This week’s record-breaking winter weather has walloped over 30 states and affected one in three Americans. In weather this severe, emergency officials advised people not to travel unless absolutely necessary, lest they get stuck in blinding conditions or massive snow drifts. To many, the thought of curling up under a blanket beats going out in a blizzard any day. So the kids get to stay home on snow days, but when do their parents get to stay home from work?
The truth is, employment law doesn’t dictate when a business must close for weather—closing a business is solely the employer’s judgment call. Many businesses may choose to stay open in severe weather, depending on demand for their goods and services. This is especially true of grocery stores, gas stations, hotels, and public-service industries like police and fire departments, hospitals, and snow plow operations. It makes business sense to stay operational if there is legitimate work to be done, even in a blizzard. Plus, businesses in areas that are used to winter snow will be less inclined to close due to weather, thanks to efficient snow removal.
But what happens to employees when businesses make the call to close? From a human resources standpoint, businesses that close for weather are not required to pay hourly or non-exempt workers. Like any other workday, these employees must be compensated only for the hours actually worked. Exempt employees are another matter. Businesses that close for a few days due to weather must pay their exempt employees who were ready and able to report to work. On the flip side, businesses do not have to pay exempt employees who were unavailable to report to work, for example, due to the weather, transportation, or child care issues. An exception occurs when businesses close for an entire payroll week because of weather, flood, or power outage. Under these circumstances, exempt employees who perform no work for the week—not even checking e-mail from home—are not required to be paid.