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Closing early due to snow: Must we pay for full day?

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Q. During inclement weather, we sometimes close the office early and send employees home. Do we have to pay them for the whole day? — D.C., Ohio

A. That depends on whether the employees are hourly or exempt employees. In such situations, hourly employees do not have to be paid for the whole day and you are free to send them home. Of course, if you make a regular practice of sending hourly employees home after they make it to work during inclement weather, you won’t be doing much for morale.

Exempt employees are entitled to their regular salaries even if you send them home. The Fair Labor Standards Act and Department of Labor regulations say that an employee who is “ready, willing and able to work” will receive his salary even when work is not available. You can, however, make exempt employees use their vacation leave to cover the time. Because vacation leave is not required by law, employers can determine when it must be used. However, if exempt employees have no leave available, you must pay them for the day when you shut down early.

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