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Don’t let weather closings bury you in pay confusion

by on
in Human Resources

If your business closes because of bad weather, clear rules dictate who you must pay. First, exempt employees must receive their full salaries when bad weather shuts the office. And if weather forces a noon closure, don't even think about docking an exempt worker's pay; this could jeopardize his exempt status.

How about nonexempt workers? Their pay is based on actual hours worked, so you don't need to pay them if the office closes. One notable exception: so-called "show-up" laws on the books in some states. These laws require companies to pay nonexempt workers at least a portion of their day's wages if they aren't informed that the workplace is closed and they show up for work.

Recent case: A group of employees who earned salaries between $61,000 and $101,000 a year claimed that their employer mislabeled them as exempt. They claimed that they were nonexempt and due overtime pay, so they sued under the FLSA.

Key evidence: The company's snow-day policy said em-ployees may report to work or take time off without pay during inclement weather. The court sided with the workers, saying the snow-day policy threatened pay deductions due to an "uncontrolled absence." Such unauthorized pay docking was enough to undermine the workers' exempt status. Instead, the company's inclement-weather policy should not penalize exempt workers for missed hours or days due to bad weather.

Another strike against the company: Its productivity plan paid exempt employees for additional hours worked beyond 40 hours in a week. Such "extra pay," when tied directly to hours worked, will also defeat exempt status. (Kennedy v. Commonwealth Edison Co., No. 00-4053, C.D. Ill., 2003)

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