Five Rules For Employers During the Next Flooding Event

Don't make your employees do something like this just to get to work.
Don't make your employees do something like this just to get to work. Photo by Doogie Roux

We don't know when it will happen, but it will. In four of the last five years, we have had major flood events, two of which were tropical in nature. And that excludes a couple other storm-ridden days other parts of the country would consider flooding that we just refer to as a "Texas thunderstorm."

Most recently, many were taken by surprise when Tropical Storm Imelda inundated portions of our area with as much as 40 inches of rain, shutting down roadways and stranding motorists on area freeways. Make no mistake, this is the new normal.

When we heard about someone who got trapped in the flooding because they were literally kicked out of their office in the middle of the day by their employer so they could close, we realized employers need some rules going forward in this new age of Houston flooding.

Don't force anyone to work.

Think of this like the law that says you can't fire someone for leaving work to vote. We are all stuck in this mess together. Of course your business is important, but not at the expense of the safety of those who help you maintain it. If you are going to open on a flood day, recognize that you can ask people to work, but you can't force them to buy a boat and paddle their way to the office.

But, don't force anyone to leave either.

OK, so everyone wants to close up and head home on a crappy weather day, but remember that some of your employees simply might not be able to do that. If their only choice is parked on the side of the road waiting for flood waters to recede or sitting in their place of work, let them stay. It's safer for them and more humane of you. Consider if you force people to leave and their cars get ruined in flood waters. Good chance they'll miss work because of it. Be kind and they will remember it.

Recognize that tardiness will happen too.

If someone shows up well after their shift begins, give them a break. Don't stand there tapping your watch or, worse yet, tell them they are in trouble. Maybe you live a block from work or you drive a Hummer, but not everyone is as lucky as you. Cut them some slack.

Be ahead of the weather curve.

One person we know was told the morning of the Imelda's worst day, "Flooding should be over by the time your shift starts." That shift began at 4 p.m., in the middle of the absolute heaviest storms. That wasn't someone being a jerk, it was someone who was ill-informed. We know you likely didn't get into whatever business you are in to be a meteorologist, but it comes with the territory now, especially during hurricane season. Just add it to your long daily list of tasks.

Make the best of it.

Try to remember what it was like as a kid and school got rained out (or snowed out if you grew up somewhere much colder in winter). It can be fun. Order some food — or grab something from a nearby place. Loosen up and let everyone enjoy the time they have to be at work. If they need help getting home or maybe bringing a family member (especially a child) with them, let them do it. Show that you can be understanding and patient when it comes to rough weather. You might even have some fun in the process.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke