Snow emergencies create FLSA compliance headaches. But here’s a guide that’ll keep you safe.
It doesn’t happen often, but this is the time of year when inclement weather can prevent employees from reporting to work.
When that happens, there are certain times the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) deems it’s OK to reduce employee pay.
The rules for non-exempt employees are simple: They don’t work, they don’t get paid. Although some states may have stricter rules. For example, some states require employers to pay hourly workers when they report to work as scheduled, even if there is no work available.
The rules for deducting salary from exempt employees are much more complicated.
Here’s a quick rundown of when you can and can’t deduct salary from exempt employees for missing work due to inclement weather, according wage and hour attorney Tammy McCutchen of the firm Littler Mendelson:
Office is closed
If an employer closes its doors, exempt employees’ must be paid their full weekly salaries. But employers may require workers to use their accrued paid leave, like paid vacation days or paid leave bank time.
However, if an employee has no accrued paid leave, the employee must still receive his or her full salary.
Absences when office is open
If an exempt employee fails to report to work due to inclement weather, the employer may deduct time from the person’s paid leave. In that case, the employee would be paid his or her full salary.
But if the employee has no accrued paid leave, he or she can be placed on unpaid leave for the day(s) the person fails to report to work. Any unpaid days can then be deducted from the employee’s salary.
Two caveats when placing an exempt employee on unpaid leave during weather emergencies:
- Salary deductions are only permitted for full-day absences, and the deductions must be full-day deductions.
- The employee must have missed work for “personal reasons.” Under the FLSA, sickness and disability are not considered “personal reasons.” But inclement weather-related absences — like when an employee experiences transportation difficulties — are counted as “personal reasons.”