In February 2021, the continental United States faced a massive blizzard which affected several states unaccustomed to heavy snowfall. States in the southern half of the United States such as Texas and Arkansas were particularly impacted. The blizzard resulted in business closures and work stoppages, leaving many employees unable to report to work.

This loss of income can be as catastrophic as the blizzard itself. Employees, however, may be entitled to pay even if they were unable to report to work or be as productive as they usually would be. The Fair Labor Standards Act and corresponding state wage-and-hour laws require employers to pay their employees at least a minimum wage and overtime for all hours worked over forty per workweek. It also allows for certain categories of employees to be paid via salary without regard to minimum wage and overtime provided the employer complies with certain requirements, including limits on salary deductions.

For employees paid by the hour, they must only be paid for work performed. If an employee’s business is closed and work is physically performed on-site, then said employee is not entitled to any wages because no work was performed. They may be entitled to unemployment insurance payments depending on their state’s program. Several states allow for unemployment benefits if a “natural disaster” caused the employee to miss work.  

Some hourly employees, however, have shifted to working from home in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those employees who did perform work — even if less productive due to the unique issues caused by the blizzard such as intermittent internet access — must be paid for all hours worked. The FLSA requires employees to be paid for all work, even if significantly less productive than the norm.

For employees paid via salary who are “exempt” from overtime and minimum wage requirements, employers may not make deductions from their salary if the business was closed for less than a full workweek. Performing any work during the workweek triggers an employer’s requirement to pay a full salary even if closed for the remainder of the workweek. The employee’s absence from work is considered to be due to the employer’s closure.

In this situation, the Department of Labor allows employers to substitute Paid Time Off or other paid leave for hours which were unworked. If the employee does not have enough accrued leave to pay a full salary, however, the employee must still receive his or her salary without any deductions.

If an employer’s business is open, it may only make deductions from an exempt employee’s salary if he or she misses a full day of work for personal reasons. “Personal reasons” includes an inability to report for work due to road closures, inclement weather conditions, and the like. Employees who report to work — or work remotely — must be paid their full salary even if only working a partial workday. If an employee only works a partial workday due to personal reasons, the employer may substitute accrued leave for the missed work time. Absent accrued leave, the employer must still refrain from making deductions against the employee’s salary.

Do you feel that your employer has improperly paid you during the 2021 blizzard? If so, call us at (855) 825-5916 to learn about your legal rights.