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Harsh winter weather turns up heat on FLSA compliance

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in Centerpiece,Employment Law,Human Resources

snowy weatherThe Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is generally a fairly straightforward law—for most of the year. But winter weather—and the delays and closures that sometimes accompany it—can make wage-and-hour compliance more difficult. When employees have a hard time getting to work, here’s the FLSA guidance you need.

Employees come in late, leave early

Employees may straggle in late or leave early because of bad roads or disruptions to mass transit—or they may decide to just stay home. Whether you must pay for the time not worked depends on whether employees are nonexempt or exempt.

FLSA rules: Nonexempts need only be paid for the time they work. So nonexempts who arrive late, leave early or just stay home don’t have to be paid for time not worked.

You may dock the pay of exempts who stay home for a full day. Exempts who come in late or leave early may have their leave banks debited in partial-day increments provided they continue to receive their full salaries even if they run out of accrued time and continue to take partial days off.

Policy tip: Specify how late is late enough (or how early is early enough), to trigger a partial-day deduction. Trap: If you don’t use leave banks, exempts who come in late or leave early must still receive their full pay.

You’re closed

If you decide to keep the business closed for a day or two, nonexempts can take a paid or unpaid day off, since you need to pay them only for their working time.

Exempt pay issues, however, are more complicated. Exempts can be required to take a paid day off provided you have a bona fide benefits plan and they continue to receive payments equal to their guaranteed salary. Same trap: Exempts who would run out of accrued time, so that debiting their leave banks would result in a negative balance, or those who have already run out of accrued time, must be paid their full salaries.

Too few employees show up to make the day productive

Employers sometimes reward those who trek in by paying them for a half-day, even if they were at work for only an hour or so. The pitfall here is overtime. When figuring nonexempts’ regular rates, count as hours worked only the time they spent on the premises; don’t count the extra pay for showing up when figuring their regular rates.

Key: Stick to your decision to close. Don’t let employees think you’ll open later, weather permitting. Why: You may have to pay for the time they spend waiting at home.

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