With winter in full swing across the country, many owners and managers want to know if they are legally required to pay an employee when their business closes due to inclement weather.

To begin with, employers should address two questions with their inclement weather policy:

  • How will we notify our employees if the company’s doors will be open or closed?
  • How will an employee be paid if the business is closed all day, or for part of the day?

Below we provide several guidelines to help you determine what your obligations are in accordance with the law.

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Keep Your Business Compliant With The Law

Guideline #1: Non-Exempt Employees – The easiest class of employee to address during inclement weather is the non-exempt or “hourly” employee. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), you are only required to pay these employees for actual hours worked. If non-exempt employees miss work because of bad weather, there is no requirement to pay them, regardless of the duration of the absence. However, if they report to work and stay until a decision about closing is made, they must be paid for those hours at the office.

Guideline #2: Exempt Employees – Exempt employees are a little trickier. An exempt employee is one who earns a set salary that is usually much higher than minimum wage. It is the employer’s task to determine whether or not an employee is exempt, based on salary and job duties. When it comes to inclement weather, exempt employees must receive their full salary in any workweek in which the employee is “ready, willing, and able to work.”

Guideline #3: Paying Exempt Employees When The Company Closes – If the company closes for less than a full workweek, the employer must pay exempt employees their full salary. As far as partial-day closings, deductions are prohibited. Thus, if an exempt employee reports to work for an hour and then chooses to go home because of the weather, or if your organization closes its doors, you must still pay an exempt employee their salary. However, one possible way to circumnavigate this rule is by requiring employees to use their accrued leave time for the missed day.

Guideline #4: Paying Exempt Employees When The Company Remains Open – The law tilts toward the employer’s favor if the office remains open, but the exempt employee can’t make it in due to the weather. In this case, you are not obligated to pay the day’s salary. Beware of partial-day absences, however, when an exempt employee arrives late because of weather-related commuting problems. Under those circumstances, exempt employees again must be paid a full regular day’s pay, regardless of whether management agrees that the situation was serious enough to warrant the late arrival.

Guideline #5: Working Remotely – In today’s business environment, both exempt and non-exempt employees may be able to work from home on bad weather days thanks to remote access to computer systems, cell phones and e-mail. Since you will likely be paying exempt employees anyway, you should take advantage of this option and have workers contribute from home.

Guideline #6: Adopt An Inclement Weather Policy – Having a clearly written policy will go a long way to helping your workplace function smoothly during bad weather. Your practices should be outlined in accordance with the FLSA and any applicable state laws. Some key points to include in your policy are:

  • Can non-exempt employees use vacation time to get paid for missed time due to bad weather, in the same way that exempt employees can?
  • How will you communicate a business closure to your employees?
  • Will employees who are unable to report to work for weather-related reasons be required to work from home?

In general, you should exercise caution in docking the pay of exempt employees who miss work because of inclement weather. Hourly workers, on the other hand, must only be paid for actual hours worked. With knowledge, preparation and communication, both employers and employees will understand the reasons a company will or will not pay employees when the bad weather blows in.

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