The weather report predicts two feet of snow. Hurricane Zeke is barreling down the coast. Flooding has shut down the interstate. Whatever the reason, most businesses must cope with weather-related closures at some point.
Salaried vs. Hourly Employees
According to federal law, salaried-exempt employees who’ve worked at least part of the workweek cannot have their pay docked if business closes due to weather-related conditions. Nonexempt or hourly employees do not have to be paid. Some legal responses to office shut downs include asking exempt staff to take PTO or telecommute.
The best course of action is to decide on a policy, and confirm it doesn't violate federal or local laws. Communicating with your team is key. Put it in writing in each employee manual, and make sure employees know about policies well in advance. By doing so, you avoid confusion and problems.
Consider a Generous Policy
Regulations aside, should you still pay nonexempt workers when you close the office, and should you refrain from docking vacation or personal days for exempt staff? Probably. It's the fair thing to do. Let's face it: Weather closures rarely happen. Is it really worth the potential backlash if employees can't work and get paid?
Even if you think you can open the office because a few people live close by, is it wise to do so? You don't want employees getting injured on their commute because of traffic accidents or other problems from inclement weather. Depending on the business, many employees will be able to work from home and remain constructive, as long as the weather hasn't knocked out the power.
Also, keep in mind that there may be rules in your state that do require you to pay nonexempt employees even in situations in which federal rules do not. To make sure you don't inadvertently violate any laws, it's a good idea to consult with a qualified payroll or accounting professional before deducting anyone's pay or personal time.
Yes, it may be costly to pay people even when you don't legally have to, but in the long run a happy workforce is a productive workforce. Paying employees and allowing them to keep their vacation days when you're forced to shut down due because of weather is likely the best route to take.