You Asked: How Do I Pay Employees When Weather Disrupts the Workplace?

Winter 2Tina Harkness, Membership Development

Many employers have asked how they should pay employees during work shutdowns due to weather.  The answer depends on the employee’s exempt status and on the employer’s policies and practices.

Federal law does not require employers to pay nonexempt employees for hours not actually worked, including weather-related shutdowns.  It does, however, require employers to pay exempt employees for shutdowns of less than a full workweek.

Even though federal law does not require it, many employers have policies that provide pay to nonexempt employees during weather-related shutdowns.  MSEC’s 2012 Paid Time Off Policies Survey shows 15 percent of Colorado employers and 10 percent of Wyoming employers surveyed pay nonexempt employees without charging accrued paid time off.[1]  Employers with unions should also check their collective bargaining agreements to see if they require pay for shutdowns.

Where a policy or agreement does not provide pay, employers sometimes ask whether employees’ paid time off banks can be docked during weather-related shutdowns.  Because federal wage and hour law does not require paid time off, employers can require both exempt and nonexempt employees to use paid time off during shutdowns.  However, if an exempt employee does not have enough paid time off to cover the entire shutdown, the employer must fill in the remainder of the exempt employee’s salary.  This is because deducting for a partial week shutdowns is not permitted for exempt employees.  Employers should double-check their policy language before moving forward.  Most policies, however, do not prohibit employers from requiring employees to use paid time off. Nineteen percent of Colorado employers and 18 percent of Wyoming employers surveyed pay nonexempt employees, but require use of paid time off.

Employers should also check to see if there are any state laws requiring pay during weather-related shutdowns.  Pay is not required in Arizona, Colorado, or Wyoming.

If you have more questions, please call 800.884.1328.

[1] Data from survey question about “snow days.” Data not available for Arizona.