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January 22, 2016 | Leave a Comment
Regardless where an employer is located, they are bound to deal with some type of inclement weather at some point during the year. As we approach the throes of winter, many employers will be faced with the daunting question of “do we have to pay employees if they don’t come to work when it’s snowing?”. The short answer is, it depends. While all employers will likely say their employee’s safety is paramount, closing up shop each time a snowflake appears isn’t feasible. However, many employees often are unable to make it to work or come in late due to traffic and other headaches caused by the weather.
When dealing with non-exempt employees, employers only need to pay them for the time worked. Often, employers can require the employee to take accrued paid time off to supplement the shortened work day, but the employer has no obligation to pay the non-exempt employee for time missed if PTO isn’t applied. “Unless there is a state law restriction or written policy to the contrary, employers may require employees to use their PTO to cover absences,” said Paul DeCamp, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Reston, VA and former administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.
Exempt employees prove to be a little more tricky, as they must be paid for a full day where any work is performed. Employers may require exempt employees to use available PTO to cover the time missed, but, at the end of the day, should an exempt employee perform any work they are entitled to a full day’s wage.
Employers may rely on employee’s ability to work remotely during inclement weather and it’s important to understand the challenges or risks this presents. As previously mentioned, non-exempt employees are due time paid for time worked, however when those employees work from home, it may be difficult for the employer to verify that Joe Employee actually worked the number of hours they claimed. Additionally, the ability to work from home during inclement weather may impact other areas of accommodations especially those where someone with a serious health condition or work restriction requires working from home. Each situation should be reviewed on a case by case basis, but some employers chose to implement a strict no work from home policy to avoid this scenario.
What happens, if the tables are turned, and the employer makes the decision to close the office, or is forced to close due to unforeseen circumstances (an ice storm knocking out the power for example)? While the company can require employees to take PTO in this event, employers should take into consideration how this will affect overall morale. Additionally, the boss should be cautioned when disciplining employees who don’t make it into work. No company wants to be put in the position of defending their requirement for all employees to come into work and then one of those employees getting into an accident.
There is no one solution fits all and each company will need to evaluate what works best for them and their organization. Whatever the decision, it should be applied consistently and fairly to all employees in similar scenarios. Never fear, the sun will come out tomorrow……….and then we’ll have tornadoes to deal with.
Written by: Bethany Holiday, TotalHR Director, The Cornerstone Insurance Group
Posted in Benefits