With Hurricane Ivan wreaking havoc, our thoughts go to those in the path of the ever-strengthening storm. The first priority for all affected is safety, but severe weather does also raise numerous employment law issues. Employers are again reminded that weather can affect your workplace. With hurricane season underway, we have updated this previously published group of tips on how to deal with extreme weather.

Hurricanes, Blizzards, and That Dreaded TORCON Index

At the beginning of another storm season, we have been receiving questions across our offices about how to handle pay for company closings, late openings, and “y’all go home.” Here are some things to consider:

1. Hourly Employees

Pay for hourly employees during weather disasters is fairly simple. Hourly employees must be paid for all hours actually worked. If employees do not come in, are turned away at the door, or are sent home early, the rule is the same – pay hourly employees for hours actually worked.

In this age of remote login, PDAs, and perhaps just running business-related errands while the office is closed, however, employers must beware. Hourly employees must be paid for all time actually worked. This includes time working away from the company’s time clock or login procedure.

Employers are not required to pay “show-up” pay under most state laws, including the southern states. Some northeastern and western states do have show-up pay requirements contained in their state laws. If your business is operating there, you should check state laws for those requirements and any exceptions to them, such as one that results from timely and effective notice of a closing by the company.

2. Salaried Employees

Salaried employees, to retain their overtime exemption, must be paid their full salary in any week in which they perform any work. Thus, a closure for that approaching stormfront will not allow an employer to deduct any percentage of a salaried employee’s pay for the hours not worked.

There basically are three exceptions for inclement weather to this rule for salaried employees. First, if the employee has a paid time-off (PTO) plan, the employer may require the employee to use some of his or her PTO time for a weather-related closure. In this instance, the salaried employee obviously continues to receive full pay (but some of it comes from the PTO bank). The second exception is that an employee need not be paid his or her salary in any workweek in which no work is performed. This exception would apply to the more severe Katrina-like disasters. So, if the office is closed the entire week, you do not have to pay even your exempt employees who performed no work. Finally, employers may deduct for full-day absences, but only full-day absences, if the business is open and the employee is unable to get to work due to the weather (this would be like an unpaid personal day for something other than sickness or disability).

3. Contractual Pay

In addition to considering federal and state wage-and-hour laws, do not forget about contractual requirements that could impose greater obligations on the company than do these laws. Individual employment contracts could contain such provisions, as could collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in union settings. CBAs, for example, often contain show-up pay provisions and have restrictions on mandatory use of PTO.

4. Working from Home

As mentioned above, all employees, hourly and salaried, must be paid for all time worked. This includes time worked from home or any other “offsite” location. Employees with PDAs (and old-fashioned toolboxes) must be monitored for actual work performed when the employer’s business otherwise is closed. For remote employees (i.e., those still working from home during the pandemic), the analysis is the same.  If an hourly employee’s power goes out and he or she is unable to work, the employer doesn’t have to pay for time that the employee hasn’t worked. On the other hand, a salaried remote employee who loses power for several days and is unable to work must be paid his or her entire salary — unless that stretches on for longer than a week, as noted above.

5. What to Do with the Superstar Who Came in Every Day

Bonuses are allowed but not required. Gift cards and spa treatments are great alternatives. Just remember, though, that for the purpose of calculating overtime pay in a given workweek, all remuneration must be included in the base rate before multiplying that rate by time and a half for hours worked over 40.

This article was most recently published on the Labor & Employment Insights blog on January 15, 2021.

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Photo of Anne Knox Averitt Anne Knox Averitt

Anne Knox Averitt is a labor and employment and litigation partner in the Birmingham office. She represents governmental and corporate clients in a number of industries, including automotive, natural resources, manufacturing, health care, non-profit, employee staffing, housing compliance, communications, federal contracting, construction, and…

Anne Knox Averitt is a labor and employment and litigation partner in the Birmingham office. She represents governmental and corporate clients in a number of industries, including automotive, natural resources, manufacturing, health care, non-profit, employee staffing, housing compliance, communications, federal contracting, construction, and financial services. She has helped to obtain favorable resolution for matters at all stages, from dismissal on the initial pleadings to a defense jury verdict.

Photo of Anne R. Yuengert Anne R. Yuengert

Anne Yuengert works with clients to manage their employees, including conducting workplace investigations of harassment or theft, training employees and supervisors, consulting on reductions in force and severance agreements, drafting employment agreements (including enforceable noncompetes) and handbooks, assessing reasonable accommodations for disabilities, and…

Anne Yuengert works with clients to manage their employees, including conducting workplace investigations of harassment or theft, training employees and supervisors, consulting on reductions in force and severance agreements, drafting employment agreements (including enforceable noncompetes) and handbooks, assessing reasonable accommodations for disabilities, and working through issues surrounding FMLA and USERRA leave. When preventive measures are not enough, she handles EEOC charges, OFCCP and DOL complaints and investigations, and has handled cases before arbitrators, administrative law judges and federal and state court judges. She has tried more than 30 cases to verdict.

Photo of J. William Manuel J. William Manuel

Will Manuel focuses his practice primarily on commercial and employment litigation. Will advises businesses on issues involving age discrimination, sexual harassment and wage/overtime disputes for both large and small businesses in across Mississippi and other jurisdictions. His clients include numerous manufacturers and commercial…

Will Manuel focuses his practice primarily on commercial and employment litigation. Will advises businesses on issues involving age discrimination, sexual harassment and wage/overtime disputes for both large and small businesses in across Mississippi and other jurisdictions. His clients include numerous manufacturers and commercial interests as well as various insurance and financial services companies. He has worked to defend these clients in both MDL litigation and individual actions brought in Mississippi. Will’s focus is on active litigation from the initial discovery process through trial. View articles by Will.

Photo of John W. Hargrove John W. Hargrove

John Hargrove is chair of the Labor and Employment Practice Group and is a Fellow in the American College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. He regularly represents public and private companies in mining, construction, manufacturing, medical, communications and warehousing industries, among others. He…

John Hargrove is chair of the Labor and Employment Practice Group and is a Fellow in the American College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. He regularly represents public and private companies in mining, construction, manufacturing, medical, communications and warehousing industries, among others. He also represents municipal and quasi-public organizations such as police and fire departments and school boards. John also has represented several nonprofit agencies, ranging from national sports organizations to small local charities.