Does An Agency Have to Pay Its Employees If Its Offices Are Closed?

As I sit at home waiting for the ice to melt off the roads, I thought it would be a good idea to make my annual post on the above topic.  The fact that most of the school systems in the metro Atlanta area and North Georgia were closed yesterday and again today has created some difficult child care decisions for employees of agencies in those areas; stay home with the kids or find someone to watch them so mom or dad can go to work.

As noted in my past posts on this topic, the answer to the above question depends for the most part on whether an employee is classified as an exempt or nonexempt employee for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  I addressed how to decide whether a particular employee is a nonexempt or exempt employee in posts in 2016 about the new overtime rule that had been proposed that year, but has since been permanently stayed by the federal courts.  Even though the new rule will not take effect, it is still essential for classification as an exempt employee that the employee be paid on a salary basis in an amount that equals at least $455.00 per week.  Payment on a salary basis means the amount of an employee’s pay cannot be reduced based on the quality or quantity of the work performed by the employee during any one work week. The other requirements that must be met to be an exempt employee are explained in my earlier posts.  Nonexempt employees must be paid at least the minimum wage, but only for the time they actually perform services on behalf of the employer.

Thus, if an agency’s offices are closed for any reason and a nonexempt employee does not perform any services for the agency from home, such an employee need not be paid for the time period the offices are closed.  The same rule applies if the agency’s offices are open and a nonexempt employee does not come in or do any work from home.  This is true regardless of whether the nonexempt employee is being paid a salary or on an hourly basis by the agency. As noted above, if a nonexempt employee performs any work from home on a day when the agency’s offices are closed, they must be paid for the time they actually worked.

Whether an exempt employee’s salary may be reduced depends on whether the agency’s offices were open.  An exempt employee’s salary may only be reduced if the agency’s offices are open, but the exempt employee does not come in due to any reason other than sickness or do any work from home.  Therefore, if an exempt employee decides to stay home to take care of children who are not in school or due to severe weather decides they just can’t get to work, their next paycheck may be reduced by an amount equal to the number of full days they did not perform any services for the agency, if the agency’s offices were open for business during that time period.  However, if the exempt employee performed any work from home on a day when the agency’s offices were open, they must be paid as if they worked the whole day.

If the agency’s offices were not open for business due to inclement weather or any other reason for one or more days during a work week and an exempt employee performs any work during that workweek whether in the office or from home, they are entitled to be paid their full salary for that week.  But the agency can require such an employee to use any accrued vacation or other leave time for the time when its offices were closed.  If its offices are closed for the full work week and an exempt employee did not perform any work from home during that week, the agency can reduce the exempt employee’s pay for the number of days of that work week.