Is a Company required to pay employees for weather closings?

Last Saturday and Sunday, Hurricane Irma stormed its way across Florida closing businesses, forcing evacuations and crashing power lines. Almost all businesses were closed Friday through Tuesday, and some even longer if power was lost. What are the rules for paying employees when a company is forced to close due to severe weather?

The answer depends on some technical wage and hour regulations implementing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  When an employee misses work due to bad weather, the rules are different depending on whether the employee is classified as exempt or non-exempt.  A non-exempt employee is generally paid on an hourly basis, and they do not need to be paid unless they are working.  So, non-exempt employees are not required to be paid for weather closing days.  The story is different for exempt employees.  They are paid a salary (and also meet the required “duties” rules) and generally must be paid their full salary amount if they perform any work during the work week.  So, if a salaried employee worked at all during the week, they must be paid their full salary, even if the employer closes the business for bad weather.  No deductions should be made from the salaried employee’s pay. There are no Florida state laws that alter these federal rules.

What if the business is open, but an employee cannot come to work due to weather? Non-exempt employees are only paid if they work. A salaried exempt employee who does not come to work may have their salary docked for the missed day (as long as no work was done on that day).  An employer is permitted to make a deduction from the pay of an exempt employee when they are absent from work for one or more full days for personal reasons other than sickness or disability.  If the exempt employee is making phone calls, monitoring emails and/or performing other work remotely, the employer is not permitted to make the salary deduction.

Can a company require a salaried exempt employee to use vacation or PTO days to cover the bad weather days?  Yes, according to the Wage and Hour regulators.  They stated that since the FLSA does not require employee provided vacation or PTO time it is permissible for a company to substitute or reduce the accrued leave in the plan for the time an employee is absent from work, even if it is less than a full day, without affecting the salary basis of payment. However, the employee must still receive an amount equal to the employee’s guaranteed salary.  So, if the salaried employee does not have sufficient vacation or PTO to cover the bad weather days, then the employer can not reduce the employee’s pay.

Consultstu LLC provides fractional HR services to small/mid businesses that lower operational costs, improve business processes and maintain compliance. We deliver customized HR and safety solutions that provide protection from expensive mistakes and strategies to improve workplace results. Call us at 727-350-0370 or visit http://www.consultstu.com

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