Inclement weather is a perfect storm for unusual employment law issues. If the forecast predicts bad weather (and in the Midwest, we know it’s just a matter of time!), read this article to make sure your inclement weather policies and practices are right as rain.
Should my business have an inclement weather policy?
Yes! It is helpful for both the company and your employees to have a written policy outlining clear expectations in the event of inclement weather. Consider adopting policies that explain what employees can expect if you have to close your business for a full or partial day, how you will notify employees of weather-related closures, who will make the decision to close the business in the event of inclement weather or another emergency, and whether employees will be paid for their time off. (Keep reading if you don’t have the foggiest idea about whether to pay those employees.)
You may also want to inform employees who they should call if they cannot safely come to work because of the weather. Your inclement weather policy can also provide safety information for employees. For example, if you work in an office building that has a tornado shelter, inform your employees of its location so they will be prepared when tornado season arrives.
Inclement weather can arise quickly, so having a plan in place is crucial so your employees aren’t left high and dry. An employment attorney can help your business develop an inclement weather policy that fits the needs of your business and complies with state and federal laws.
Employee Pay Issues
Bad weather can put employers in a difficult situation, especially when it comes to paying employees. Consider the following scenario: Brrrrr! It’s a blizzard outside, and you’ve decided to close your business for the day. Do you have to pay your employees who stay home?
Answer: It depends. First, if your policy says you’ll pay employees if the office is closed for inclement weather, you need to do so. If you don’t have such a policy, the answer depends on where the employee’s classification falls under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Non-exempt Employees. Employers are only required to pay non-exempt employees covered by the FLSA for hours the employee actual works. Employers may but aren’t required to let non-exempt employees use paid leave to cover time they were scheduled to work but didn’t work because of weather closures.
Additionally, some states, such as California, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, have reporting pay laws, which require employers to pay non-exempt employees when they report to work but go home early. Employers should also consider these state laws when determining whether to pay non-exempt employees who are sent home because of inclement weather.
Exempt Employees. Under the FLSA, exempt employees must be paid for the whole day if they work any part of the day. And if a business chooses to close its doors because of the weather, the business must pay exempt employees who are ready, willing, and able to work, unless the employee doesn’t perform any work for the entire work week.
Although you may think that your employees are not working because your business is closed, it may not be so simple if employees can work from home. Be careful when determining whether an employee has performed any work at all – an employee who works from home, or even checks his or her work email, is entitled to pay.
In some situations, employers may require exempt employees take paid time off to cover the time a business was closed because of bad weather, but the employer must have a leave plan in place explaining this policy. And, employers should apply their written policies consistently to avoid potential discrimination claims from employees.
Don’t let bad weather cloud your judgment. Talk to an employment attorney to make sure there are no storms on your business’s horizon.