By Maggie Johnson
Winter will soon be here with all of the snowstorms, blizzards, and freezing weather that come with the season. Keeping a business running effectively during harsh weather can be challenging, but having an inclement weather policy can provide guidelines to employees about when they are expected to report to work and how they will be paid when stormy weather hits. Here are some things to consider when creating your inclement weather policy:
These days, we often receive accurate, advance weather reports. This allows us to plan if there is a predicted storm. Even though we are informed by various news media, it is advisable for employers to have an established notification system for employees to know whether the company will close or if there will be a delayed opening. One way to advise employees is to implement a Weather Hotline. This can simply be a specialized phone number or extension that employees call to find out when and if they should report to work.
Under federal law, employers are only obligated to pay their hourly (non-exempt) employees for actual hours worked. NOTE: There are certain states (i.e., New York, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington, DC, New Hampshire and Oregon) that require non-exempt employees to be paid a certain minimum amount if they report to work as scheduled, and then are sent home, before work actually is performed or started. It’s important to be familiar with your state law. However, many employers go beyond federal and state pay requirements and pay employees for the time between normal start time and a delayed opening or up to a certain number of hours or even for an entire day when it’s storming outside. Usually, there are a few rules that go along with this. For example, if the company gives notice of a delayed opening, but an employee doesn’t report to work at all for the day, that employee will not receive the benefit of pay. Although the employee may be paid from his or her accrued vacation or paid time off balance.
In accordance with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees who are exempt from overtime requirements are paid by the week. Thus, if an exempt employee only works a partial day due to the work location closing early due to inclement weather, that exempt employee must be paid for the entire day. Pay for that absence time may be deducted from a bona fide time-off or leave plan, but if the exempt employee does not have any time left in such a plan, the employer must still pay him or her a full day’s pay. Docking an exempt employee’s pay under such circumstances would be in violation of the FLSA provisions.
In writing your inclement weather policy, you may wish to identify the roles and positions whose incumbents are permitted to work remotely. It’s important to make sure that any remote work requirements specified in your inclement weather policy are aligned with any existing telecommuting policy. Obviously, any employees who perform work at home must be paid for such work.
Depending on the industry (for example, medical facilities and various emergency services), employers should identify which positions are non-essential and which are essential to continue to work during extreme weather. When severe weather conditions strike, employee safety should always be uppermost and no employee should feel obligated to drive to work when roads should be kept clear or when the weather makes it dangerous to do so. There may be times when a state of emergency is called. When this occurs no non-essential employee should be asked to report to work.