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We Had to Close our Business Due to Inclement Weather. Do Our Employees Need to be Paid?

Winter is in full swing, which means for those of us in the northeast, snowstorms are inevitable. The safety of employees and clients is paramount, which occasionally may require the unexpected closure of your business.

Non-exempt employees that are paid on an hourly basis are only required to be compensated for the hours they perform work. You may provide non-exempt employees the option to use any of their available paid time off or allow them to make up the time, though this is not required, and the time not worked due to an office closure does not need to be paid, provided the employee was notified in advance of the closing that they do not need to report to work. In New York State, employees that report to work and are sent home early must be compensated for at least four hours of work or the number of hours in the regularly scheduled shift, whichever is less. New York State employees covered under the Hospitality Wage Order must be paid for at least three hours or the number of hours in the regularly scheduled shift, whichever is less, if sent home early.

Should your organization choose to allow employees to use paid time off or make up time for severe weather closures, the policy should be consistently applied to avoid claims of discrimination.

Employees that are classified as exempt must be paid their full salary in any work week when work is performed. The US DOL Wage and Hour Division cites a provision for exempt employees when it comes to deductions from wages. The law states in part that if an exempt employee is “ready, willing and able to work, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available.” When a business closes for less than a full week, the exempt employee does not have the option to work, and must therefore be paid their full salary.

If employees have the capability to perform work remotely, employers may set the expectation that employees are to work from home during severe weather events. Non-exempt employees who work remotely in such situations must record the time and be compensated for all time worked.

Next Steps

It’s always best to proactively prepare for these events to avoid confusion in the moment; now is a great time to establish your inclement weather policy. It is also a best practice to provide a method of communication that employees can use to confirm if the office is open or closed. For example, consider setting up a voicemail message during inclement weather to inform employees if the business is open or closed.

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HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.