Should You Pay Your Employees for Winter Weather Absences?December 29, 2014 - By: Jason Carney
Winter Weather Advisory: The Do’s and Don’ts of Paying Your Employees for Weather-Related Absences
In addition to slick roads and shovel-related injuries, another hazard lurks during each winter storm. Have you considered how closing a business due to weather affects pay? This potential hazard, however, is easily avoided by having a plan in place.
Businesses need to be careful how they pay their employees every day, but particularly so when winter weather is involved. For example, did you know you must pay your exempt employees even if no work is performed on a day the business closes due to bad weather? The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) dictates whether employees are exempt or non-exempt, how overtime is calculated, when you can dock wages and much more. Non-exempt (hourly) employees are typically more straightforward and generally the employer has much more flexibility with their wages. Exempt employees are another story.
One key component of the FLSA prohibits the docking of exempt employee wages for time missed due to a company closure – assuming the employee was otherwise willing to come to work. However, if the business is open, the exempt employee can’t (or won’t) come to work, and NO work is performed by the employee, it is permissible to dock the employee’s wages in full-day increments only. This should only be done when an existing bank of PTO hours has been exhausted and/or the employee has not yet qualified for paid leave under a bona fide time off program.
A bit confused on how to handle your employees’ pay? See below for answers to common questions:
My company closed due to inclement weather, do I have to pay my exempt employees?
- Answer: If the exempt employee is ready and able to come to work but the company closed, the exempt employee is entitled to pay for the time missed regardless of whether any work was performed. The only exception is if the closure spans an entire work week and no work was done during that period.
- Potential Solution: In many cases, the employer can reduce a paid leave bank such as PTO.
There is bad weather in the area and my company did not close, but I have an exempt employee who cannot get to work. Do I have to pay them?
- Answer: If the employee missed work for any reason other than a company closure, the employee can be “docked” for time missed in one‐day increments ONLY, and ONLY if:
- No work was completed on behalf of the company, and
- Employee has either exhausted available time off benefits or is not yet entitled to PTO
- Potential Solution: Generally, the employer can otherwise reduce a paid leave bank such as PTO.
My company closed due to inclement weather, do I have to pay my non-exempt employees?
- Answer: Non‐exempt employees are only paid for the time that they work. If the company is closed and there is no “inclement weather” benefit, the employee does not have to be compensated.
- Potential Solution: In many cases, employers are permitted to reduce a paid leave bank and pay if they choose, or they can give employees the option to go unpaid.
My company is not closed, but I have an hourly employee who refuses to or cannot come to work. Do I have to pay them?
- Answer: Employers can treat this just like any other “call off” or sick time.
As employees watch an approaching storm, much work time is wasted trying to determine if they will be sent home and if/how their pay will be affected. It is advisable to have a communication strategy in place in anticipation of any closures.