Question: During bad weather there are times when some employees can’t make it in to work or when we close the business entirely for the day. Under what circumstances are we required to pay employees?
Answer: It depends on the circumstances. The rules are different for salaried exempt employees compared to non-exempt (overtime-eligible) employees. Exempt employees are entitled to receive full pay any time you choose to close the business for less than a full workweek, so long as they are willing and available to work. In addition, an exempt employee must be paid for the full day if they do any work, however brief. For example, if an exempt employee stays home due to safety concerns and does some work such as responding to emails or making a few phone calls, you must pay for the entire day of work. Of course these rules only apply if the employee is truly exempt from overtime and meets both the duties test and salary test. For more information, see our Legal Guides, State Laws on the White Collar Exemptions from Overtime and When is an Employee Exempt Under Federal Law?
By contrast, non-exempt employees (those who are eligible for overtime) generally only have to be paid for the actual hours they work. This is true regardless of whether the employee chooses to stay home while the business remains open or whether you close the business for the day. However, there are exceptions. The paid sick leave FAQs for Tacoma, Washington, say that employees may use their paid sick leave to care for a child whose public school is closed due to weather. Also, California allows employees to receive “reporting time pay” if they show up to work for a shift that should have been at least two hours long but you don’t give them at least half of their regularly scheduled hours. If this happens, you must pay for half the usual or scheduled hours at the regular rate of pay, with a minimum payment worth two hours of work and a maximum payment worth four hours of work. A few exceptions apply such as when the power goes out or a natural disaster occurs. See the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) web page on reporting time pay for more information.
In addition to these rules, your inclement weather policy or a collective bargaining agreement may grant employees additional rights. Finally, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for inclement weather and possible work closures. Check out Vigilant’s Model Policy, Inclement Weather Policy for ideas and guidance.