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Pay obligations differ during inclement weather closures primarily based on the worker's Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) classification. Additionally, some state laws may come into play depending on the circumstances involved.
Employers may generally require both nonexempt and exempt employees to use paid time off (PTO) in times of inclement weather or natural disasters. An exception might be if the state mandates paid sick leave, which is only to be used for specific circumstances.
Mandatory use of PTO can be applied to full-day or partial-day absences. As for exempt employees, FLSA allows the substitution of PTO for regular wages, as long as the exempt employees receive their fixed weekly salary. See DOL Opinion Letter FLSA2005-41.
If a nonexempt employee has exhausted his or her PTO, absences or early departures due to the employer's business closures are generally not compensable with the exception of any state report-in pay laws as described earlier.
If an exempt employee has exhausted his or her PTO, an employer must still provide exempt employees guaranteed salaries for closures of less than a full workweek in these situations.
When requiring employees to use their PTO for business closures, employers should have a written policy in place to inform employees of this requirement. Policies should be applied fairly and consistently to avoid any potential discriminatory claims from employees. Employers will also want to ensure that their policy on mandatory use of PTO is in compliance with their state laws.
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