In the last year and a half, we’ve had our share of bad weather—at least on the east coast and in the mid-west. In the fall of 2012, folks in New Jersey, and New York, had to deal with Hurricane Sandy—one of the most destructive storms in recent memory. Now business owners all along the eastern seaboard are dealing with a particularly brutal winter. Especially in the South, where drivers are not used to dealing with snow and sleet, winter storms may mean that businesses are forced to temporarily close shop. Not surprisingly, many business owners are wondering whether they are obligated to pay exempt employees for time missed due to inclement weather. So what do you need to know?
When You Close Shop Due to Inclement Weather
If you close your business for only a few days, federal wage and hour law requires that you must still pay salaried exempt employees. With that said, you may be able to require an exempt employee to use PTO. And of course, non-exempt employees are paid on an hourly basis for work performed, so there is generally no obligation to pay non-exempt employees for missed work.
When You Remain Open, But Employees Cannot Make it to Work
If an employee cannot make it to work due to inclement weather, the employer generally has the option to decide whether to pay the employee for that day or not. If the employee is only late, the employer will generally deduct PTO time.
When Can You Treat Time Missed as a Sick Day?
This largely depends on your company policies. The general rule is that time missed due to inclement weather may be treated as a sick day if company policies allow employees to use sick days for personal reasons.
What if the Employee is Working From Home?
If the employee is working, then there is no basis for docking his or her pay. This would be true with regard to both exempt and non-exempt employees; however, as always, its essential to track time actually worked by non-exempt employees.
What Else Should I Keep in Mind?
Be sure to remember that state law may impose special requirements. So before docking an employees’ pay, its a good idea to be sure of what the law allows for in your state.
On a practical level, you should also ask whether its worth deducting pay, or whether, in the interest of employee relations, it might be better to establish a policy allowing for full pay. Either way, its probably best to make your company policies clear in the beginning. This may be something you should consider addressing in your employee handbook.
Where Can I go for More Information?
Jonathan Segal, an expert on employment law issues, offers great guidance on this issue on his blog. Check out his recent posting: Wage and Hour Snowstorms.