As the famous winter song goes, “Oh, the weather outside is frightful. But, the fire is so delightful.”
When the weather is “frightful” in your area and employees want (or need) to stay home, what are your obligations to pay them?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) dictates much of the wage determinations in these situations. However, employers may also have to follow certain requirements under state laws as well.
Under federal law, nonexempt employees are only paid for actual hours worked. Some states, however, such as California and Massachusetts, have “report-in” laws in which nonexempt employees may be entitled to pay if they come to work and are sent home due to inclement weather.
In most cases, exempt employees must be paid their full salary for weeks in which any work is performed. While deductions may be made from exempt employees’ salaries for certain reasons, a business closure due to poor weather conditions is not one of them. Thus, exempt employees would need to be paid; however, they could be required to use PTO (in most states).
If a business closed for an entire week and no work is performed, then the employer would not be obligated to pay exempt employees. If the business remains open during a winter storm, and an exempt employee opts to stay home for personal reasons, the employer would not be obligated to pay the employee. Work done at home would still be considered hours worked.
Before bad weather hits, have safety plans in place. Also, know your obligations under attendance, wages, and recordkeeping policies.
5 tips before bad weather hits:
- Be sure all employee contact information is up-to-date.
- Gather multiple forms of contact information, including emergency contacts.
- Have a notification process in place to announce business closures.
- Train leadership to have protocol in place for communicating with multiple shifts.
- Talk to payroll afterwards to ensure wages and timekeeping records are accurate.
Michelle Higgins is an Associate Editor on the Human Resources Publishing Team and she creates content on a variety of employment-related topics including benefits, compensation, overtime, wage deductions, exempt/nonexempt employees, health and retirement plans, independent contractors, and child labor.
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