It is time to prepare for the possible inclement weather that winter may bring to the Pacific Northwest this year. After receiving many calls during the snow and ice we have experienced in our past winters I realized that many employers may struggle with how to deal with closures or other issues related to inclement weather. The question I heard again and again was, “am I obligated to pay employees during inclement weather if I close the business early or completely or if they are not able to make it into work?”
Although I can’t cover the topic completely, I can provide employers with some basic information. The rules are different for exempt and nonexempt employees.
In some cases an employer may require an exempt employee to use his or her paid time off during an inclement weather day. (Whether this is a sound business practice is another story.) But if the employee does not have enough accrued time off to cover the day, the employer may not deduct from the employee’s salary.
There are instances where inclement weather forces an employer to close a business for an entire week and exempt employees perform no work during that week. In this case the employer need not pay exempt employees.
Under the FLSA, employers are only required to pay nonexempt employees for actual hours worked. Thus, an employer is not required to pay nonexempt employees for non-working time, even if the employee was scheduled to work and was sent home early. Thus if an employer closes early due to inclement weather, the employer need only pay nonexempt employees only for the time spent working.
- How and when the company will notify employees of office closures and early closings related to inclement weather days.
- Whether and how exempt employees will be required to use paid time off during inclement weather;
- Guidelines for employees who are able to work from home (including how to report their time for non-exempt employees); and
- Instructions for employees who are unable to get to work safely.
Keep your employees safe in all kinds of weather!