Most downtown businesses staying open during Republican National Convention

10:24 PM, Jul 30, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Based on a preliminary survey of 138 downtown businesses, the vast majority say they will be staying open during the Republican National Convention.

The final results of the survey, which is being conducted by the Tampa Downtown Partnership, should be released next week.

Meantime, the expected mixture of traffic, protesters and road closures has many business owners asking questions about everything from their liability to if they need to pay employees should they choose to close for the week of the convention.

Holland & Knight partner Bill deMeza, who specializes in employment issues, answered a few of the more commonly asked questions for 10 News on Monday.

Can employers tell their employees not to come to work and then not pay them during the convention?

"Certain categories of employees you can. The staff employees for example, the hourly employees the law requires that they be paid if they actually work, so no work no pay. But it's more complicated for executive employees as to whether or not you should pay them or not so we've been advising our clients out of an abundance of caution just to pay them their regular salary for that week," deMeza said.

If closing for the week can employers require employees to take vacation time?

"That's kind of a gray area under the law it's difficult to get a clear answer on that (but) because it's only a week and kind of the secondary purpose is to keep up the morale of the people because you want to run the business after this week is over the advice we are giving is just go ahead and pay them their regular salary for that period of time."

Is an employer liable if something happens to an employee while driving to work or while taking lunch?

"Generally the employer is not responsible for people coming into or leaving work. What they do on their own time is their own business essentially. But it's tempered by the fact that if you absolutely mandate that they come in, if they can later claim that they thought they were going to lose their job because of it, that may be a more difficult situation, but typically not.

Can you be fired for not coming to work during the convention?

"Employers ask if somebody is needed at work and I tell them to come in to work and they don't come into work can I fire them and the answer is in most cases yes. It's your business, you are entitled to have, to insist that people be there when you need them there."

The GOP convention, which is expected to bring 50,000 people to town, is scheduled to begin on Aug. 27.

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