Pay depends on status, initiator in weather-related absencesHurricane Sandy took its toll on businesses along the East Coast. Rain and high winds forced companies to close offices and stores, and prevented employees from getting to workplaces that remain open.
By: By Katie Loehrke/J. J. Keller & Associates Inc., Superior Telegram
Hurricane Sandy took its toll on businesses along the East Coast. Rain and high winds forced companies to close offices and stores, and prevented employees from getting to workplaces that remain open.
A weather disturbance such as a hurricane or snowstorm — winter is just around the corner — brings up a common and important business question: Must employers pay employees for weather-related absences?
For an hourly non-exempt employee, the answer is pretty simple. Hourly employees must be paid only for the hours they actually work. If they don’t work, they don’t get paid — regardless of whether the employee was ill, out for personal reasons or if the company was closed.
It gets trickier with exempt employees. Exempt employees are paid a guaranteed weekly salary, and the Department of Labor is very particular about what deductions can be made from their pay without jeopardizing the exempt status. Depending on the circumstance, however, a weather-related absence may be one of the allowable deductions.
Absence occasioned by the employee
If the business is open but the exempt employee doesn’t want to risk driving in the inclement weather to get to work and performs no work that day, this can be considered a “personal” absence, an absence for reasons other than sickness or disability, and can be subject to a deduction for a full day. An employer cannot deduct from an exempt employee’s salary if the absence is for less than a full day.
by the employer
On the other hand, if the employer shuts down the business due to weather, rendering the exempt employee unable to work that day, the employee must be paid. This is because the absence is imposed on the employee when the employee is otherwise available to work.
In either situation — regardless of who initiated the absence — the employer can deduct the absence from a leave bank, such as vacation, paid time off, and so on, and this is true for a full or partial day’s absence, except in California, where mandatory vacation use is not permitted when the absence is occasioned by the employer. If the exempt employee does not have any time remaining in a leave bank, the employer must pay that person the full salary if the absence is for a partial day.
Katie Loehrke is a human resources subject matter expert and editor with J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. For more information, go to www.jjkeller.com and www.prospera.com.