Q. Due to recent snowstorms, some employees have not been able to get to work. Can we dock the pay and/or accrued leave of employees who do not come to work? Can we do so even if the office is closed? Our attorney told us that the Fair Labor Standards Act does not apply to us because, among other things, our gross sales are under $500,000. —A.I., Maryland
A. Under Maryland law, an employer may temporarily close its business for any reason and for any length of time (including during snow emergencies) without offering special compensation to who can't work as a result.
However, for salaried employees who are exempt and who are ready, willing and able to work, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available. Doing so could jeopardize the exempt status of the worker and make him or her eligible for overtime.
Keep in mind that the exempt worker's burden of proof is quite high under this rule. If your exempt workers have 24-hour access to your facilities, for example, and they do not report to work because they are concerned about their safety, then they are not ready, willing and able to work and not entitled to pay under Maryland law.
As for whether you can dock an employee's accrued leave, we recommend that you clearly inform employees in advance that you will do so if they do not report to work during snow emergencies.