With another January snowstorm hitting the U.S., employers from the Rockies to the Midwest to the Northeast are experiencing record low temperatures and inches and inches of snow.  Storms like these often cause employees to call off work, and can prompt businesses to close down for days at a time. 

You might be wondering: Do employers have to pay their employees when the office closes for bad weather? What laws should employers know about? 

Weather closures implicate four main legal considerations: 

  1. Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) 

For non-exempt (hourly) employees, the FLSA only requires the employer to pay for time the employee actually works, even if the employer voluntarily closes its doors for bad weather. However, state and local laws may require pay in certain situations.

For exempt employees, the FLSA generally requires the employer to pay full salary when they work any portion of a workweek. However, the FLSA allows the substitution of PTO for regular wages, as long as the exempt employees receive their fixed weekly salary.  Once an exempt employee has exhausted available PTO, the employer must still pay the employee's regular salary unless no work is performed for the entire workweek.

  1. State and Local Law Requirements - "Show-Up" Pay

In some places, an employer must pay employees for a minimum number of hours when they report for work and are sent home early. These are sometimes called "reporting-time" or "show-up" pay laws, and a number of states have them, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.  Some of these laws only apply to certain industries. Others don't require payment when shifts are cancelled for a snowstorm, flood, or state of emergency. Employers should familiarize themselves with the laws that govern their workplace. Also, keep in mind that certain states, such as Delaware and Pennsylvania, prohibit employers from disciplining or terminating employees who are absent during a declared state of emergency.

  1. Predictive Scheduling Laws

Predictive scheduling laws typically require employers to provide advance notice of employee work schedules and timely notice of any changes. These laws exist in New York City; Seattle; San Francisco; Emeryville, California; San Jose, California; and the District of Columbia, among other places.  However, like "show-up" pay laws, the details of each law vary and some have exceptions for events outside the employer's control.  For a survey of Predictive Scheduling Laws, please click here.

  1. Employment Policies for Snow Days

Employers can develop policies to handle employee work hours in the event of an emergency (such as a snowstorm).  This is typically called an "inclement weather policy" and can be very helpful in these situations.  For example, how will employees be notified if the office is closed? How will workers be compensated (if at all) during the office clousure? Can employees utilize PTO during the closure?   

With spring weather still months away in many parts of the country, now is the time to familiarize yourself with your Inclement Weather Policy or have it reviewed for compliance.

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