What do you pay when a snow storm hits?
This winter has been one for the record books, and with nearly two months of winter left to go there is a good chance that companies will be faced with this question. Fortunately, two Labor Department opinion letters help clarify the confusing issue of how to treat the hours that EXEMPT employees miss because of inclement weather. It is important to note that while opinion letters don’t carry the weight of law, courts are deferential to them and they provide an idea of how the Labor Department might rule in similar circumstances.
If the Workplace Remains Open
If the workplace is OPEN during inclement weather and an exempt employee misses work for his own (non-illness) reason, a full-day deduction from the employee’s salary can be taken. Additionally, the employer can require the employee to use vacation time or other accrued leave to cover the time off.
NOTE: You can deduct only full-day absences from exempt employees’ salaries. Docking pay for partial-day absences could destroy the person’s exemption. An exempt employee who shows up for part of the day should be paid for a full day, regardless of how long employee is there.
If the Workplace Is Closed
Organizations always have the option of closing their doors during inclement weather. If the workplace is CLOSED, exempt employees can be required to take vacation time or use other leave, but you can’t insist on leave without pay.
NOTE: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t require employers to provide vacation time. Employers are free to administer leave programs in any nondiscriminatory way they see fit. Employers may charge time off as leave even in amounts less than a day as long as the employee’s salary remains the same. The key is that the employee’s salary can’t be affected.
What about non-exempt employees?
Of course, the rules are different for non-exempt (hourly) employees. Generally, if a non-exempt employee does not come to work for whatever reason, the employer does not need to pay the employee. If the workplace is closed an entire day due to inclement weather (or other emergency), the employer does not have to pay the non-exempt employees. However, in this situation employees are missing work for reasons that are not their fault. Employers should consider paying employees for the day or part of the day. This gesture cements relationships and communicates effectively that the employer is committed to its employees’ well being.
If an employer closes the company mid-way through a day, employees must be paid for hours worked. In some States, an employer must pay employees a minimum number of hours if they have reported for work – be sure to check the regulations for your particular State.
It is wise for employers to develop a policy that covers handling employee work hours and pay in the event of bad weather or other emergencies. An inclement weather policy should cover:
- What constitutes an inclement weather day,
- How employees will be paid,
- How work responsibilities will be covered,
- How employees will be notified, and
- Guidelines for when an employee cannot make it to work because of bad weather.
A good policy makes the facts known so that employees know what to expect when inclement weather or other emergencies occur. It also provides managers who must make the decision whether or not to close for inclement weather, guidance for their decision making.
Are you hesitant when it comes to navigating FLSA and other federally mandated rules and regulations? Strategic HR understands your uncertainty. Ask us for assistance for any of your benefits and compensation needs. Please visit our Benefits & Compensations page for more information about our services.