With winter storms wreaking havoc in the Midwest, causing flooding and tornadoes, you may find your office is closed. Going without pay can wreak its own havoc on your household, especially during the holidays. But you may be entitled to be paid even if your office is closed due to a storm.Whether you're entitled to be paid when the office is closed depends on whether you are "exempt" salaried or not. Just being salaried doesn't necessarily mean you aren't entitled to overtime. It's possible to be salaried and still non-exempt from the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Many employers misclassify employees as exempt to avoid paying overtime. If you work more than forty hours per week, it's better to be non-exempt. But in the case of weather and emergency closings, it's probably better to be exempt.
Exempt employees: If you're exempt and you worked any portion of the work week, you have to be paid your entire salary, whether or not the office is closed for a natural disaster such as snow, tornado, or flood. Further, Department of Labor 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 storm 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 flooding but the office is open, they can't deduct for any partial days you worked.
Vacation time and PTO: Your employer 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.
Who Is Exempt?: You're not exempt unless you fall into very specific categories, such as executives, administrative employees, or learned professionals. Plus, your job duties must fall within those categories, not just your title. In addition, your employer must treat you as exempt by not docking your pay when you miss work.
Pay For Reporting To Work: If you report to work after a natural disaster, only to find out that the workplace is closed (assuming they didn't notify you), New York, New Jersey, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon and Rhode Island, as well as the District of Columbia have laws that require your employer to pay you a set minimum amount of time if you show up as scheduled. Most of the states getting hit with this horrific storm have no such requirements (so maybe it's a good time to start complaining to your legislators).
If you're hit with the big storm, get in touch with your supervisor or manager as soon as possible to find out whether or not you're expected to be at 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 and yours stay safe and have a healthy, happy New Year.
If you need specific legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state. For more general information about employment law issues, check out Donna Ballman's award-winning employee-side employment law blog, Screw You Guys, I'm Going Home and her employment law articles at AOL Jobs.