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Develop Emergency Overtime Policy

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During an emergency, utilities often expend large numbers of overtime hours for employees to make repairs, perform assessments, and many other tasks that are necessary to restore a utility to normal operations after a disaster. It is important to establish a policy related to emergency overtime PRIOR to an emergency to ensure that your overtime costs are reasonable, well documented, and tied to the completion of emergency work. A defined emergency overtime policy can be critical for maximizing cost reimbursement. Detailed documentation of labor costs before, during, and after an incident is important for FEMA's determination of reimbursement eligibility.

Establishing an emergency overtime policy can involve your utility management, human resource officers, payroll staff, emergency management/operations personnel, and union officials (if applicable).

The written utility policy document(s) for overtime should:

  • Detail what is considered overtime. Some utilities stipulate that more than 8 hours a day is considered overtime, while others stipulate that more than 40 hours per work week is overtime. Neither is incorrect, but what is important is that policies that detail what is considered overtime are enacted PRIOR to a disaster event. The policy that details what is considered overtime should be the same policy that the utility uses during regular day-to-day operation.
  • Detail how overtime is compensated (time and one-half or double time). The method of overtime payment calculations is usually tied to an employee's exemption status, compensation, and benefits package. It is imperative that you work with your human resources and payroll staff to ensure that Federal and/or State payroll and compensation laws are followed such as the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Detail provisions for exempt employees' overtime compensation. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, exempt employees (salaried employees) are usually not eligible for overtime pay. However, during an emergency event, exempt employees may be required to work large numbers of overtime hours. Emergency overtime policies should discuss provisions for exempt employees and compensation of overtime (such as overtime pay or compensatory time off) if applicable. If there is a policy in place PRIOR to a disaster, FEMA will reimburse overtime pay for exempt employees.
  • Detail the difference between permanent employees, temporary employees, and seasonal/fixed term employees as applicable.

  • Detail the difference between essential and nonessential personnel. Essential personnel perform disaster-related emergency work while nonessential personnel are sent home or told not to report due to emergency conditions. Once a utility defines the difference, it can include the essential or nonessential designations within personnel job descriptions. In addition to detailing the difference between essential and nonessential personnel, written policies should detail when and how and in what capacity nonessential personnel may be "activated" during an emergency.

In addition to making sure that necessary policy documents are in place, utility officials should familiarize themselves with the basic labor reimbursement guidelines that FEMA uses when determining eligibility. The FEMA labor reimbursement guidelines can be found in the FEMA 9500 Policy Series as Policy 9525.7: Labor Costs, Emergency Work.

To help develop your own emergency overtime policy, please refer to the example policy from DC Water provided in the text box. This type of policy should be part of a utility's emergency response plan.

Example: DC Water Policy
EBMUD policy & procedures

Master Agreement on Compensation (excerpts related to Overtime/Compensatory time) (PDF) (5 pp, 182K) PURPOSE: Article 3 provides the DC Water policy on overtime and compensatory time.

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