Snow day office closures and calls from employees unable to shovel their cars out of their driveways cause regular headaches for Minnesota employers in the winter. Now that winter is here and these issues are likely to arise, employers should review the wage and hour laws triggered by inclement weather and also review any related company policies.
Pay obligations during inclement weather are largely dependent on a worker’s classification as exempt or nonexempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Employees who are exempt from the normal minimum wage and overtime requirements of the FLSA, generally salaried employees working in an executive, administrative or professional capacity, must almost always be paid in situations of inclement weather. The only exceptions are if the business closes for an entire week and the employee does not perform any work during that week or if the business remains open during inclement weather but the employee elects to take the day off for personal reasons. If, however, the employer closes the business for a day or two due to inclement weather, full wages must be paid. If the employer opens the office a few hours late because of icy roads, for example, it also must pay exempt employees for the entire day. In contrast, nonexempt employees generally only get paid for the hours actually worked. If the employer closes the business for a few hours or the entire day, wages do not need to be paid to a nonexempt employee for hours not worked.
Allowing employees to telecommute during inclement weather may also trigger wage payment obligations. If an employer knows or has reason to know an employee is working from home on a snow day, it must pay the employee for work performed. The FLSA also requires employers to pay exempt employees a full week’s wages if any work is performed during the week, regardless of the amount of work performed. Thus, in the case of a natural disaster or some other emergency that may cause a business to be closed for a week or more, employers may want to give careful consideration on whether to allow exempt employees to put in a few hours of remote work as such work will require the payment of a full week of wages.
Inclement weather is a part of Minnesota winters and employers should take proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of employees while protecting business operations and ensuring compliance with wage and hour laws. Employers are encouraged to develop emergency and inclement weather policies so employees know what to expect when the inevitable snow day arrives. The policy should also include a clear emergency communication process to ensure all employees are notified of an office closure or other change in business operations.