With heavy snow predicted once again, a brief review of some weather-related issues from an employment law perspective is in order.
Employers have to decide whether to close the business, allow some or all employees to work from home, or have a delayed opening. These decisions may implicate various employment laws.
Employee safety is paramount. Employers should seriously consider allowing employees to stay home on days when there is a high risk of a travel accident.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the mandatory closure orders have shown employers that many work tasks can be performed remotely, at least on a short-term basis. Employers should therefore consider allowing employees to work from home when inclement weather is occurring or expected.
While New York City does have an anti-discrimination law protecting “caregiver status,” employees who cannot come to work or perform their duties remotely due to weather-related school closures or other childcare issues are generally not protected.
Exempt employees must be paid their full salary if they work any part of a week, even if the employer is closed for a portion of that week. Failure to do so could place employees’ exempt status at risk.
Non-exempt employees generally do not have to be paid for hours during which they don’t work. This is true even if they cannot work because the employer closed due to inclement weather. However, non-exempt employees who show up for work but are sent home early due to weather must be paid for any actual time worked.
Employees who show up for work and find the place of business closed may be entitled to “call-in pay.” Specifically, New York State law requires that employees who, “by request or permission of their employer report to work on any day shall be paid for at least four hours, or the number of hours in the regularly scheduled shift, whichever is less, at the basic minimum hourly wage.” It is therefore important that employers advise employees in advance of closures.