Do I Have to Pay Workers When We’re Closed for Weather?

Startups and small businesses in the Greater Boston area have been repeatedly faced this winter with the prospect of closing down and/or asking their employees not to come into work. However, founders and managers may not be sure of whether they have to pay their employees when the company closes for winter storms. Employees who are paid on a salary basis and are exempt from overtime requirements generally must be paid their full salary for the pay period regardless of whether the company closes for snow or employees are asked not to come into the office, unless the employee misses the entire pay period. Otherwise, employers risk jeopardizing the employee’s overtime-exempt status by failing to pay the minimum weekly salary necessary to qualify. However, employers can charge salaried employees who choose not to come in due to weather (if the company remains open) their vacation and PTO time for days missed; if the employee does not have enough accrued time, they must be paid their normal salary. Of course, if a company wants to charge salaried employees vacation and PTO time for missing work for snow, it’s best to have that policy from the outset, rather than springing it on employees when the situation arises. Hourly employees generally need only be paid for the hours they actually work. However, many northeastern states require that employers report some minimum number of hours (varying by state) if an hourly employee actually reports for work, even if the workplace is closed or operating at a limited capacity. Northeastern states have a number of labor and wage laws related to weather-related closures, so companies located in those states must be mindful of not only federal regulations but the state’s specific requirements (as northeastern states are far more mindful of the snow!) Employers must be mindful of employers (particularly hourly employees) who decide to telecommute in the event of severe winter weather. Generally speaking, work performed remotely must be compensated at the employee’s normal wage or salary, even if the employer does not request that the employee work remotely. So companies must decide, if they close due to snow, whether employees will be permitted to work remotely (and thus be entitled to pay).

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