Winter is here. Now is a good time to review the laws and regulations that apply when inclement weather (or other circumstances) causes workplace closures. It’s also a good time for employers to ensure they have policies in place to address those situations if and when they occur.

Paying Employees When the Office is Closed

When the office has to close – whether it be for weather or other unforeseen circumstances – the closure brings up potential wage and hour issues.

Non-Exempt Employees

Non-exempt employees (also commonly known as hourly employees) are paid only for the hours they actually work. Therefore, if they do not report to work, they do not need to be paid for that time. This is true whether the non-exempt employee chooses not to report to work due to the weather or if their employer makes the decision to close the office.

If an employer knows or has reason to know that a non-exempt employee is working from home when the business is closed due to inclement weather, it must pay the employee for the work performed, but only for the actual amount of work performed – not the full day.

Employers who want to avoid this situation should make sure they have a clear written policy in place prohibiting non-exempt employees from performing any work outside of regular work hours or when the office is closed without approval. While an employer would still have to pay the non-exempt employee for any work performed, they would have a basis to discipline the employee for violating policy.

Exempt Employees

Exempt employees – those exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – must be paid their entire weekly salary for any week in which they perform any work, regardless of how many days or how many hours they work during that workweek. Therefore, if their employer chooses to close the office for a day or two due to inclement weather, exempt employees must still be paid their full weekly salary. No deduction can be made for the days that the office was closed.

There are exceptions to this general rule. One such exception, which may apply in these types of situations, is when an exempt employee is absent for personal reasons other than sickness or disability. If the employer chooses to keep the business open during inclement weather, but the exempt employee chooses to stay home (and does no work while at home), the employer could deduct a full day’s pay from the employee’s weekly salary.

Partial day deductions are not allowed. Therefore, if an exempt employee comes in late or leaves early due to inclement weather, he or she must still must be paid for the entire day. However, the Department of Labor (DOL) has stated that employers may deduct from available paid time off in partial day increments provided that exempt employees still receives their full salary for that workweek.

If the employer closes for a full workweek, exempt employees need not be paid their full weekly salaries. This presumes the exempt employee did not perform any work while the office was closed. If, however, an exempt employee performs any work from home while the office is closed – including responding to work-related emails, phone calls, etc. – he or she must be paid.

Not sure whether you have classified your employees properly? Avoid a wage and hour headache by using our Questionnaire to Determine Exempt Status Under the FLSA, which is available for download from our Member Portal.