With pretty much everyone on the east coast expecting to lose power due to the storm, a few people have asked me whether their employers have to pay them for days that their office is closed because of the weather or lack of power.
Here’s the answer:
If you’re a non-exempt employee (eligible for overtime): If your office closes because of the storm and thus you don’t work on those days, your employer is not required to pay you for those days. Some employers still will, but the law doesn’t require it; it just depends on what your employer’s policy is.
If you’re an exempt employee (salaried and not eligible for overtime): If you work any portion of the week, you have to be paid your full salary for the week … even if your office closes because of the storm. They can, however, require you to use a vacation day for that day. (But if you’re all out of vacation days, they can’t dock your pay to cover it.) Smart employers will not make you use vacation time for these days, but they’re not all smart.
What if your office is open but you can’t get to work because of the weather? If you’re non-exempt, nothing changes. If you’re exempt, however, it’s a little different: In this case, you’re not considered “ready, willing, and able to work” — even though that’s not within your control — and so your employer can dock your pay if you miss a full day. If you only miss the part of the day, they can’t dock any pay; that’s part of being exempt. But most employers will let you use vacation time for these days, and some won’t charge your accrued leave time at all.
So the answer, as it so often does, comes down to whether you’re exempt or non-exempt. Employers should, however, think about the morale problem they’re almost certainly causing if they pay exempt workers but not non-exempt ones, as well as a host of other morale issues associated with all of this.