Snow-Related Absences: Compensating Your Employees

By Mark Kluger and William Healey

Winter weather often causes employees to miss work–even during this winter, when it seemed like we were going to get by without a major storm. This issue often leads to questions on whether and how to compensate employees during those periods of absence.  The answers can be complicated.  They hinge on the length of the absences, the exempt or non-exempt status of the employees, and whether the absences occur as a result of a lack of business operations or personal reasons.

Generally, exempt employees (typically salaried and not entitled to overtime pay) must receive their full compensation without deductions for any absence due to weather. If deductions are made improperly, their status may inadvertently convert to non-exempt, making them eligible for overtime going forward and for a period in the past.  There are, however, a few weather-related instances where an exempt employee’s compensation can be reduced without jeopardizing the exempt status.  In certain instances, for example, employers can reduce their pay for closures of at least a full week or for full-day absences for personal reasons.

On the other hand, employers are only required to pay non-exempt employees (those entitled to overtime pay) for time actually worked. So, if a non-exempt employee misses work due to weather, employers do not have to pay them unless they use their paid time off benefits. Some states require a minimum amount of pay when a non-exempt employee reports to work and the business closes early.  Accordingly, when reducing non-exempt employees’ pay after a weather-related absence, be mindful of your state’s requirements for “call-in” or “reporting” pay.