With much of the United States covered in ice and snow, many employers are questioning when they need to pay employees who are affected by weather-related disruptions. All throughout the United States employees have been late to work because they were stuck in the snow or their kids’ school was yet again delayed and businesses have had to close completely. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and other state laws, however, do not stop – even for a blizzard.
Traditional wage and hour principles continue to apply to weather-related absences. Employee pay depends on several factors: Exempt or Non-Exempt status, state and Federal laws and company policies. Treatment of non-exempt, hourly employees is fairly straightforward with some exceptions. Hourly workers need only be paid for the hours they actually work. Whether the employer closes the business or the employee is late due to snowy roads, hourly employees need only be paid for the time that they actually work, unless there is a collective bargaining agreement providing otherwise. However, some states have “reporting time pay” or “show-up pay” laws that require non-exempt employees be paid for a certain number of hours whenever the employee reports to work as scheduled, even if no work is available. There is also a variety of other state and city laws which may affect an employee’s pay which require an employer to allow an employee to use paid leave for an absence related to an road snow emergency or school closing. For example, St. Paul, MN enacted a “Sick and Safe Leave Ordinance” that requires employers to allow employees to use paid sick leave to care for family members whose school or place of care has been closed due to inclement weather, loss of power, loss of heating, loss of water, or other unexpected closure. Employers are reminded to check your state and city laws to ensure you are in compliance.
For exempt employees, it matters whether the employer is closed for business or the employee is unable or unwilling to come in because of the weather. If the employer shuts down its operations because of the weather, then exempt employees must be paid their normal salary for the workweek, as long as they have worked one day during the week. On the other hand, if the employer is open for business but the employee elects not to come in because of the storm, then the FLSA permits the employer to treat that as personal time off and to dock a salaried employee’s pay or require that the employee use paid time off. Once again, state or local laws could require more of an employer than the federal statute does, so it is important that employers also pay attention to those requirements. Also, the FLSA does not permit employers to deduct partial days from exempt employees’ wages, so employees must be paid their normal amount even if they arrive late or leave early because of the weather.
With yet another week of treacherous road conditions and at least a couple of months of winter still ahead, many employers are permitting employees to work from home. If non-exempt or exempt employees do compensable work from home, they must be compensated and non-exempt employees’ hours must be recorded in keeping with recordkeeping requirements.
Of course, the law only sets forth the minimum requirements for employers. Employers can always choose to pay employees above and beyond the minimum requirements of the law which can boost employee morale in this dreary winter. If an employer chooses to go above and beyond the law it is important you are consistent with all employees.