Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, when employees take time off for weather-related reasons, an employer is required to pay non-exempt employees only for the hours that the employees actually work, even if the employer voluntarily closes for the day.  However, the employer must pay exempt employees who are “ready, willing, and able to work” their full weekly salary if they perform any work during the work week, even if an employer closes for one or more days or the absence is caused by the operating requirements of the business.  Whether an exempt employee is “ready, willing, and able to work” depends on who makes the decision not to work.  Thus,

  • If an employer closes for less than a full work week due to bad weather, it must pay exempt employees their full weekly salaries. It may require exempt employees to take paid time off (e.g., personal days) as long as employees are paid an amount equal to their guaranteed weekly salary.
  • If an employer remains open and some exempt employees decide not to come to work due to inclement weather (e.g., trains not running or dangerous road conditions), an employer may require these employees to use their vacation or other accrued paid time off to maintain their full week’s pay during their absences. If an exempt employee has no time off available, the employer may deduct one full day’s absence from the employee’s salary. An employer may not, however, dock an exempt employee’s salary for a partial day absence (for example, if the employee comes in late owing to the weather).Before docking an exempt employee for a day’s absence due to bad weather, the employer should first check whether the employee worked remotely from home that day.

It is important that employers apply these rules correctly because a pattern of improperly docking exempt employees’ salaries can lead to loss of the employees’ exempt status.