In the Cases of Inclement Weather and Emergency Closings, Do You Have to Pay Your Employees?

In the Cases of Inclement Weather and Emergency Closings, Do You Have to Pay Your Employees?

The most recent snowstorm in Northern New Jersey may have caused many employers to ask whether or not they are obligated to pay their employees if there is an office closing (weather related or not). Employers should prepare and educate themselves for winter and inclement weather related challenges.

In order to answer that question, employers must know and properly classify employees as exempt or non-exempt from overtime.

Exempt Employees: If properly classified, these employees are paid the same amount each week, regardless of the amount (high or low) or hours they work.  For any office closure that lasts less than a week, employers must pay an exempt employee his or her regular salary. Employers may not deduct an exempt employee’s pay based on the quantity or quality of the employee’s work or when they are ready, willing and able to work but no work is available. A private employer is able to force the employee to use any paid vacation or paid time off, provided that the employee receives his or her full salary for the week.

Non-Exempt Employees: Generally, employers are not required to pay non-exempt employees for any time that the employee does not actually perform work. Therefore, employers are not required to pay non-exempt employees for days they did not come to work or for days when the business was closed. However, if the employee is working from home (even calling your clients or other employees), that employee must be paid for all time spent working.  Additionally, N.J.A.C. 12:56-5.5 requires New Jersey employers to pay employees for at least one hour of work if they report for duty but are sent home.

Other Considerations: You should review your employee handbook or policies and procedures guide and follow the policies you already have established uniformly. However, if your policies are not contractual and you have placed adequate disclaimers in your policies, you may have the right to change those at any time. We recommend consulting with one of our employment attorneys before changing your policies. Also, carefully consider any individual contracts or collective bargaining agreements to determine your contractual obligations. For union employers, you should also carefully consider what “informal” practices may have been established already.

Finally, the New Jersey Emergency Responders Employment Protection Act, N.J.S.A. 40A:14-214, prohibits an employer from terminating an employee who fails to report for work because he or she is serving as a volunteer emergency responder during a state of emergency declared by the President of the United States or the Governor of New Jersey or is actively engaged in responding to an emergency alarm.  The law does not require you to pay an employee for time off and but employers should be aware of these limtiations.

When winter weather comes employers will be faced with employment-related challenges. If you have any questions regarding these challenges please do not hesitate to contact Laddey, Clark & Ryan’s Employment and Labor Practice Group: Thomas Ryan, Esq. (tryan@lcrlaw.com), Ursula Leo, Esq. (uleo@lcrlaw.com), Jessica Jansyn, Esq. (jjansyn@lcrlaw.com), or Nicole Tracy, Esq. (ntracy@lcrlaw.com).  Our attorneys can also be reached by phone at (973) 729-1880.