Employment Law Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law and HR

Aug 15, 2017

Q&A: Make practical preparations for August 21 solar eclipse

Safety and Health 

Question: We’re going to allow our employees to watch the upcoming solar eclipse in our parking lot. We’ve purchased eclipse glasses for everyone. Can we require employees to sign a waiver of liability in order to participate? What else should we be thinking about in preparing for the eclipse?

Answer: A liability waiver is unlikely to do any good. If this is a company-sponsored activity, on company property, during regular working hours, then employees who burn their retinas looking at the sun without proper protection will almost certainly be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. A more worthwhile approach is to educate employees on how to safely experience the eclipse. NASA has a web page on how to view the 2017 solar eclipse safely, which includes links to lists of authorized providers of eclipse glasses and viewers. You should hold a mini-training session for participating employees before the event. In addition to distributing eclipse glasses, you may also want to prepare homemade pinhole projectors so people who tire of looking up at the sky can look down to see the moon’s shadow as it passes across the sun.

Areas in Oregon and Idaho that are near the path of totality are bracing for severe traffic jams, overloaded cellular networks, and shortages of basic supplies as hordes of people get on the roads to find the best place to view the eclipse. It’s difficult to know whether the dire predictions will prove true. If you’ve decided to keep your workplace open on August 21, you may want to have contingency plans in place. Tell employees to fill up their gas tanks and check local news broadcasts for traffic updates before leaving home so they’re not stranded for hours trying to get to work. You should also remind employees of your call-in policy. In terms of payroll practices for those unable to work during the eclipse, you should treat it the same as you would a snow day or other inclement weather. See our Model Policy, “Inclement Weather Policy” and our January 19, 2017, article entitled “Snow days cause payroll conundrums.” 

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