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), however, does not stop – even for a blizzard.
Traditional wage and hour principles continue to apply to weather-related absences. Treatment of non-exempt, hourly employees is very straightforward. 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, employers should be aware that some states have laws that require workers to be paid a minimum number of hours in a day. For example, in the snow-packed Northeast, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island all have laws requiring a minimum amount of hours be paid to employees who show up for work.
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, 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.