Let’s Not Make Adverse Weather Adversarial

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I live in Pennsylvania and thankfully we haven’t had the snow that our neighboring states in New England have. But listening to traffic snarls, school closings, etc. while updating a client’s policy manual got me thinking—has anyone updated their Adverse Weather and Office Closing policy and procedures?

Over a decade ago, this was a pretty straightforward issue: you can’t get to work, so you might have to take time off if the office was open. Now things have changed. With mobility and technology, you can possibly “work from home” more easily (depending on compliance regulations). And there is heightened awareness of how we get paid (if we work at home) and if we should be paid (if we can’t get into work).

There are some easy steps to clarify these issues:

 

1. Know how your employees should be paid

Employees eligible for overtime (non-exempt) are usually paid hourly. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) employers are only required to pay non-exempt employees for the actual hours they perform work.

However, some states (such as California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island) have “report-in pay” laws that guarantee the employee some amount of pay if they report to work as scheduled only to be told to go home. You should check whether your state has similar laws (as the list above is not comprehensive).

Employees who are excluded from overtime pay (exempt) are paid a salary. Generally, an exempt employee is paid if the office is closed for the day due to inclement weather. If the exempt employee worked a partial day and is sent home, the exempt employee is paid for the whole day. Consult the FLSA for periods longer than one day.

 

2. Have a straightforward method to determine if your office will be closed

To avoid confusion and missed communication, follow a local, state or federal closing policy that is announced and can be found easily. This prevents people from trying to come in because they are uncertain. For example, if state offices/government offices are closed, then your office is closed.

 

3. Who gets paid if the office is closed?

In addition to my description in item #1, decide if your policy is to pay everyone when the office is closed. If you pay everyone when the office is closed, how would you handle someone who decides to work from home, even for part of a day or just to answer emails? Non-exempt employees may get paid for the day off according to your policy and get paid additional for work the employee does while at home. If you pay employees for the day  when the office is closed, management should know whether or not they want employees to work from home and realize the additional pay.

Some possible solutions:

  • Don’t pay for the day off if your office will be closed. Address in your policy how employees can determine if the office will be closed. If employees start into work and/or work part of the day, then you have pay issues to resolve.
  • You could let employees work from home and ask them to prepare (when possible) for working from home if inclement weather is being forecasted.
  • Pay for office closing on that day. Clearly communicate to employees if they are expected to work from home.

 

4. Who gets paid if the office is open?

If an employee works from home because they could not get to the office, they will get paid. Hourly, non-exempt employees get paid for the time worked. Salaried, exempt employees, if working for any part of the day, get paid for the whole day.

Your policy should state whether employees can use their time-off in the event they can’t get into the office. For some employees, you can also offer them the option of making up the hours.

This is just an overview. This blog post is for informative purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Please consult experts, such as a human resource consultant or attorney, to be aware of federal, local and state regulations and exceptions.

Mary Dunlap, CFP®
Mary Dunlap Consulting
mary.mdunlapconsult@verizon.net
Pottstown, Pa.

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