Slippery commutes, delayed deliveries, school closings, and a host of HR complications: a child’s winter wonderland can be an employer’s nightmare if you’re not prepared. With temperatures dropping and the risk of snowstorms looming, employers should take the opportunity to brush up on the employment laws relating to winter weather closures. Whether you plan to keep your office open, close early, or shut down on the next snowy day, read on for answers to some common issues employers face during winter storms.

Non-Exempt Employees

Your non-exempt employees should be paid only for hours they have worked; the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to compensate non-exempt employees who cannot work due to inclement weather. This applies whether the employee decides to stay home or if the employer closes; in both cases, the employee must be paid only for the hours worked. Note, non-exempt employees must be paid for work completed remotely even if the employer did not give permission for the non-exempt employee to do so, so it’s critical to communicate your expectations ahead of time.

An exception to this rule is “Call-In Pay.”  CRR-NY 142-2.3 states, “An employee who by request or permission of the employer reports for work on any day shall be paid for at least four hours, or the number of hours in the regularly scheduled shift, whichever is less, at the basic minimum hourly wage.” This would mean that an employee who is called into work and is sent home less than 4 hours after his/her arrival must be compensated for at least 4 hours at the basic minimum hourly wage.

There is also an exception for “on call” time; for example, if your office has lost power due to a storm and your employees are required wait and see if the power comes back on, non-exempt employees must be paid for the time spent waiting, regardless of their ability to be productive during that period.

Exempt Employees

Exempt employees must be paid their full salary if the office closes due to inclement weather for less than a week. Additionally, if the office closes early, exempt employees must be paid for the full day. If the office is open, however, and the exempt employee chooses to stay home due to snowy conditions, the employee must use paid time off. (Are you sure that your exempt employees are classified correctly? Read this article on the 2019 changes to overtime exempt salary threshold.)

Both exempt and non-exempt employees may be able to perform their jobs from home in cases of office closures, but employers may need to rely on self-reporting to monitor how much time was worked. To minimize issues that may arise, it’s important to share your expectations with your staff in advance of a storm. Do you expect them to work from home if the office is closed? Should they refrain from working at home? How should they track their time? These questions are best answered before the office closure.

Employers should be proactive about their inclement weather policy, put it in writing, and remind employees of the policy as storms approach. Communicate with your staff about how your leadership team determines and communicates office closures and whether employees are expected to work from home. If you have any questions regarding your inclement weather policy, please contact us.