Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

Weather Related Absences and How Employers Can Handle Them Legally

Here in the Gulf Coast it’s unlikely we are going to see snow this year, or any year soon for that matter. However, winter has arrived, and that does mean there will be some cold and rain along with the possibility of ice on the road, dense morning fog, and quite often, street flooding. How do you handle the absences caused by this weather, now or any other time of the year?

Communication with your employees is essential because they must know what your policies are regarding weather related absences. Everyone must know how to ascertain if the company operating schedule is changed as a result of the weather – or what employees need to do if the company is open, but they can’t make it to work.

The nature of your business affects policies on reporting to work. You must consider whether you’re causing too much risk to employees if you make them report when the weather is bad. For example, due to the continuity of care required in hospitals, certain personnel, like nurses, are essential and must be asked to risk commuting.

Then once you have established how to manage scheduling and commuting issues, you must be sure you are paying your employees correctly. Correct pay is determined by their status as an exempt or non-exempt employee, as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Non-exempt employees are only paid for hours worked. Unless you have a union contract, you don’t have to pay a non-exempt person for missed hours if that employee misses work for weather related reasons. You can require that they take vacation time (or Paid Time Off, PTO) to cover missed hours, although you might consider the discontent caused by such a move. A better option might be to offer the choice of taking vacation time or taking no pay for the hours missed.

Exempt employees are treated differently. They must be paid their entire salary for any week in which they perform work. If you don’t pay them this way, those employees become non-exempt. Again, you can require that vacation (or PTO) be used for the time employees are not at work. Employees are still classified as exempt if absent for less than a full day and if they are using vacation time.

Even if you are closed for part of a week and exempt employees work any of that time, you must pay them for the entire week. The option, of allowing exempt employees to choose between using vacation time or no pay for hours missed, has one condition in their case — deductions can only be made in full day amounts only.

Really, the whole point is to be prepared. Be sure your people know what to do when the weather turns nasty. You, too. Have your ducks in a row– a more apt metaphor for the Gulf Coast than “snow”! I was just dreaming of a white Christmas…

So remember, when you feel like Atlas carrying the world on your shoulders, Workforce Solutions will carry some weight with you. Want to discuss, moan or query regarding personnel issues? Participate in this blog, cuz I’d love to hear from you.

Cally Graves is an Sr. Industry Liaison between business, workforce, and education working with Workforce Solutions. She has 38 years of experience in workforce development, primarily working with employers in Houston, Texas and the Gulf Coast region.



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