The Sept. 11 catastrophe forces a look at a whole set of legal issues with which employers are rusty at best, or unfamiliar altogether. Consider the following:

Reporting time pay

In California, employers must pay employees who showed up for work and could not work due to terrorist activity on Sept. 11, as set forth below.

If you sent non-exempt employees home because civil authorities ordered an evacuation/shutdown, or because of factors beyond your control, such as a building closure, you are obligated to pay only for the time the employees actually worked, if at all.

If the company voluntarily decided to send non-exempt employees home, California's reporting time pay penalty would be triggered. Reporting time pay is owed when an employee reports to work at the regularly scheduled time, but is not put to work or is given less than half the regularly scheduled workday. In this case, you would have to pay for half of the scheduled work hours, at no less than two and not more than four hours pay. Obviously, if you were able to reach any non-exempt employees before the start of their shift to advise them not to report for work, you need not pay them.

Because employers must pay exempt employees for a whole week if they work any portion of that week, you must pay exempt employees if you sent them home for one day due to factors beyond your control.


Technically, California employers are obligated to pay employees on their regularly scheduled pay-days, despite acts of God, war or terrorism. Penalties for late paychecks are up to $100 per employee per pay period plus 25 percent of the wages not timely paid to each employee. However, it seems doubtful that the Labor Commissioner would impose penalties if any employer could prove paychecks were late as a direct result of an unexpected and tragic event, which is clearly out of the employer's control.

Travel time

If a non-exempt employee was on a business trip at the time of the attack, you are not obligated to pay wages for the extra time it may have taken to return home unless the employee was working during that time. However, you must pay non-exempt employees for hours they spent actually working or traveling home, and you must pay exempt employees for the full week if they worked during that week.

California's Labor Code requires employers to reimburse employees for all expenses incurred in performing their duties, such as mileage, travel, and meals. Employers should be prepared to pay all necessary expenses for the employee to return home, even if the expenses are unanticipated.


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