For those of us in South Florida, we just braved the first few weeks of school and the associated traffic congestion.  Now we have to prepare for Tropical Storm Erika, potentially Hurricane Erika? While we will know more about the storm’s path on late Friday and early Saturday, it is important to prepare now.  My preparations included making sure I had water and canned food items in my pantry, and getting gas for our cars and generator at 4:30 a.m. today – best to beat the lines!

For those in Human Resources, it is a good time to plan ahead for what happens with employees’ pay if your company’s offices close due to a storm.

Non-exempt, hourly employees:   The Company does not have to pay non-exempt employees for anytime that they do not work because the office is closed due to weather. The Company may permit the employee to use his/her accrued paid leave time (i.e., vacation, sick, PTO) for any days off due to an office closure.  Keep in mind that if the non-exempt employee works from home during an office closure, then the employee must be paid for that time worked. (It is a good idea to remind non-exempt employees about whether or not they are permitted to work remotely under the Company’s policies.)

Salaried, exempt employees: In general, a salaried exempt employee must be paid his/her entire salary for any work week in which he/she performs any work and the employer cannot “dock” the employee for days or hours not worked within that workweek. If the employee does not work at all during the week, then he/she does not need to be paid.

With this in mind, here are the guidelines for pay for a salaried exempt employee in the event of an office closure due to weather:

  • If the office is closed for an entire week, the company does not have to pay the salaried exempt employee for that week.
  • If the office is closed for a partial week (for example, Monday and Tuesday) and the employee works the remainder of the week when the office re-opens, the exempt employee must be paid his/her regular salary for the entire week.
  • If the office is closed for a partial week, the Company can require the employee to use paid leave (vacation, PTO) for the days of the office closure.  Paid leave is not regulated by the FLSA. However, if the employee has exhausted or has not accrued paid leave time, he/she must still received the full salary for the week.

What happens if the office is open, but the exempt employee chooses not to come in to work due to weather, such as flooding in the streets making the commute very difficult?

  • If the exempt employee is absent for one or more full days and does not work remotely, then the exempt employee is considered to be absent for “personal reasons” and his/her salary can be docked for those full day absences.  (If the employee has accrued leave time, the Company can require the employee to use the paid time for these absences)
  • If the exempt employee is only absent a partial day, such as arriving late or leaving early, the Company may not make any deduction from the employee’s salary, but can require the employee to use accrued paid leave time for the partial day absence.
  • If the exempt employee does not come into work, but works remotely from home, then the employee must be paid his/her full salary (no deductions).
  • The Company can require the employee to use paid leave time for any full or partial day absences.  However, if an employee with a partial day absence has exhausted or has not accrued paid leave time, he/she must still receive the full salary for the week.

Stay safe and dry!  Also, check out my colleague Bob Turk’s interview with the Miami Herald about storm preparations for human resource professionals.