BUSINESS

Bad Weather No-Shows: Must Company Still Pay Workers?

So goes the seasons, so goes the changes in the weather conditions on this side of the pond.

The fact is very soon winter will arrive and with it will come the snow that many people dread.

There is no doubt that apart from being bitterly cold, winter does put a stop to all types of social and economic activities, including school and work.

Now, a question that is asked from time to time is if it snows heavily and one is unable to make it to work because one’s car got stuck in the snow, can a full day’s pay be deducted from one’s salary for that missed day?

According to thehrspecialist.com website, the answer is yes.

bad weatherAnother, what if your workplace closes because of the bad weather? In that case, the website posits that that would be a different story. An employer can’t dock one’s pay, but the employer can request that the person use accrued leave time for the missed day.

The website also cites the Labor Department opinion letters as a response to help clarify the confusing issue of how to treat the hours that exempt employees miss because of inclement weather. It also notes that while opinion letters don’t carry the weight of law, courts are deferential to them and they give one an idea of how the Labor Department would rule in similar circumstances.

Below is a useful lens provided by the Labor Department from which one can directly view the issue pertinent to both questions in the foregoing:

If the office remains open during inclement weather…

According to the U.S. Labor Department, an employee who is absent due to inclement weather, such as because of transportation difficulties, is absent for personal reasons, a private employer may require an exempt employee who fails to report to work to take vacation or make leave bank deductions without jeopardizing the employee’s exempt status. When the office is open, an exempt employee who has no accrued benefits in the leave bank account does not have to be paid (i.e., may be placed on leave without pay) for the full day(s) s/he fails to report to work due to such circumstances as a heavy snow day.

A key point to note here is that an employer can deduct only full-day absences from exempt employees’ salaries. Docking pay for partial-day absences could destroy the person’s exemption. An exempt employee who shows up for part of the day should be paid for a full day, regardless of how long he or she is there.

If the office is closed due to inclement weather…

In a free market economy, companies are free to close their doors at any time, let alone during inclement weather. On this account, companies can require exempt employees to take vacation time or use leave, but they can’t insist on leave without pay.

The Department of Labor notes that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employer to provided vacation time. However, where an employer has proposed a bona fide benefits plan, it is permissible 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, if the employee still receives in payment an amount equal to the employee’s guaranteed salary.

The important take away here is that the employee’s salary can’t be affected.

In situations where a weather closing leaves an employee with a negative leave balance, employers can, at their discretion, grant the leave and allow the employee to make it up later.

The opinion letters remind employers to establish a written policy against making improper salary deductions. For more information (See a sample policy at www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/fairpay/modelPolicy_PF.htm.)

Yvad Billings, Readers Bureau, Fellow

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