June 25, 2019
HR Question: Inclement Weather
Question: Last week our offices were closed because of inclement weather. Do we need to pay our employees for the week? If not, would they be eligible for unemployment compensation?
Answer: When your business closes early, opens late, or closes for the week due to inclement weather, how you pay employees will depend on whether you have an inclement weather policy or an established practice for office closures. If you do not have a policy or practice, whether your employees are eligible for unemployment compensation depends on whether they are nonexempt or exempt. Further, whether employees would be eligible for unemployment insurance depends upon the circumstances and the particular state; employees may be able to qualify for some assistance through the state’s unemployment department.
Nonexempt employees need to be paid only for the time they have actually worked. If they have paid time off (PTO) accrued (whether vacation time or a PTO plan), then the company could deduct hours from the accrued bank to continue their pay, if the employee so desires.
If nonexempt employees come to work but are not allowed to work their full scheduled shift, a number of states impose a reporting time obligation requiring employees to be paid a minimum number of hours if they have reported for work.
However, exempt employees are paid on a salary basis and must be paid the same amount each week, regardless of the amount of work that they do. If you have a PTO plan, you can deduct from the exempt employee’s vacation or accrued time off bank to make the salary whole.
For example, management decides to send everybody home four hours into the day due to a blizzard and the offices remain closed the next day. Joe is an hourly employee in the warehouse with no accrued PTO and Mary is an exempt-level office manager with five days (40 hours) in her PTO bank. Joe would receive the four hours of pay for the day he worked and no pay for the remainder of that day or the following full day. If the company does not wish to pay Mary her entire pay for the time the office was closed, it may elect for her to receive four hours of regular pay for the time worked, and deduct from her PTO bank for 12 hours (the four hours remaining on the first day and eight hours for the next day). Mary will receive her full pay for the week.
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