Tornadoes. Blizzards. Hail storms. Ice storms. Do I need to continue?
Bad weather is just, well, bad. Not only is it annoying but it can really affect a organization's ability to function, especially if the workplace can’t open or employees can't get to it. But, as explained below, bad weather may not mean that payroll concerns stop being an issue.
Question 1: Must an employer pay employees when the office is closed due to inclement weather?
It depends. Per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-exempt employees (hourly) must be paid for the hours they actually work. If the employee is working at home or at some alternative site, then they must be paid. Otherwise, it is up to the employer to decide if they want to be more generous than what the law requires.
For exempt employees (salaried), the FLSA requires that they are paid for the entire work week if they work anytime during the work week. Otherwise, prorating hours may result in the employee's loss of exempt status.
Lastly, it would be wise to also look at any work agreements, such as employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements, as they may have pay conditions due to inclement weather or similar circumstances.
Question 2: How about if the office is open but the employees choose not to come into work due to inclement weather? Does an employer have to pay the employees then?
The rules for non-exempt employees stay the same and they are only paid for actual hours worked. But exempt employees that are absent for one or ore full days due to inclement weather are considered to be on a personal leave. Because the office is open, but the exempt employee has not come to work, the employer does not have to pay them for the day.
Question 3: What if the employees make it to work but then the weather gets so terrible that the employer has to close the office and send everyone home? Does the employer have to pay the employees for the entire day?
Non-exempt employees will have to be paid for the actual hours worked but exempt employees will have to be paid their salary for the entire day. Please note that depending upon the state, there may be a “reporting pay” or “call in” law that requires the employer to pay non-exempt employees for a minimum number of hours for any day they report to work. Neither Minnesota or Wisconsin have such laws in effect, but some other states do. Employers may need to consult any respective state laws that may apply.
Question 4: Can an employer require its employees to use paid time off or vacation time if the office is closed due to inclement weather or the employee chooses not to come in?
In short, yes. Because many states do not require employers to provide vacation time or paid time off (PTO), employers have options on how they want to handle such time for inclement weather. However, employers should be aware of any mandatory PTO laws to ensure that they do not violate the law by requiring an employee to use their PTO for inclement weather instead of the law’s purpose.
Question 5: The inclement weather caused the employees to take longer than normal to commute to the office. Does the employer have to pay for this additional commuting time?
No, the law does not require the employer to compensate employees for the additional commuting time.
Question 6: Can an employer give more time, either paid or unpaid, to employees so that they can recover after the inclement weather?
Yes, an employer can be more generous and grant additional time, either paid or unpaid, to their employees. The best practice is to set up a system of communication so that absent employees are aware that such time has been granted or set a standard (e.g. if it snows more than 2 feet, then employees will be given a paid day off to take care of their households and personal needs) in the employee handbook and any other document that discusses leaves.
Additional considerations for employers include:
Bad weather is just a fact of life, but it is possible to still comply with the law. With a little bit of planning for foreseeable situations, the biggest question will only be who is going to shovel the snow. Not it!
If you are a Hotline client and would like assistance with your wage and hour issues, send us an email at Hotline@AssociatedBRC.com, and we’d be glad to help.
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