Storm Related Closings – Time to Review Your Policies Again!
We’ve all witnessed the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey on the gulf coast. The toll of the destruction on people’s lives and property is truly of a magnitude not seen before. Aside from being left homeless in many instances, the storm and weather- related issues has caused a huge disruption among businesses that had to close down. While Illinois is not prone to hurricane damage, we do nevertheless experience severe weather in the form of tornados, flooding, and snowstorms. Each of these events can cause a business to shut its doors until the storm passes. Every business needs to review its policies and be aware of the various laws in place when employees are absent due to inclement weather. Here are five things to remember:
- Before the Storm Hits: Take the time to remind all your employees about your inclement weather policies. If you haven’t done so in a while, now would be a good time to circulate those policies among the employee population. If you don’t have an inclement weather policy, now is a good time to consider drafting one. Boznos Law can assist you in crafting such a policy.
- Make Certain You Pay Your Non-Exempt Employees Properly: As a general rule, an employer is not required to pay its non-exempt employees for time not worked. When a business is closed due to inclement weather, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), there is no requirement that these employees be paid if they cannot work. However, consider allowing these employees to access and use accrued vacation or PTO time as a mechanism to keep income coming in during this time.
- Make Certain You Pay Your Exempt Employees Properly: Employees who are exempt must still be paid, even if an office is closed for inclement weather. Remember, under the FLSA, in order to claim an exemption from the overtime laws, it does not matter how long an employee needs to accomplish a particular task. The employee is paid a salary regardless of the time it takes to complete the task. Docking an exempt employee’s pay for absences of less than a full day will cause problems under the FLSA as well as the Illinois Minimum Wage Law. There is a limited exception to this rule and that is if the business is closed for a full week, due to bad weather and the employee doesn’t perform any work during that time, a business need not pay an exempt employee. Again, in these instances, consider allowing the employee to access his or her accrued vacation or PTO time as a means of receiving income during absences lasting more than a full day.
- Working From Home: If you allow your exempt employees to work from home, regardless of whether your office or business is closed due to inclement weather, you must pay them, even if the main office is closed for an entire day or longer. The same holds true for your non-exempt employees. Under the FLSA, as long as an employee is “working” for the benefit of an employer, that employee must be paid, regardless of whether or not the office is physically open. This can include using a cell phone or computer to conduct business for the benefit of the employer.
- Putting the Pieces Back Together Again: What if your office floods or is damaged by wind, rain or other elements? Do you call in your employees to help? Or accept their volunteer efforts to get back up and running? As tempting as it may sound, unless you are prepared to pay them for that volunteer time, don’t do it! Again, keep in mind, if a non-exempt employee is performing any work for the benefit of the employer, even on a volunteer basis, they MUST be paid for that time. There is also a risk for exempt employees in this situation as well. While they can help with minimal clean up, if they spend too much time performing manual jobs and tasks outside their normal job descriptions, it could jeopardize their exempt status and subject an employer to liability for overtime.
With over 33 years’ experience in advising employers and employees on workplace issues, let Boznos Law work with you to ensure you are ready to meet the challenges posed by the changes to the employment laws. Call Bill Boznos today at (630) 375-1958 or contact us at www.boznoslawoffice.com/contact-us through our website.