Facebook pixel

Bad Weather and Pay Practices: Should workers be paid if they can’t report for work in a storm?

Tuesday January 26th, 2016

Estimated time to read: 1 minute, 30 seconds

Bad Weather and Pay Practices: Should workers be paid if they can’t report for work in a storm?

Severe weather can have businesses grappling with two crucial questions: Should we close our doors? And, should we pay our employees if they can’t safely make it in to work?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the answer to the second question often relies on the answer to the first.

Most employers know that the rules for nonexempt employees—that is, the vast majority of the workforce that is subject to the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the FLSA—are fairly straightforward: Pay them for the hours they worked. Anything more than that is a matter of company policy.

Where things get complicated, however, are with exempt employees, including supervisors and salaried workers.

If an employer remains open for business during adverse weather, employers may make deductions for full-day absences from the pay of an exempt employee who chooses not to report for work for the day, and treat any such full-day absences as being for “personal reasons.” Doing so does not violate the FLSA’s “salary basis” rule. However, if an exempt employee is absent for one and a half days due to severe weather, the employer may deduct only for the one full-day absence—and the employee must receive a full day's pay for the partial day worked.

If the employer closes operations due to severe weather for less than a full workweek, an exempt employee must be paid “the full salary for any week in which the employee performs any work without regard to the number of days or hours worked,”the FLSA regulations state, because “deductions may not be made for time when work is not available.”

During office closures due to inclement weather, a private employer may direct exempt staff to take vacation, leave-bank deductions or leave without pay without jeopardizing the employees' exempt status. (Since the FLSA does not mandateemployer-provided vacation time, there is no prohibition againstan employer giving out vacation time at the outset of the year and later requiring that the time be taken on a specific day.)

An exempt employee who has no accrued benefits or a negative balance in the leave bank still must receive the employee's guaranteed salary for any absences occasioned by the employer. When the office is open, however, an exempt employee who has no accrued benefits in the leave bank does not have to be paid, and may be placed on leave without pay, for the full days he or she fails to report to work due to severe weather.

When the exempt employee's absence is for less than a full day, payment of an amount equal to the employee's guaranteed salary must be made even if the employee has no accrued vacation or other leave benefits.

Employers have some options when it comes to severe weather and paying employees. The first concern should always be on the safety of the employees who are traveling.