By Daniel Stanton

By emergency declaration issued August 18, 2016, the Commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Insurance adopted Emergency Rule 27. Emergency Rule 27 allows the Department of Insurance to suspend certain statutes in the Louisiana Insurance Code and the rules and regulations promulgated under those statutes that may affect families and business affected by the current flood crisis in Louisiana.

While Emergency Rule 27 suspends many provisions of the Louisiana Insurance Code, most of the suspended provisions affect the ability of an insurer to cancel, terminate, non-renew, or non-reinstate a policy of insurance. One of its most significant provisions provides that an insurer may not terminate, cancel, or non-renew a policy of insurance as a result of the “inability of an insured . . . from complying with any policy provisions,” this includes non-payment of premiums. Insurers are further forbidden from imposing any interest, penalty, or other charge as a result of the enactment of Emergency Rule 27. Furthermore, the rule extends to September 10, 2016, any deadline for the submission of evidence or the completion of any act related to any claim for coverage under a policy of insurance made prior to August 12, 2016.

Emergency Rule 27 currently applies to policy holders residing in the following parishes: Acadia, Allen, Ascension, Avoyelles, Cameron, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Livingston, Point Coupee, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Vermillion, Washington, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana. Emergency Rule 27 applies to any policy of insurance in effect as of 12:01 a.m. on August 12, 2016, and will remain in effect through September 10, 2016.

Additional information and a copy of Emergency Rule 27 may be found on the Louisiana Department of Insurance’s website.


By Alan J. Berteau

President Obama has declared 20 parishes in Louisiana to be Major Disaster Areas.  The presidential declaration recognizes the obvious, grim reality of the tragedy in Louisiana, but more importantly enables flood victims in these parishes to apply for federal disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Authority.  A previous article on the Kean Miller Louisiana Law Blog addressed this issue.

While you may obtain financial assistance from FEMA, a federal declaration of disaster does not suspend the payment of your mortgage note, rent, car payments, student loan payments, credit card payments, or payments on open accounts. Many lenders and creditors are offering assistance to victims of the flood but there are five important general rules to bear in mind:

  1. The assistance is not automatic; you must apply for it. If you ignore and fail to pay a debt, you will probably not be able to avoid the consequences of the non-payment later by claiming inability to pay due to flooding.
  2. You should work directly with the lender or creditor on the debt in question. Avoid third-party intermediaries. You and your creditor share an interest in avoiding default on your obligation. Third parties do not share that interest. You need to be sure you know exactly what information the creditor gets from you, and exactly what the creditor is offering to you.
  3. Save all records associated with your request for assistance, including all correspondence, e-mails, forms and, if possible, a log of telephone conversations.
  4. Once you have applied for assistance, do not hesitate to follow up with the creditor on a recurring basis.
  5. You should be sure that you completely understand what your future obligation will be on the debt in question. For example, at the expiration of a grace period, will you owe a balloon payment to cover payments deferred? Will your payments increase in the future to cover temporary reductions? Will your deferred obligation include interest or fees incurred during the grace period? You should get, in writing, from your creditor a clear explanation of what you will owe, and when you have to pay what you owe, after the expiration of the relief period.

Both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have implemented disaster relief guidelines.[1]  You can determine if your loan is a FHLMC or FNMA loan by visiting the “look-up” pages on the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae websites.  To apply for relief, however, you must contact your loan servicer (the bank or other entity to which you make your mortgage payments).  FHLMC and FNMA essentially direct the loan servicer to help you; the servicer will follow that directive. The specific assistance rendered will be decided by the loan servicer. The assistance may include forbearance (i.e., giving you additional time to catch up on late payments), reduction in your payments, and waiver or reduction of late fees, penalties. If the modification to your loan obligation is temporary, you must be sure you understand what your obligation will be upon the completion of that time (probably 12 months, or less).  The loan servicer is obligated to tell you what you need to know.  Your loan servicer is not required to provide you any specific relief; just because a neighbor received help of a certain kind does not mean you will receive the same help.  Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae websites offer an overview of the types of assistance available.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is a government agency which insures millions of home loans.  On August 18, 2016, FHA directed the lenders who hold mortgage notes insured by FHA to help flood victims in the disaster areas:

HUD (U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development) has instructed FHA lenders to use reasonable judgment in determining who is an “affected borrower.” Lenders are required to reevaluate each delinquent loan until reinstatement or foreclosure and to identify the cause of default. Contact your lender to let them know about your situation. Some of the actions that your lender may take are:

  • During the term of a moratorium, your loan may not be referred to foreclosure if you were affected by a disaster.
  • Your lender will evaluate you for any available loss mitigation assistance to help you retain your home.
  • Your lender may enter into a forbearance plan, or execute a loan modification or a partial claim, if these actions will help retain and pay for your home.
  • If saving your home is not feasible, lenders have some flexibility in using the pre-foreclosure sales program or may offer to accept a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

HUD Disaster Resources

Even if your home loan is not owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, or insured by FHA, you should contact your lender to see if it offers disaster assistance. Regions Bank, for example, has announced its intention to assist its customers who were victims of the flood. You can check Regions’ Disaster Resource Center for details. JP Morgan Chase announced that it is “automatically waiving late fees for mortgage, credit card, business banking and auto loans as well as overdraft, ATM and monthly service fees on deposit accounts through August.”  Other banks offering assistance include Whitney Bank and Iberia Bank.

You should assume that your lender or other creditor will offer you some type of assistance if you reside in the disaster area IF you contact the lender and qualify for the assistance. Lenders and other creditors may also offer assistance to individuals who work in the disaster area, even if they don’t live there.  You will only find out the assistance available to you by contacting your lender.

Farmers may be entitled to targeted financial assistance through various disaster relief programs administered by the Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Vehicle lenders are stepping up to offer relief as well.  Toyota Financial Services announced on August 16, 2016, that it is offering payment relief options to flood victims, including extensions and lease deferred payments.  Although we have not found specific announcements from other major vehicle lenders, it is reasonable to assume that others offer disaster relief.

We  have also found no specific announcements of assistance of credit card issuers, but if you anticipate difficulty in staying current on credit card obligations, contact the issuer and ask for disaster assistance.

The LSU College of Agriculture’s website offers an excellent compendium of disaster-related resources and links useful for any victim of flooding.

The Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions Website contains, among other resources, a list of agencies to contact for assistance.  Any third party entity listed on the LOFI webpage can be trusted (notwithstanding my general warning against reliance upon third parties in obtaining disaster assistance).

Your lenders and creditors are generally not required by law to offer disaster assistance. But lenders and creditors want to help flood victims manage their obligations while they cope with the more immediate challenges of safety, food, shelter, electricity, and medical needs. There is no guarantee that you will receive assistance from a given creditor, but you may rest assured you will not receive assistance if you don’t apply for it.


[1] The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”) and the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) are government-sponsored entities which together own or guarantee payment on approximately 60% of the home mortgage loans in the United States. There is a very good chance that your home mortgage note is owned by one of these “government-sponsored enterprises.” The entity to whom you actually pay your note is servicing the loan; it no longer owns the loan, if it ever did.



By Kevin C. Curry and Carey J. Messina

Many employers have a number of employees who were affected by the August 2016 flooding event in Louisiana.  These employers are looking for means to assist their employees in recovering from this significant disaster.  Employers have a number of options for providing disaster relief assistance to their employees.

A number of employers are simply collecting funds internally or raising funds through gofundme™ or similar online fundraising platforms.

These types of internal or private fundraising methods are generally simple to set up and operate.  For tax purposes, these types of fundraising efforts are generally treated as non-deductible gifts to the employees from whoever makes the contributions to the funds.  Generally, true gifts are not treated as taxable income to the employees.  However, under certain circumstances, an employee may not be taxed on payments that are considered “qualified disaster relief payments” received from employers or other sources under Section 139 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Qualified disaster relief payments within the meaning of Section 139 include payments received (regardless of source) for the following expenses:

  1. Reasonable and necessary personal, family, living, or funeral expenses incurred as a result of a qualified disaster;
  2. Reasonable and necessary expenses incurred for the repair or rehabilitation of a personal residence due to a qualified disaster (a personal residence can be a rented residence or one owned);
  3. Reasonable and necessary expenses incurred for the repair or replacement of the contents of a personal residence due to a qualified disaster.

Qualified disaster relief payments do not include payments for expenses otherwise paid for by insurance or other reimbursements.  Furthermore, qualified disaster relief payments do not include income replacement payments such as payments for lost wages, lost business income or employment compensation.  Generally, a qualified disaster includes several types of disasters, one of which is a Presidentially declared disaster.  The August 2016 flood has been declared a qualified disaster in East Baton Rouge, Livingston and Ascension Parishes and several other surrounding parishes.

Often, donors wanting to make gifts to assist in relief situations will want to contribute to a charitable organization to obtain the benefit of an income tax charitable deduction or for other reasons (for example some private foundations or other charities can only make gifts to other charities).  In the disaster relief context, an employer can establish its own charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code to provide qualified disaster relief payments to its employees.  However, this requires the establishment of a non-profit organization that will qualify as either a private foundation or a public charity depending upon the funding source.  Furthermore, the qualification of the organization as a Section 501(c)(3) charity must be recognized with the IRS which requires some time (although the qualification can often be obtained on an expedited basis) and requires some costs to establish the charitable organization.

For those employers desiring to set up a charitable entity to make qualified disaster relief payments and give the donors the benefit of a charitable deduction, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (a Section 501(c)(3) charity) will set up a fund as part of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation which can provide qualified disaster relief payments for an employer’s employees.  This allows an employer to set up a relief fund for which the contributions are deductible without incurring the costs and taking the time necessary to set up its own stand-alone fund.  The fund is administered by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.  Anyone interested in establishing a fund with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation can contact Elizabeth Hutchison at ehutchison@braf.org or 225-381-7080 and can read more information about this option at www.employees1st.org.



By Brittany Buckley Salup

Chief Judge Brian Jackson issued an “Omnibus Order Suspending All Deadlines” for cases pending or to be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.  The Order explains that the court has been inaccessible—a key term in the Federal Rules of Civil and Appellate Procedure—since August 12, 2016 due to historic flooding in the region.  Until further notice from the Middle District, all deadlines and delays in cases pending or to be filed in the Middle District are suspended.  This suspension expressly applies to prescriptive and peremptive periods.  In addition, all pending criminal cases in the Middle District are temporarily excluded from the time requirements of the Speedy Trial Act.

The Middle District’s Order follows similar Executive Orders from Governor Edwards, which suspended deadlines in Louisiana state courts due to flooding.  More information about the Governor’s Orders is available here.

A copy of the Middle District’s Order (M.D. La. General Order 2016-10) is available here.




By Michelle Purchner Cumberland

To many people, pets are considered a member of the family. Losing a pet can be devastating, especially during a major disaster if you are unsure of the safety of your pet.  During the rescue efforts of Hurricane Katrina, many families were saved but had to leave their pets behind as the rescue efforts did not include pets.  Families were ordered to abandon their pets. Television screens carried images of starving dogs, cats and other animals stranded on rooftops, balconies or staring out of windows. Buses and shelters rescuing the displaced families were not allowed to take pets.  A heart-rending example involved one young boy among the thousands who ended up sheltered at the Superdome. When he tried to board a bus to Houston with his small white dog, a police officer had to take the dog away from the boy. Such mournful sights stirred the emotions of the nation. Questions began to be asked. In one press conference, Michael Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was asked by a reporter “What about the dogs and cats that have been stranded?” His response began “They are not our concern.”

This was a horrific situation for many, compounded with losing the family home and everything in it. Thankfully that was recognized by Congress as one of the lessons learned during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  On October 6, 2006, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 (“PET’s Act”) was signed into law, amending Section 403 of the Stafford Act.  The PET’s Act authorizes FEMA to provide rescue, care, shelter and essential needs for individuals with household pets and service animals, and to the household pets and animals themselves following a major disaster or emergency.

The Act requires the Director of FEMA to ensure that state and local emergency preparedness operational plans address the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency.  The Act authorizes the Director to: (1) study and develop plans that take into account the needs of individuals with pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency; and (2) make financial contributions, on the basis of programs or projects approved by the Director, to the states and local authorities for animal emergency preparedness purposes, including the procurement, construction, leasing, or renovating of emergency shelter facilities and materials that will accommodate people with pets and service animals.

States and local governments outside of the designated disaster area may provide help to these animals, and may seek reimbursement for those efforts.  FEMA developed a disaster assistance policy titled “Eligible Costs Related to Pet Evacuations and Sheltering,” (DAP 9523.19).  This policy provides specific guidelines on expenses that are or are not reimbursable to states that expend resources on pet evacuations and sheltering when responding to a disaster.

This week, Louisiana is faced with another national disaster, The Louisiana Flood of 2016.  Thousands of residents across state have been displaced and have required evacuation and sheltering.  Thanks to the PET’s Act, pets are also part of the rescue and families are no longer required to abandon their pets.  Shelters are also allowing families to bring their pets.

As of yesterday, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement, alone, reported to have rescued over 600 animals.  There are also many volunteer organizations on the ground providing disaster relief for Louisiana pets.The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team and the Louisiana State Animal Response Team at two such organizations.  Many of the animals rescued will need to be reunited with their families.

If anyone you know is missing a pet, below is a list of locations that are taking rescued animals.  If you would also like to help out in the efforts to help our furry friends through this crises and separation from their family, please considering helping with their needs listed below:

Lamar Dixon Expo Center, temporary shelter

  • Status: Being used as a shelter for animals and people. Nola.com recently reported that more horses than they able to count have been rescued and are at this location.
  • Location:  9039 S St Landry Ave, Gonzales, LA 70737
  • What they need: Volunteers, hay, buckets, brooms, cleaning supplies, cat litter, plastic litter boxes, pet food for dogs, cats and horses.
  • How to help: Drop off donations to be delivered there at 921 Rue La Cannes Drive, Luling, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Donations can also be hand-delivered.

Companion Animal Alliance, Baton Rouge’s city animal shelter

  • Status: “The animals here at CAA are safe and sound,” reads a recent Facebook update, “but many owners and pets have been displaced. Our shelter took in 90 evacuee animals and are expecting more.”
  • Where: 2680 Progress Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70807
  • What they need: Leashes, pet treats, pet food, dog toys, cash donations, temporary fosters until transportation is available Wednesday, Aug. 17
  • How to help: Donations can be made in person or online by clicking here. Donations can also be mailed directly to the shelter.
  • Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter
  • Status: Serving as a back-up site for the LASPCA to manage the number of animals affected by flooding.
  • What they need: Leashes, pet treats, pet food, dog toys, cash donations, temporary fosters.
  • How to help: Donate online. Items can also be mailed directly.
  • Where: Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter, 1869 Ames Blvd., Marrero, LA 70072
  • Livingston SPCA
  • Status: At least 75 percent of pet foster homes, supplies and medicine have been flooded.
  • What they need: Donations and foster parents.
  • How to help: Donate online or go to the PetCo at 1653 Millerville Road, Baton Rouge, on Saturday, Aug. 20, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to donate or sign up as a pet foster parent.

Zeus’ Place

  • Status: Housing more than 60 pets that were evacuated from flooded shelters
  • What they need: Cat carriers, clay littler, square litter boxes, canned cat  and kitten food. Also, fosters or adoptive pet parents.
  • How to help: Drop those items at 4601 Freret St., New Orleans, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m



Members of the Louisiana Army National Guard rescue people from rising floodwater near Walker, La., after heavy rains inundated the region, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Max Becherer)

By Jason R. Brown

If you are one of the many South Louisiana residents directly affected by recent flooding but did not have flood insurance protection for your home and/or assets, be aware that the law provides some limited relief in the form of sales tax refunds.   Under Louisiana law (La. R.S. 47:315.1), residents living in an area determined by the president of the United States to warrant federal assistance can seek a refund of state sales taxes paid on destroyed household items such as furniture, appliances, electronic equipment, etc.  Refunds are not limited to homeowners.  Apartment and other homestead renters are equally eligible.  Eligibility is limited, however, to the actual owner of the property who paid the state sales tax and no refunds are allowed on property for which the purchaser received reimbursement (whether through insurance or other means, including, potentially, assistance from FEMA).

The Louisiana Department of Revenue has issued standard forms for making natural disaster refund claims.  The forms – R-1362 (Claim for Refund); R-1362D (Schedule of Tangible Personal Property Destroyed by a Natural Disaster); and R-1362S (Calculation of States Sales Tax Refund) – must be submitted on or before December 31, 2019.  Form R-1362 must be notarized and form R-1362i should be referenced for instructions on how to complete the three required forms and what documentation must be attached to verify a claim.

Purchases of automobiles/trucks, boats/boat trailers, water/snow skis or similar recreational items generally used away from home are not eligible.  Nor are items that were installed or became component parts of the residence (i.e., lighting and bathroom fixtures, water heaters, hot tubs/spas and wall-to-wall carpeting).  Finally, be aware that eligibility is limited to taxes paid on the destroyed property’s original purchase, not its replacement.

As of today, the President of the United States has declared Acadia, Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Vermillion, Washington and West Feliciana Parishes federal disaster areas.  More are expected in the coming days.  Residents who live in one of these parishes, but did not have flood insurance should consider seeking natural disaster refunds on their destroyed household items purchases.


By Kevin C. Curry

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has granted tax relief to postpone various tax filing and payment deadlines for certain filings or payments that were due on or after August 11, 2016.  The relief postpones the filing deadlines or payment deadlines until January 17, 2017.  Therefore, this extension will include the September 15th deadline for making quarterly estimated tax payments.  For individuals, it will also include the 2015 income tax returns that had not been filed and were on extension until October 17, 2016.  However, the extension does not apply to the tax payments related to the 2015 returns because those amounts were originally due prior to the disaster on April 18, 2016.

Business tax deadlines are also affected by the extension including the September 15th deadline for corporation and partnership returns on extension and the October 31 deadline for quarterly payroll and excise tax returns.

Furthermore, the IRS indicated that they are waiving late deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits normally due on or after August 11th and before August 26th if the deposits are made by August 26, 2016.

Only taxpayers considered to be “affected taxpayers” are eligible for the postponement of time to file returns, pay taxes and perform other time sensitive acts allowed by the extension.  The “affected taxpayers” include:

  1. Any individual whose principal residence, and any business entity whose principal place of business, is located in the parishes designated as disaster areas;
  2. Any individual who is a relief worker assisting in a covered disaster area, regardless of whether he is affiliated with recognized government or philanthropic organization;
  3. Any individual whose principal residence and any business entity whose principal place of business is not located in a covered disaster area but whose records necessary to meet a filing or payment deadline are maintained in a covered disaster area;
  4. Any estate or trusts that has tax records necessary to meet a filing or payment deadline in a covered disaster area; and
  5. Any spouse of an affected taxpayer, solely with regard to a joint return of the spouses.

As of August 17, 2016, the only parishes listed by the IRS as qualifying for the above relief were the parishes of Acadia, Ascension, Avoyelles, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Vermilion, Washington and West Feliciana.  However, it is possible that additional parishes will be added after that date for any other parishes that FEMA adds to the disaster declaration so anyone who believes they were affected by the 2016 flood should verify whether or not their parish has been added to the list of parishes qualifying for the relief by the IRS.

For updates or more information on the IRS tax relief for the Louisiana flood, click here. This page should be updated as the IRS adds additional parishes to the disaster relief.


By Claire Juneau

On August 17, 2016, Governor Edwards amended Executive Order JBE 2016-57 which had suspended the running of prescription, peremption, and all legal delays from August 12, 2016 until September 9, 2016. The amendment to Executive Order JBE 2016-57 modifies the suspension of deadlines as follows:

  • Liberative prescription and peremptive periods continue to be suspended throughout Louisiana until Friday, September 9, 2016.
  • Deadlines in legal proceedings currently pending in state courts, administrative agencies, and boards in Acadia, Ascension, Assumption, Avoyelles, Cameron, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Vermilion, Washington, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana, Parishes, continue to be suspended until Friday September 9, 2016. This suspension includes all deadlines set forth in the Louisiana Civil Code, the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure, Title 9 (Civil Code Ancillaries) Title 13 (Courts and Judicial Procedure), Chapter 11 of Title 18 (Election Campaign Financing); Chapter 10 of Title 23 (Worker’s Compensation); Chapter 5, Part XXI-A of Title 40 (Malpractice Liability for State Services); Chapter 5, Part XXIII, of Title 40 (Medical Malpractice), and Title 49, Chapter 13 (Administrative Procedure) of the Louisiana Revised Statutes. This is a modification from the original Exeuctive Order JBE 2016-57 which suspended deadlines statewide.
  • Except for the suspension of prescriptive and peremptive periods and the suspension of deadlines in the parishes listed above, the suspension provided for in original Executive Order JBE 2016-53 shall end Friday, August 19, 2016. If a party can show an inability to meet the deadlines caused the flooding, the court, administrative agency, or board shall suspend deadlines specific to that matter until September 9, 2016.

A copy of the amendment can be found here: JBE-16-57-Amended-Emergency-Suspension-of-Deadlines-in-Legal-Proceedings

A copy of the original executive order can be found here.

Neighborhood flooded. Sign warns of high water.

By Christopher J. Dicharry

Property taxes in Louisiana are generally based on the status and condition of taxable property on January 1 of each tax year. For Baton Rouge and surrounding areas devastated by the recent flooding that could mean paying property taxes on homes and business property based on the condition of property before the floods.

Fortunately, Louisiana law offers a solution. Historically, Louisiana law had special provisions for the reassessment of flooded property. See La. R.S. 47:1978. In 2005, the Louisiana Legislature expanded this reassessment provision and provided clearer procedures related to the reassessment of damaged or destroyed property. La. R.S. 47:1978.1.

La. R.S. 47:1978.1 requires assessors to modify the assessments of properties that have been damaged or destroyed or that are non-operational or uninhabitable due to an emergency declared by the governor. Gov. Edwards has declared the recent flooding as an emergency. See Proclamation No. 111JBE 2016. Under the law, assessors must recognize damage to land and other property, including buildings, structures, or personal property, such as equipment.

Since the assessment rolls have not yet been certified by the assessors, La. R.S. 47:1978.1 requires the assessors to modify their property tax assessments and delay the certification process, as necessary. The modified rolls will be subject to public inspection for a period of fifteen days once the rolls have been completed. Valuation appeals will have to be filed after shortly after the public inspection period.

It is important that taxpayers with damaged property contact the appropriate assessor’s office so that they can submit evidence of damage, such as pictures and insurance claims. This evidence will then be used by the assessor’s office to determine what adjustments need to be made to the assessment of the damaged property to properly account for the destruction, damage, or other impairment. The assessors in many of the impacted areas have not yet established procedures for requesting and implementing the valuation adjustments required by La. R.S. 47:1978.1. Kean Miller will be monitoring developments related to reassessments and is ready to help taxpayers get adjustments that properly account for all damage from the 2016 floods.

For information or questions about the reassessment law or other tax issues related to the 2016 floods contact the Kean Miller State and Local Tax Team: Chris Dicharry, Jason Brown, Angie Adolph or Phyllis Sims.


By A. Edward Hardin, Jr., Erin L. Kilgore and Brian R. Carnie

As the flood waters begin to recede, and South Louisiana begins to dry out and recover from the recent flooding, Louisiana employers also face recovery issues, including how to address employee needs. Although there is no rule of thumb that applies to all situations, common sense, consistency, and compassion can go a long way. Flexibility, understanding, and empathy for those that have been affected are key. Some employees, even those who were not inundated with flood waters, were likely still affected because of losses sustained by family and friends. And still other employees likely have had difficulty even getting to work and navigating closed streets.

Impact on Duty To Pay Employees: Pay issues will generally depend on an employee’s exempt status under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”); Louisiana does not have its own minimum wage/maximum hours law. There are always exceptions, but if an employee is not an exempt employee under the FLSA, he or she must only be paid for time actually worked. However, time worked includes both hours worked at the employer’s place of business and any hours worked away from the office. If you let them work from home or remotely from a computer or smartphone, you still must pay them for their actual time worked. Accurately tracking worked hours (especially hours worked remotely) is critical.

Exempt employees must generally be paid their full salary for any week in which the employee performs any work. If your business is open and an employee misses work because he or she cannot get to work due to transportation difficulties, flooding issues, or even states of emergency/travel bans, that is generally considered an “absence for personal reasons,” and the employee’s salary may be docked, but only for full-days’ absences during which the employee performed no actual work. Conversely, if the employer chooses to close the business for any reason for a portion of the workweek, it must pay the exempt employee’s entire salary for that week (assuming the employee performed some work during that week). Remember, an employee who works for even part of a day will trigger the requirement to pay the exempt employee’s full guaranteed salary for that week where the reason for not working the remainder of the week was due to a business closure and not personal reasons.

“Volunteer” Hours: If your business sustained heavy damage, many employees may offer to help rebuild and repair. The FLSA requires you to pay your employees for working time even if they volunteer to donate that time or work for free. Businesses should be very cautious about having employees “volunteer” to assist during an emergency. The best advice is to pay for this time. Unless otherwise prohibited by law, contract or your own company policies, you have the option of paying your non-exempt employees at a lower rate of pay for clean-up/recovery work, but they must be paid at least $7.25 per hour to avoid minimum wage exposure; you also must ensure that you properly calculate their overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in the workweek, especially if they work at two different rates in the same week.

Leaves of Absence: Employers may provide employees with periods of unpaid leave to address recovery efforts from the recent floods, but many employees will likely feel a financial strain by any extended periods of unpaid leave. Employers may consider allowing employees to take forms of employer-provided paid leave in lieu of unpaid leave. You must also consider whether affected employees are eligible for FMLA leave (e.g., serious health condition of employee or employee’s child, spouse or parent) or even leave as a reasonable accommodation for employees who are physically or emotionally injured as a result of a catastrophe and their impairment qualifies as a disability under the ADA. An employee may not expressly request either form of leave, but employers must be attuned to circumstances and requests that may trigger follow-up with the employee. For example, if an employee’s absence is caused by the employee’s need to care for a family member who requires medical equipment which is not operating due to a power loss, that likely would be protected under the FMLA. In cases where employers provide employees with extended periods of leave, employers must also be cautious regarding the possibility that the leave may inadvertently trigger COBRA notice obligations.

Employee Assistance Professionals: Finally, in situations like this, when a distraught employee comes to an employer with a personal issue, employer-provided employee assistance programs are invaluable. Employers should not try to act as a counselor or mental health professional because an employer could run afoul of the ADA in these situations. It is best to leave these types of counseling, mental health, and other related issues to the trained professionals, and simply direct employees to resources that may be available to provide appropriate help.

These issues just scratch the surface. The key is to be flexible, exercise common sense, and seek legal help early on if needed so that the issues can be addressed moving forward, not repaired looking back.