I am taking time off this afternoon to watch the solar eclipse. Just because I can! In Atlanta I will be able to see the sun blocked 97% by the moon. Given my age I will not live long enough to see another one come this way. So it is a once in a life time event.
Many of your employees may want to experience it as well. Unfortunately it is on a work day and the requirements of business may not allow the company to shut down to allow employees that experience.
Not required to shut down
Two attorneys for the law firm Fisher Phillips wrote Total Eclipse At The Job: You Need This Advice More Than Ever, an excellent piece that provides very sound advice to employers. They say:
… for those workers forced to work on August 21, you may want to consider organizing an office event during the peak of the eclipse. After all, although the effects of the eclipse will linger for several hours in many areas, the anticipated totality event will last mere minutes. The majority of businesses can spare this brief amount of time for their workers for the sake of office morale.
You may have some workers that have no interest in this celestial event, they can provide the needed back up for some situations.
They point out that “In the vast majority of situations, you have no legal responsibility when it comes to granting time off, and any employees given the day off will receive the benefit as a workplace privilege, not a right.” They do note that someone may try to claim the time off as part of the religion. If you get someone who claims to be a sun worshipper you need to contact your attorney so you don’t mess up the response to this. The likelihood of getting that religious claim is small.
If you get requests for time off you need to handle them as you would handle any other request for either PTO or just time off. If you have employees who just opt to be absent, or they leave at lunch and don’t come back, deal with it as you would in any other situation not involving an eclipse.
I would recommend you read their article for further information, but at the same time don’t get all twisted in a knot about it. It is a very rare event that has been a long time coming to the US.
In the meantime I am going to enjoy it.