If My Workplace Is Closed For Snow, Am I Entitled To Pay?

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Arctic Blast on Lake Michigan
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The arctic blast hitting the Midwest and Rockies this week sure makes me glad I live in Florida! For those of you suffering through the winter storms, do you know whether or not you are supposed to be paid when your workplace closes for a snow storm? If you live in a wintry place, it's best to know your workplace rights.

Whether you're entitled to be paid when the office is closed depends on whether you are "exempt" salaried or not. I normally say it's best to be hourly so you can get overtime pay. Many employers intentionally misclassify employees to avoid paying overtime. While it's great to get overtime pay, in the case of weather and emergency closings, it's probably better to be exempt. Here's what you need to know about getting paid during a weather closing:Exempt employees: If you're exempt and you worked any portion of the work week, your employer has to pay your entire salary, whether or not the workplace is closed for a natural disaster such as snow, hurricane, or flood. Fair Labor Standards Act regulations state, "If the employee is ready, willing and able to work, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available." This would include natural disasters, so if you are able to work after a blizzard then you must be paid even if you didn't work any portion of the week. If you can't get there on time or have to leave early due to the blizzard but the office is open, they can't deduct for any partial days you worked.

Vacation time and PTO: The company can deduct from your vacation time or PTO for the time taken. However, if you have no accrued vacation or PTO time available, they still can't deduct from your pay if you're exempt.

Non-exempt employees: If you are non-exempt, then your employer doesn't have to pay for the time the office is closed. However, if your company takes deductions and you're a non-exempt salaried employee it may affect the way overtime is calculated. If you report to work after a natural disaster, only to find out that the workplace is closed (assuming they didn't notify you), then your state law may require some pay.

State by state: New York law and District of Columbia law require the employer to pay you at least four hours of wages. Massachusetts and Rhode Island require three hours of pay. New Hampshire requires two hours minimum pay for showing up. New Jersey and Oregon laws require the employer to pay you at least one hour of wages. Other states that have some requirements for pay if workers report for duty as scheduled include California ( 2- 4 hours) and Connecticut (only certain industries, 2 – 4 hours). If your state doesn't have such a requirement, maybe the arctic blast is a good time to talk to your state legislators about protecting employees.

Who Is Exempt?: You're not exempt unless you fall into very specific categories. For more about whether or not you are correctly classified as exempt, check out my column, Salaried Workers, Do You Get Overtime Pay? Odds Are You Should!

If you're hit with a snowstorm, contact your supervisor or manager as soon as possible to find out whether or not you're expected to go in to work. If you can't get in touch with anyone, then only go in if it's safe for you to do so.

I hope you have a safe and not-too-snowy winter season. There's always Florida . . .

If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs.

Please note: Anything you write to me may be featured in one of my columns. I won't be able to respond individually to questions.
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