It’s Snowing Again. Must I pay my employees?

Most employers are in a conundrum regarding weather related closings. There are so many business considerations. Is it worth your while to open when you may have only two customers or patients? Should you open and then close early if business is slow?

One of your biggest concerns is your obligation to your employees and whether or not you must pay them on these inclement weather days. Certainly, you may choose to close your business and instruct you r employees that they should not report to work. You can post the closing the day before, send out a mass e-mail and/or implement a phone chain. To avoid miscommunication, make sure that you choose a notification system that is effective for your particular type of business. If you are closed, you are not required to pay hourly (non-exempt) workers. Those employees may choose to use vacation or personal days in order to receive compensation. Salaried (exempt) workers are paid their salaries for the week and the snow day is not deducted. You can require your salaried employees to work remotely.

If you do decide to open, but you are not open for a full workday, there is a Massachusetts statute that regulates the wage that you must pay your hourly workers. Whether it’s a run-of-the-mill snowstorm or a blizzard, if your employees show up for their scheduled day of work by request or with permission, they must be paid a minimum of three (3) hours of minimum wage.

Let’s say that you’ve seen a weather report indicating clear skies for the morning. You have your full staff reporting and you head into your office. Within an hour, the prediction for “chance of flurries” changes to “we’re expecting a nor’easter.” Your employees report at 8 a.m. and you decide to send everyone home at 9 a.m. Each employee must be paid his or her regular hourly wage for the hour worked (8 a.m. –9 a.m.) and then paid at least minimum wage for two additional hours. An employer may not avoid the requirement by scheduling an employee to work less than three hours.

Most companies do not elect to pay their employees minimum wage. They pay regular wage for the three hours. However, it is an option under the law and, depending on the number of employees and early closings, you may choose to utilize this favorable statutory language. The law applies to summer weather issues as well.

There are entities that are not subject to this regulation, and they include hospitals, nursing homes, schools and summer camps.

This article may be considered advertising under the rules of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.