Do I Have to Pay Employees During Weather Related Shutdowns?

When inclement weather strikes, employers often grapple with whether to pay employees when the employer shuts down the office or the employee is unable to make it in to work.   In making a decision, the employer must take in to account a number of different factors, including the status of the employee, company policies and local regulations.    

EXEMPT EMPLOYEES…

If an employee is exempt and an employer closes due to inclement weather, then according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) the employee must be paid their full, normal salary if they worked at any time during the week the employer closed the office.  Exempt employees are still willing and able to work despite the office shutdown, so they must be paid like any normal week in which they work.  However, if an exempt employee chooses not to come in to the office due to weather, even though the office has not closed, then the employer may require the employee to use vacation time, paid time off, or other accrued paid leaves offered by the company, assuming the employee is not going to work from home.

NON-EXEMPT EMPLOYEES…

Non-exempt employees, on the other hand, are only paid for the time they actually work.  So if an employer shuts down the office for any reason, including inclement weather, the employer is not required to pay a non-exempt employee for that day because the employee did not in fact work.  An employer can certainly choose to pay a non-exempt employee for that day if that is in accordance with the employer’s policy and they want to set that precedent, but they are not required by law to do so.  If a non-exempt employee decides not to attend work due to inclement weather even though the office is still open, then, depending on the employer’s policies, the employee can take paid time off, or a vacation day, if available; otherwise it can be an unpaid day off.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT STATE & LOCAL PAID SICK LEAVE LAWS!

States and municipalities throughout the U.S. are passing mandatory sick and safety (and PTO) laws like never before.  It is important that employers are aware of paid sick and safe time laws that may also come in to play when there is inclement weather.  For example, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, an employee who stays home because their child’s school has been closed due to inclement weather may be entitled to pay for the entire day under the Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time ordinance.  It does not matter if the employee is exempt or non-exempt, he or she must be paid for that time off if the employee still has accrued and unused time under the ordinance.  Check cities, states and counties where you have employees to ensure there are no laws or ordinances requiring you provide paid time off because of weather related closings or even because of inclement weather.

PROACTIVE HR

While there will always be inclement weather and employee situations that arise due to weather, employers that have clear and distinct internal policies related to paid time off/vacation/paid leave and attendance and that are aware of applicable external sick and safe leave policies will be in a favorable position to quickly and efficiently deal with these situations as they arise.   

If you have any questions regarding how to handle a specific employee situation or if there is an applicable sick and safe time policy applicable to your company, please contact your Thompson Coe attorney at (651) 389-5000 or at myHRgenius@thompsoncoe.com.  You can also find additional information and tips for your company and HR professionals at https://myhrgenius.co.            

 
 

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