The holidays have come and gone, and winter weather is just around the corner: icy roads, white-out conditions, and travel bans. When the weather gets bad, some employees need to leave work early and others call off. Must an employer pay them?

For non-exempt employees, sometimes called hourly employees, employers generally need only pay them for the time that they actually work. However, some States, including New York, have call-in/reporting pay laws that require employers to pay hourly employees a minimum number of hours when they work less than their scheduled shift. In New York, for example, if a non-exempt employee reports for a scheduled shift, she must be paid for the lesser of the full shift or four hours of work, even if she’s sent home early. This requirement often applies even if she’s sent home early due to inclement weather.

For exempt employees, those who often are referred to as “salaried,” it’s a bit more complicated. Generally, if a weather prohibits an exempt employee from coming to work, the Fair Labor Standards Act permits the employer to insist that she use a PTO day, whether or not the office is open. Although permitted by law, requiring the use of PTO time may negatively affect workplace morale, especially if the office is closed.

Federal law also requires that if an exempt employee performs any work during a given work week, even if at home, an employer must pay her usual salary. This includes an exempt employee who leaves early due to weather conditions.

Complexities in various laws make it important to have a clear inclement-weather policy so that employees know what to expect when the weather gets bad. If you have questions regarding your specific rights and obligations, contact us for assistance.