Stormy weather may cause a great strain on a business, for the simple reason that most employees travel to work. Sometimes, weather can be so dangerous – think of a blizzard, hurricane, etc. – that the best decision is to close down for the duration. What are the rules for paying employees in these cases?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the most important law to consider. The FLSA divides employees into two categories, “exempt” (generally salaried professional or administrative employees) and “non-exempt” (generally employees paid by the hour). For more detailed information about the FLSA, click here.
Under the FLSA, exempt employees must be paid their full, regular salary if they perform any work during the workweek. So, if your business does not open for business, or closes early, then the employee must be paid as long as they worked that week (this may include time working from home).
What if the employer remains open and the exempt employee decides not to come to work? You may consent to having the employee work from their home; or, if not applicable/agreed to, the employee may use vacation or other accrued paid time off. If the employee is not working from home and has no paid time off to apply, the employer may deduct a day’s pay. (Note that if the exempt employee actually did come to work, even if arriving late/leaving early, they must be paid for the day).
Under the FLSA, non-exempt employees generally must be paid only for the time they actually work.
Therefore, if you close your place of work, then the non-exempt employee does not have to be paid. If the workplace is open and the employee decides not to report to work, again the employee does not have to be paid. Non-exempt employees may choose to use accrued paid time off if they have any available.
There is an exception to this. Some states have laws that provide that if an employee reports to work, they have to be paid a minimum amount of time if they are sent home. Check your state laws to see if this applies to you.
Review your employee handbook. (If you don’t have one, Click here.) If you do not have a “bad weather” policy” then create one using this information. Keep in mind that what you can do and what you should do may be different. Employers must strike a balance between getting the job done and fairness to employees in times of bad weather.
Photo: Hector Garcia, Flickr