United States: Winter Is Coming—Wage And Hour Considerations During Weather-Related Emergencies

With winter storms around the corner, it's the right time to revisit employer rights and responsibilities during a weather-related emergency or other major disruption.  We discuss below some typical scenarios that you are likely to face during weather-related or other emergencies, and the consequences under the wage and hour laws.

"Our office was closed for a few days because of the storm.  Do we have to pay our employees for those days?"

Non-exempt (i.e., overtime-eligible) employees generally have to be paid only for hours they actually work.  So if a non-exempt employee cannot work because your office is closed—or because the employee cannot make it into the office because of weather-related conditions—the wage and hour laws do not require you to pay the employee for non-working time.  On the other hand, a non-exempt employee who performs work remotely (say, from home, from a temporary site, or from a coffee shop) is entitled to pay for the time worked.

An exception exists for salaried non-exempt employees, who may—depending on the terms of their agreement with the employer—expect to receive their full weekly salary regardless of how many hours they actually work that week.

Exempt employees (i.e., employees not entitled to overtime pay) generally receive their full salary for any week in which the office is closed for less than a full workweek.  Employers who prorate an exempt employee's weekly salary because of office closure risk losing the exemption for the week in question—a consequence that may or may not be material depending on how many hours the employee works that week.  If your office is closed for an entire workweek, you can inform all employees of the closure and you need not pay them for that week (unless they are working remotely).

Be sure to check any agreements with exempt employees—as well as offer letters, policies, or other statements regarding the nature of their pay—which may also limit your ability to prorate salary during office closures and/or give rise to pay claims.

 "Our office was open, but some of our staff could not make it in because of the weather.  Do we need to pay them?

As described above, non-exempt employees generally must be paid only for hours they actually work, but salaried non-exempt employees may have a contractual right to receive their full salary for any week in which they perform any work.

Exempt employees who are absent from work for one or more full days because of inclement weather, including because of transportation difficulties, are considered to be absent for personal reasons (if the office is otherwise open).  Absent a contractual right to be paid, they do not have to be paid for the days they fail to report to work, and your failure to pay them for such days will not jeopardize their exempt status.  Deductions for partial-day absences under these circumstances, however, will violate the salary basis rules and jeopardize the exemption for that week.

"Because of flooding or another dangerous condition, we had to close our office after a number of employees had already reported for work.  Do we have to pay them for the day?" 

Exempt employees who report to work but are turned away or sent home by their employer generally must receive their salary for that day.  Non-exempt employees who report to work but are turned away or sent home must be paid for all hours actually worked that day.  In addition, some states have "reporting pay" or "call in" pay laws that require employers to pay non-exempt employees a minimum number of hours' pay for any day in which they report to work.

"Our payroll records were destroyed in the storm, or are inaccessible.  How do we pay our employees?"

Exempt employees paid on a salary basis should receive their normal salary payment (less any permissible full-day deductions).  For hourly non-exempt employees, use a reasonable method to determine the number of hours worked, such as:

  • Asking the employees themselves to submit a certified time sheet indicating the number of hours they worked;
  • Recreating hours worked through electronic records (g., card/ID swipes or log-ins/log-outs);
  • Making assumptions based on an employee's fixed or regular schedule of hours;
  • Asking managers to verify hours worked; or
  • Some combination of the above.

"Can we require our employees to use available vacation days or other paid time off during a weather-related office closure or absence?"

Yes.  Under federal law and the laws of most states, employers are not required to provide vacation benefits or other paid time off to employees.  Such benefits are generally a matter of agreement between employer and employee, or set forth in the employer's handbook or policy.  Under these circumstances, there is no prohibition on an employer giving PTO and requiring that it be taken on specific days.  So long as it's permitted under the applicable PTO policy or agreement, employers can reduce an employee's accrued PTO bank for either partial or full day absences, without violating the wage and hour laws.

"Can we give our staff additional paid or unpaid time off to assist in recovery or relief efforts?"

Employers can grant their employees additional paid and unpaid time off for any reason, including assisting with storm-related recovery and relief efforts.

Employees who are assisting in relief efforts as part of the National Guard or Armed Forces Reserves may have additional rights under federal and state law.

Because of the snow, it took our employees twice as long to commute to work as opposed to most other days.  Do we need to pay them for the additional commute time?"

Time spent in an employee's normal commute from home to work at the beginning of the workday, and from work to home at the end of the workday, is not considered time worked and need not be paid.

"Some of my employees are members of a union.  Do these rules apply to them as well?"

Collective bargaining agreements generally cannot waive or reduce the protections available to employees under federal, state, or local wage and hour laws.  Collective bargaining agreements can, however—and often do—impose different and additional pay, time off, and other obligations on employers.  Employers with unionized employees should consider all applicable agreements when analyzing their rights and responsibilities in the context of a weather-related emergency or other "force majeure" event.

"We want to do more for our employees, to go above and beyond what the law requires. What are some things we can do?"

There are many options available to an employer who wants to do more for its employees, including:

  • Granting additional paid or unpaid time off
  • Allowing employees to donate accrued paid time off to other employees (i.e., leave-sharing plans)
  • Allowing affected employees to work remotely for some period of time
  • Making emergency advances of salary or loans
  • Setting up disaster-relief programs or payments
  • Making certain payments to assist disaster victims that can be excluded from their taxable income
  • Setting up food and clothing drives

Final Thoughts

Employers making decisions about scheduling, pay, and time off during weather-related emergencies and disruptions should bear in mind the potential implications on employee morale.  Flexibility and support in times of need—or the absence of them—are likely to be remembered long after the storm passes.

As always, check state and local laws—as well as your contracts and policies—before making any final decisions regarding wages, hours, or time off.

Stay warm and informed.  Visit Proskauer's wage and hour blog for up-to-date information on the latest issues and developments.

Winter Is Coming—Wage and Hour Considerations During Weather-Related Emergencies

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions