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Dec29

State of Emergency and pay

If the state declares a state of emergency due to bad weather, is the company required to pay those employees who were scheduled to work.

This is a deceptively complex issue. The answer depends upon whether the employees are exempt or non-exempt, and whether the business is open. In some cases, it also depends upon state law. Because you do not mention which state you are in, we will respond according to the federal FLSA, the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Generally speaking, hourly (and non-exempt) employees must be paid only for the time they work. If an employee is scheduled to work, but does not come to work due to inclement weather or hazardous driving conditions, there is no need for you to pay the employee. If you close the business due to inclement weather, there is still no need for you to pay hourly or non-exempt employees. You may allow these employees to use sick leave, PTO or vacation pay within company policy, but there is no law that you must do so. The time off can simply be unpaid.

More complex rules apply to exempt salaried employees.

If the business is open and an exempt employee fails to report to work due to driving conditions or bad weather, the employee is not available for work on that day. There is no need for you to pay the employee his or her usual daily wages. However, if the exempt employee works even for a few minutes, even by checking email or taking phone calls at home, he or she must be paid the usual salary for the day. In most states you can require that the employee use PTO, vacation time or sick leave to make up the difference.

If the business is closed for less than a full week usually you must pay exempt employees. An exempt employee must be paid his or her usual salary for the week, if the employee a) performs any work at all during the payroll week and b) is ready, willing and able to work. If the business is closed and you have no work for the exempt employees on a specific day, they must still be paid. 

For this reason, you are better off financially if you require exempt employees to report to work, even if the business is closed and the hourly employees are not working. Many employers will do this. For example, retail stores might require the exempt manager to check on the store, even if it is closed. An exempt employee who does not report to work need not be paid, since he or she is not available to work. (Use good judgment here — there may be circumstances where it is too hazardous for employees to report to work.)

Different rules apply if the business is closed for an entire payroll week. Under the federal FLSA, an exempt employee need not be paid when he or she does no work at all during the payroll week. This is true, regardless for the reason behind the lack of work. If your business is closed for an entire payroll week, and the exempt employee does no work at all during that period, there is no need for you to pay the employee at all that week.

Again, state laws vary somewhat. At least one state has recently implemented a law that the employer cannot discipline an employee who fails to report to work when the national weather service has issued a traveler^#39;s advisory recommending that people stay off the roads.  

When the governor declares an area a natural disaster zone after a blizzard, flood, tornado, hurricane or other event, very often the out-of-work employees qualify for unemployment benefits and other special assistance.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 at 5:01 pm and is filed under
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11 Responses to “State of Emergency and pay”

  1. » State of Emergency and pay Human Resource Blog « Human Resources 123 Says:

    [...] the article here: » State of Emergency and pay Human Resource Blog Comments [...]

  2. K. Markit Says:

    How does this apply in the State of New Jersey?

  3. K. Markit Says:

    More specifically, if the employer in New Jersey closed the office during a state of emergency (due to snow), can we require exempt employees to use PTO for that day? What if the exempt employee has no PTO available?

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Hi K.! In New Jersey, if you close your business during a state of emergency, you can require that exempt employees use PTO to be paid for that day. If the exempt employee has no PTO, and has worked a portion of the payroll week, you must pay that employee anyway.
    Different rules would apply if you closed the business but required the exempt employees to come to work anyway. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  5. Christina Says:

    Hi- how does this work in state of IL with the recent blizzard- governor declared state of emergency- do exempt salaried employees have to be paid even though the employer chose not to close the business “officially” BUT the main road of the office was closed and no one could make it into the office.

  6. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Christina! Generally speaking, if the business is open and the exempt employee does not report to work, he or she is considered unavailable and is not entitled to payment. An exempt employee can be unavailable for work due to no fault of his or her own, as when a bridge is closed or an airline flight is cancelled.
    An exempt employee who does any work at all during the day — even checking his or her email from home — is entitled to payment for the entire day. But if the exempt employee did not report to work when the business was open, and did no work at all that day, he or she need not be paid. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  7. SS Says:

    “In most states you can require that the employee use PTO, vacation time or sick leave to make up the difference.”

    Is this true for Pennsylvania? Where can one find this information out?

  8. DD Says:

    With NJ recently having been declared a state of emergency on Oct. 29 & 30th, are we required to pay non-exempt employees provided they have PTO left? The Company was closed on 29th but open on 30th, even though governor had declared both days as state of emergency. I understand how it effects exempt employees, but what about non exempt? Thank you!

  9. JC Says:

    Is it legal for an employer to request for you to work longer than your shift in order to finish up the work/job and then instead of paying you the overtime deserved for working the extra hrs He/She request for you to take off early or come in late when conveniant for them, so not to pay you the overtime deserved?

  10. hrlady Says:

    Hi JC,

    It is legal for your employer to ask you work longer than your normal shift in order to finish up the work or job. And it is also legal for your employer to change your work hours.

  11. hrlady Says:

    Hi DD,

    No you would not be required to pay non-exempt employees for time not worked. You can allow your hourly or non-exempt employees to make up the time or offer them the option of taking PTO time off.

    It is basically up to you as how you want to handle the situation.

    Thank you for reading the Humanresourceblog.com

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