As kids, snow days were an unexpected Get Out of Jail Free card. It’s pretty much the same for employees. When extreme weather or other potentially dangerous situations call for an employer to close the workplace or require only essential personnel to report, it’s reminiscent of a snow day when employees were kids-in part because employees believe they deserve pay for these days.
But do employers have to pay their employees if they close the workplace? Only under the following circumstances:
If the employer has guarantees a certain number of hours of work to employees.
This kind of agreement is usually found in a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract. If the employer has agreed to a certain number of hours of work each week, then the employer probably has to pay the employees when they’re told not to report. Otherwise, employees only are entitled to pay for the time that they actually work.
A deduction in pay for “snow days” for exempt employees, like a deduction in pay for disciplinary action in amounts less than a work week, may destroy the exempt classification of the employees in question. This does not prevent employers from requiring exempt employees to utilize accrued benefit time for days when the workplace is closed. Moreover, if an exempt employee has exhausted all of their current benefit time, but is entitled to accrue additional time, the employer may advance benefit time for the exempt employee to use on snow days.
If you have a policy that states that employees are paid if the employer closes the workplace on a scheduled work day, then you should probably pay employees for the time that you’re closed. While your policy manual is not a contract or guarantee of benefits, it does set the rules and employers should follow those rules in all but extreme situations. The good news is that employers can always revise their policies to indicate that employees may be paid for days when the workplace is closed due to extreme weather or other dangerous situations.
Of course, many employers just pay employees if the workplace closes because they don’t want to risk creating bad morale, but employers should keep in mind that unless the limited exceptions above exist, employees can be given a “snow day” without pay or be allowed to use their accumulated benefit time.