Snow will soon be here and employers will have to make decisions about whether to close, keep regular hours, allow some or all employees to work from home, or have a delayed opening. The considerations from a labor and employment law perspective, as always, are many. We discuss some of them below.
The most important factor is employee safety. Employers should give serious consideration to allowing employees to stay home on days when there is a higher chance of a travel accident. Some employees, however, may be considered essential for purposes of attendance, and those employees should be notified of that status in advance, whether it be in a job description, inclement weather policy, or other written document.
It used to be that non-exempt workers weren’t entitled to be paid for work if they didn’t come to work because of the weather. That’s no longer the case in jurisdictions with predictive scheduling laws, such as New York City, which has laws protecting fast food and retail workers.
Exempt employees must be paid for the full week even if the employer is closed for a portion of the week. Failure to do so could result in a loss of the employee’s exempt status.
Timekeeping for Remote Workers
Employers allowing non-exempt employees to work from home during bad weather should establish a timekeeping method for employees to record their start and stop times while working offsite.
Employers should also consider how far in advance to notify employees of their inclement weather plans, factoring in employee commute times and how those times will need to be adjusted in adverse weather conditions. The earlier the notice, the better, from an employee morale perspective.
There will likely be some employees who cannot come to work or arrive on time in inclement weather situations where the employer conducts business as usual (or on a delayed opening) and does not allow employees to work from home. What discipline, if any, will the employer impose in these circumstances? New York employers are generally within their rights to discipline employees who fail to report to work as scheduled (even in bad weather), but there may be circumstances where an employer may decide to be more lenient. Employers making disciplinary exceptions should remember to treat similar situations similarly.