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Snow days aren’t necessarily free

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Somebody has to pay for them and depending on the type of employee you are-exempt or non-exempt-you may have to foot the bill out of your available benefit time. Think about that while you’re home on that cold winter day with your feet up and a cup of hot cocoa in hand.

Payment for snow days, or weather-related cancellations, is determined by guidelines provided by the Department of Labor, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), laws of the labor department at the state level and prospective employer policies.

Generally speaking, exempt or salaried employees are required to be paid a full week of pay even if days are missed. Likewise, non-exempt or hourly employees are required to be paid only for the hours that they work.

In opinion letters written by the DOL, both FLSA2005-46 and FLSA2005-41 speak directly to the inclement weather dilemma.

If, in inclement weather, an employer remains open and an employee does not report to work because of adverse weather conditions (considered personal reasons), they can be docked through their benefit time accounts, as long as their salary remains the same.

it is the Department’s view that an employer that remains open for business during adverse weather emergencies may make deductions, for full-day absences only, from the pay of an otherwise exempt employee who chooses not to report for work for the day(s) because of the adverse weather emergencies, and treat any such full-day absence(s) as being for “personal reasons” under the applicable regulations.
FLSA2005-46

Likewise, if the business closes for inclement weather, exempt employees must be paid their full salaries. Non-exempt employees should be paid for the specific time that they worked.

If the employer closes operations due to a weather-related emergency or other disaster for less than a full workweek, then the employer must pay an exempt employee “the full salary for any week in which the employee performs any work without regard to the number of days or hours worked,” because “deductions may not be made for time when work is not available.” See 29 C.F.R. § 541.602(a).
FLSA2005-46

However, it should be noted that the FLSA does not require that employers provide vacation time to its employees so they are, in turn, allowed to administer their benefit leave policies as they deem necessary, as long as said policies are non-discriminatory. (Employers are advised to have on hand a clear and concise written policy available for employees to view)

So while an exempt employee must be paid for inclement snow days according to the FLSA, their employer may require them to take their benefit time for the time missed.

It’s different for non-exempt employees. If the business is closed for the full day due to bad weather, non-exempt employees do not get paid. However, if the business closes early due to emergencies, hourly employees are paid for the time that they work. Also, some states have a minimum reporting pay in which employees are paid for a full days wage if they work a certain amount of hours per day.

As the northeast digs out of its second snow storm in a two day period, it pays to be aware of what policies exist in your state and on your job concerning time off for weather related emergencies. Take the time to review your job’s policies today.

Play it safe when shoveling!!

Sources: Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, Opinion Letters, FLSA; State of New Jersey, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Wage and Hour Compliance FAQ’s; About.com Human Resources, Employee Pay for Snow Days, Rain Days and Emergencies, Susan M. Heathfield,

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