The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the guidelines to be used when deciding to pay or not pay employees when inclement weather occurs, such as heavy snow or other types of disasters.
Non-Exempt Employees Guidelines
Non-Exempt employees are compensated for hours actually worked. Therefore, employers are not obligated to compensate non-exempt employees for work hours missed regardless of the reason. Employers may allow non-exempt employees to use vacation time or PTO time for time missed due to any absence, when employers have such a benefit plan.
Exempt Employees Guidelines When Business Remains Open
Employers may make deductions when an employee is absent from work for one or more full days for personal reasons, other than sickness or accident. (This includes the employee not being able to drive to work.) Thus, if an employee is absent for one or more full days to handle personal affairs, the employee’s salaried status will not be affected if deductions are made from the employee’s salary for such absences. The employee may choose to use vacation leave or PTO leave in such cases in order to receive a full pay check.
Exempt Employees Guidelines When Business Closes Due to Weather
Employers must pay the employee’s normal salary if the employee is “ready, willing and able to work.” Deductions may not be made from salaries for time missed when work is not available, i.e. due to business closure.
When employers have proposed bona fide benefit plans (PTO, vacation, sick leave), it is permissible to substitute or reduce the accrued leave in the plan for the time an employee is absent from work, even if it is less than a full day. This does not affect the salary basis of payment as long as the employee still receives in payment an amount equal to the employee’s guaranteed salary. Thus, if employers close offices due to inclement weather or other disasters for less than a full workweek, an employer must pay the employee’s full salary even if:
- employers do not have a bona fide benefits plan;
- employees have no accrued benefits in the leave bank;
- employees have limited accrued leave benefits and reducing that accrued leave will result in a negative balance; or
- employees already have a negative balance in the accrued leave bank.