Last week was the five-year anniversary of Blizzard-ageddon, the apocalyptic snowstorm that shut down Chicago. Schools, businesses, and offices were closed while the City dug itself out of more than two feet of snow. Those who attempted to make it to work probably found themselves delayed, if they were able to make it at all. This raises an interesting question for employers. If an employee comes to work late due to bad weather, problems with traffic or public transportation, being struck by lightning, etc., does the employer have to pay the employee for the time missed from work?
If the employee is paid by the hour, the answer is no. Employers are only required to pay hourly employees for the time they actually spend at work. There is no law requiring employers to pay employees for time they spend travelling to and from work. Of course, if travelling is part of that employee’s work-related duties, then the employer must pay that employee for time spent travelling. However, time spent stuck on a train or in traffic due to a blizzard is not time for which an employer must compensate an employee.
If the employee is salaried, then the employer cannot dock that employee’s pay unless the employee misses the entire day of work. If the salaried employee misses the entire day due to inclement weather, federal regulations consider it an absence due to personal reasons, and allow an employer to deduct a full day’s pay from the employee’s salary or require the employee to use paid time off for this absence or make it up another time.
What if an employer closes his businesses due to inclement weather? Must the employer pay hourly employees during the day the business was closed? Again, the answer is no. Employers only must pay hourly employees for the time actually spent working. No law requires them to pay employees on days during which the business is closed.
For the sake of employee morale, many employers will still pay employees on days when the office is closed due to inclement weather. Employers may require employees to use a day of paid time off when this happens.
We advise employers to have written policies explaining what will happen in the event of inclement weather. Contact an experienced attorney for help putting such a policy together.