Must we pay employees after an emergency forced us to close the office for a day? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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Must we pay employees after an emergency forced us to close the office for a day?

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Q. We closed our offices for a day because of a phoned-in bomb threat, and we sent all our employees home. Do we need to pay them for showing up to work that day?

The answer depends on whether the employees are exempt or nonexempt, how long the offices were closed, whether the employees reported to work and the cause for the business closure.

If an employer gives advance notice to nonexempt employees not to report to work, it is not required to pay employees for the hours they didn’t work.

If a nonexempt employee, however, reports to work and is sent home, the state reporting-time pay requirements may apply. Specifically, California wage orders require nonexempt employees to be paid if they report to work and are either not put to work or are provided less than half their usual or scheduled day’s work. Employers must pay those employees the greater of either half their usual or scheduled day’s work (up to four hours) or two hours at their regular rates of pay.

This rule applies when the employer chooses to close its facilities.

There are several exceptions to this rule that apply when the events that cause the business closure are outside of the employer’s control.

In those situations, the reporting-time pay requirements do not apply. As a result, nonexempt employees would not be entitled to payment even if they reported to work.

The rules are different for exempt employees. Employers must pay exempt employees their full salaries for any week in which they perform any work (excluding the first and last weeks of their employment).

If the shutdown lasts for a full workweek and the exempt employee does not perform any work in that week, the employee is not entitled to pay for that week.

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