pay for diapers for babies, seniors and others who need them via Texas Diaper Bank.
- If your company has a special interest in animals, consider donating to Austin Pets Alive!
In addition, The New York Times has recommended these local organizations:
- The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund of Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, which is administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation
- Carter BloodCare covers hospitals in north, central and east Texas. To donate, call 877-571-1000 or text DONATE4LIFE to 444-999
- The United Way of Greater Houston flood relief fund will be used to help with immediate needs as well as long-term services like minor home repair. Visit their website to donate or text UWFLOOD to 41444
Q: If a natural disaster strikes in my area, what are my obligations as an employer when it comes to allowing time off?
No matter where in the country your business operates, it’s smart to have a plan in place. If you have employees who have lost homes, vehicles, or other property they may request time off to get back on their feet. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers are not required to give employees time off to attend to personal matters arising out of a natural disaster. However, an employee would qualify if the employee suffers a physical or mental illness or injury that meets the definition of a “serious health condition” and they are unable to perform their job, or the employee is required to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition who is affected by the natural disaster.
For cases that do not fall under FMLA, SHRM recommends offering alternate work arrangements, allowing unscheduled leave and leave without pay, and creating a leave donation program. Additionally, you can invite your EAP provider to the workplace to talk with employees individually about their concerns.