HR Management & Compliance

Ask the Expert: Employee Pay Rules for Weather-Related Closings?

Our office was forced to close for two days due to flooding in our area. How do we handle paying the employees who were scheduled to work on these days? What about the people who had scheduled vacation time and personal hours on these days?

Thank you for your inquiry regarding pay for employees when an employer is forced to close due to weather.

Information on paying employees for an emergency closing is available on under the topic Emergency Closings.

When determining whether employees should be paid when an employer’s business is closed due to emergency, you will first need to determine whether the affected employees are nonexempt or exempt employees.

Exempt employees. The FLSA does not require employer-provided vacation time. Where an employer has proposed a bona fide benefits plan, it is permissible to substitute or reduce the accrued leave in the plan for the time an employee is absent from work, even if it is less than a full day, without affecting the salary basis of payment, if the employee still receives in payment an amount equal to the employee’s guaranteed salary.

However, an employee will not be considered to be paid on a salary basis if deductions from the predetermined compensation are made for absences occasioned by the employer or by the operating requirements of the business.
Therefore, if the employer closes the office because of inclement weather or other disasters for less than a full workweek, the employer must pay the employee’s full salary even if:

  • The employer does not have a bona fide benefits plan;
  • The employee has no accrued benefits in the leave bank;
  • The employee has limited accrued leave benefits and reducing that accrued leave will result in a negative balance; or
  • The employee already has a negative balance in the accrued leave bank.

Since employers are not required under the FLSA to provide any vacation time to employees, there is no prohibition on an employer giving vacation time and later requiring that such vacation time be taken on a specific day(s). A private employer may direct exempt staff to take vacation or debit their leave bank account in the situation presented above, whether for a full or partial day’s absence, provided the employees receive in payment an amount equal to their guaranteed salary.

In the same scenario, an exempt employee who has no accrued benefits in the leave bank account or has a negative balance in the leave bank account still must receive the employee’s guaranteed salary for any absences occasioned by the employer or the operating requirements of the business.

Nonexempt employees. Under the FLSA, employers are not required pay nonexempt employees for hours they were assigned to work, but didn’t. On days that the facility does not open (and especially when notice has been given), the FLSA does not require that hourly employees be paid.

Scheduled Vacation/Personal Time. Employers are not required to change an employee’s scheduled vacation or personal time to reflect the emergency closing. Employees who scheduled full days of vacation or personal time on the days of the emergency closings should be paid under the vacation/personal time policy.

If a nonexempt employee took a partial day, the employer is not required to pay the employee for the hours the employee did not work because of the emergency closing. If an exempt employee took a partial day, the rules outlined above will apply so the exempt employee receives his or her guaranteed salary.

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