I originally wrote this blog post for CafeTax. Since it’s a common question with the winter weather we’ve been experiencing, I wanted to share it with all of you as well.
In the past few weeks, the US has felt the affects of winter. Blizzards, ice storms, and dangerously cold temps have forced schools and businesses to close. Many employers are asking – Am I required to pay my employees for “snow days”?
Federal and state laws determine how employees are paid when businesses close due to inclement weather. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) from the Department of Labor sets the federal employment pay laws. Every state is different, so make sure to check with your state(s) to see if they have any additional inclement weather laws.
Exempt Employees (Salary)
According to the FLSA, exempt employees are in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity and paid on a salary basis, not less than $455 per week. Some computer employees also fall under this exemption. To qualify for exemption, employees must meet specific criteria regarding their job duties and are typically paid on a salary basis. Keep in mind, job titles do not determine exempt status.
When it comes to snow day pay, it depends whether or not the employer closes the office. If the business remains open and the employee voluntarily chooses not to come to work because of the dangerous conditions, then the employer may deduct a full day of pay from the exempt employee. Employers are only allowed to deduct a full day’s worth of pay. Therefore, if the employee takes 1 1/2 days off due to the weather, the employer must pay a full day of wages for the 1/2 day worked and may deduct 1 day’s worth of pay for the full day of work the employee voluntarily missed.
When the employer closes the office due to the inclement weather, then under federal law, the employer is required to pay the exempt employee their regular salary for the day. The federal law clearly states no deductions can be made if exempt employees are “ready, willing and able to work,” but there just happens to be no work available.
Non-exempt Employees (Hourly)
Non-exempt employees are generally paid on an hourly basis and are subject to the minimum wage and overtime time pay requirements set forth in the FLSA. Employers are only required to pay non-exempt employees for the actual hours in which they perform work. Therefore, regardless of whether the office is open or closed during the inclement weather, employers are not required to pay non-exempt employees for the hours the non-exempt employee did not work.
Paid Time Off
The FLSA and Department of Labor do not require paid time off. Therefore, the employer can choose to have their exempt and non-exempt employees use their accrued paid time off for “snow days.” Keep in mind, if an exempt employee does not have enough paid time off to cover the snow day, the employer is still responsible for paying the full days worth of salary to the exempt employee.
Inclement Weather Policy
I recommend businesses create a written inclement weather policy. The policy should clearly state how employees will be compensated for “snow days” and if the employee is expected to use accrued paid time off in the event of a “snow day.” The inclement weather policy should be written, reviewed by the employer’s legal counsel, and be well communicated with the employees.
Keep in mind that laws, company policy, and what employees think is fair do not always match. To help keep happy employees, remind your employees of the company’s inclement weather policy and talk about it when bad weather is forecasted. Open and honest communication with your employees helps make snow days as easy as possible.
Michelle is the owner of Trailhead Accounting Solutions CPA, LLC, an Erie, CO based CPA firm focused on providing small and mid-sized businesses with day-to-day accounting, bookkeeping, and business solutions. Michelle is a CFO turned consultant who loves working with small businesses and entrepreneurs. When she’s not crunching numbers, she can be found hiking, remote camping, gardening, quilting, and hanging out with her family.