Blizzards, flooding, tornadoes - parts of the country have been slammed with bad weather recently. What should you do if inclement weather shuts down your business or makes it impossible for employees to get to work? How should you handle absences and tardiness when employees are late or can’t get to work at all due to bad weather? Do you have to pay employees when you send them home early because a blizzard is moving in? Here are some tips, originally posted in November 2013, for addressing inclement weather situations.

Bad Weather Absences and Tardiness

Generally, it’s up to your company to decide how to handle weather-related absences and tardiness. Private employers may determine whether such absences and tardiness will be considered unexcused or excused, what the proper call-in procedures are and if employees may make up the missed time on another day that week. Of course, if you have employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement or an individual employment agreement that addresses inclement weather situations, you’ll need to abide by the applicable contractual provisions.  

Pay Concerns for Time Missed Due to Inclement Weather 

Pay issues related to inclement weather days are, in many ways, dependent on your company policies as well. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), you don’t need to pay non-exempt employees for time not worked, meaning you don’t need to pay non-exempt employees for time missed due to weather-related reasons. This applies whether your business completely shuts down for inclement weather, or if it remains open and individual employees can’t report to work.

Of course, your company may choose to pay non-exempt employees under inclement weather conditions, perhaps when your business sends workers home or closes completely. Alternatively, you may choose to allow or require employees to use vacation or other accrued paid time off to receive pay during inclement weather days. Such pay policies go above what is legally mandated for non-exempt employees so your company should decide in advance how it will pay employees when weather interferes with your business operations. 

Exempt employees, on the other hand, can’t have their salaries reduced “for absences occasioned by the employer” so if your company closes due to bad weather for less than a full workweek, you must pay exempt employees their full salary for that week. Even if your business stays open but an exempt employee fails to report to work due to the weather, you need to be cautious about salary deductions. Under the FLSA, if an exempt employee misses an entire day of work due to adverse weather conditions when the employer is open for business, the employer may lawfully deduct one full-day’s absence from his or her salary. Employers may not, however, deduct pay for partial-day absences. In addition, in today’s business environment, many exempt employees may be able work from home on bad weather days thanks to technology such as remote access to computer systems, cell phones and call forwarding, email and other telecommunication devices. If an exempt employee is able to work remotely, you should not deduct pay even if inclement weather keeps the employee out of the office.

Adopt an Inclement Weather Policy

Advance planning will help you avoid the last minute uncertainties of managing absences and pay issues when the weather turns sour. Decide ahead of time how you will address the following:

  • Who will decide if/when your business closes due to inclement weather? Is the decision contingent on any specific factors, such as community declaration of a snow emergency, shut down of the public transportation system or accumulation of “x” inches of snow?
  • How will you communicate a business closure/snow day to employees - will you use a call-in hotline? Text messages? A phone tree? Television business closure list?
  • Are there essential personnel who are expected to report to work even if the rest of your operations are closed?
  • Can employees work remotely and if so, what are your expectations for them to do so when inclement weather prevents employees from working in your facility?
  • What is your call-in procedure if an employee can’t make it to work due to the weather?
  • Will you excuse employees’ absences and/or tardiness that are caused by bad weather?
  • If you shut down or send employees home due to adverse weather, will you pay non-exempt employees for the missed time?
  • May/must non-exempt employees use vacation time or other accrued time off to get paid for time missed due to bad weather?

Establish an inclement weather policy now, before it is needed, and let your employees know how these issues will be handled. A good policy communicated to employees will help reduce everyone’s anxiety when the cold and snow blows in.