Inclement Weather and Payroll

With much of the country digging out from major blizzards, employers have many questions regarding payment for employees during , and reporting time pay. Last week www.humanresourceblog.com was inundated with questions from employers regarding these timely issues. The same rules apply for blizzards, thunderstorms, power outages, dust storms, mudslides, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

 

Every employer must consider a number of factors in deciding whether to close the business during inclement weather. Factors to consider include demand, providing a needed service to the community, potential loss of revenue, cost of continued operations and worker safety.

 

State laws regarding business closures during inclement weather vary, but in most states, the relevant statute is the federal FLSA, the Fair Labor Standards Act. Under the FLSA, hourly employees need to be paid only for hours worked. If the business is for the day, and hourly employees stay home, they are not entitled to any payment for the day. A generous employer may allow workers to use a vacation day to receive payment for a “”, but there is no law that the employer must do so. The same rules apply to non- salaried employees.

 

Different rules apply to exempt employees during a business closure. Under the FLSA, an exempt salaried employee who is ready, willing and able to work (and has worked at least a few minutes during the week) must be paid his or her usual salary each day, even if the employer has no work for the employee. In practical terms, this means that when the business is closed due to inclement weather, the exempt employee must still be paid for that day – unless the exempt employee indicates that he or she is not available to work on that day.

 

In addition, an exempt employee who does any work at all during the day, even making business calls from a cell phone or checking her email from home, must be paid her entire salary for the day. Therefore, an exempt employee who stays home on a snow day but does an hour or two of work, is entitled to her entire salary for the day.

 

There is an exception under the FLSA when the business is closed for an extended period according to the HR advisors at SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management. This sometimes occurs in the wake of a natural disaster like a flood, or severe thunderstorm that causes an extended . An exempt employee who does no work at all during the payroll week need not be paid for that week. This is true, even if it is the employer’s choice that the worker does not work that week. Therefore, a business that is shuttered for an entire payroll week need not pay exempt employees.

 

 

Business Open during Inclement Weather

When the business is open during inclement weather hourly employees are entitled only to payment for time actually worked in most cases. Generally speaking an employer can discipline an employee who fails to report to work as scheduled during inclement weather (although, depending upon the circumstances, employers may decide to be more lenient.) There are some exceptions under various state laws. For example, Delaware recently passed a law that an employee who stays at home when the governor has declared a state of emergency need not be paid for the time missed, but cannot be disciplined for the absence. The law went into effect in October 2010.

 

Special rules apply in many states when an hourly employee reports to work but is sent home early due to inclement weather. Check back next week for more on reporting time pay laws in the various states. 

 

When the business is open, any exempt employee who reports to work must be paid. However, an exempt employee who does not report to work due to inclement weather is not available for work. This can be treated as a day off for personal business under the FLSA, and the exempt employee need not be paid for the day. Many employers are surprised to learn that under the FLSA, an exempt employee who takes a full day off work for a reason other than sickness or disability need not be paid for that day.

 

Again, an exempt employee who works any portion of the day, even a few minutes, even from home, is entitled to his or her usual salary for the day. In some cases, the employee can be disciplined for not reporting to work as expected, but must still be paid.

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Thoughts on “Inclement Weather and Payroll”

mo

February 13, 2011 at 6:35 am

My boss threatened to fire all who doesnt come in to work due to inclement weather (like this blizzard)..so if there is another blizzard whoever CANNOT get there by any means will be fired….is this legal??

–Arkansas

Amelia

February 13, 2011 at 7:34 am

Hi mo! This is not very wise, it may not be ethical, but it is legal in Arkansas. An employer can treat a weather-related absence like any other unexcused absence, and discipline the employee. Some states, such as Delaware, do not allow the employer to discipline a worker for absences if the governor has declared a state of emergency. Unfortunately, Arkansas does not have such a law. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Sharon

December 7, 2011 at 3:06 pm

The plant where I work had an ammonia leak and they made us keep working in it until the floor started caving in at the freezer. They then shut the department down and we are laid off indefinatly. Is the company responsible for paying us or do we have to rely on unemployment? Thank You.

Diane Winton

June 29, 2014 at 12:04 am

I live in Arkansas, I was terminated back in Feb 2014 for several days missed due to inclement weather. I worked second shift 2:30 pm till whenever sometimes till 2 am. I am single and my brothers and dad work away from home or don’t live close enough to help me commute during bad weather. I was part of the union teamsters as well. Normally we have mild winters but this year was an exceptional one. I had 3 letters of proclamations from the Gov. Of Arkansas declaring the county I live in as a disaster due to power outages iced over roads. All the public schools in 4 counties were closed not counting the college in the town in which I worked. I fought thru the union with no luck of getting my job back. No unemployment either. I have filed many appeals still no benefits. As far as job, well that’s funny too no one will even consider it because I was terminated from this job. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Amelia

July 5, 2014 at 10:27 am

Diane, our suggestions mostly revolve around you moving forward with finding a new job. Part of this answer is not what you want to hear, but the truth is often unpleasant. Every Arkansas employee is responsible for getting himself or herself to work, regardless of the weather. Generally speaking, unless the business is closed there are no “snow days” from work. Sadly, this is true, even if the Governor has issued a travel advisory. (Only a few states have laws that prevent an employer from firing workers who miss time due to inclement weather, and Arkansas is not one of them.)

This can lead to employees doing “whatever it takes” to get to work during bad weather: owning a 4-wheel drive vehicle, staying with friends who live near work a few days or even staying in a motel close to work the night before a big storm. Many employers would say that an employee who relies on others to get her to work in bad weather is not acting as a responsible adult. So yes, the employer was justified in firing you, even though it was a harsh lesson.

Moving forward, how you present this to future employers is the key to getting your next job. The average employee in the U.S. is fired at least once in his/her life, and manages to find another job at some point. First, don’t volunteer the information that you were fired. (You’ll be surprised how often the question is not asked in interviews.) Second, if you are asked, say that you “made a mistake” and were “laid off for missing a few too many days of work.” Then quickly add that you have corrected the problem and intend to never miss work again. Never, ever say anything bad about a previous employer because it makes you look like a negative person. Don’t try to justify your actions–no employer wants to hire someone who can’t get herself to work. Follow that strategy, stay positive, and you will find another job in time.

Looking to the future, you may want to move into an office job where the business is more likely to be closed during inclement weather. However, again, be aware that transportation to work is the employee’s responsibility and if the business is open, you need to be there on time.

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