Published on January 12, 2021
As winter sets in, many employers are wondering how their inclement weather policy applies to employees working remotely due to the COVID pandemic. Do you have to give your remote workers a day off if you close your physical premises? Do you have to pay them?
The first step is to review your internal policies and any employment contracts you may have with your employees. Make sure you are following your internal policies, your employee handbook and employment contracts. Some employers may choose to clarify the application of their inclement weather policy and other policies to remote workers. (This is best done proactively so you are prepared when the first snow day hits.)
Assuming you have no conflicting policies or agreements, the bottom line is that you can require your remote employees to work even if you close your physical office due to inclement weather. Of course you must pay them for all time worked.
For your hourly non-remote workers, if you haven’t promised payment on snow days, then you are not required to pay them if you are closed due to snow and they are instructed not to come to work (or work from home). For hourly employees, the law requires that they be paid if they are authorized or required to be on duty. They do not have to be paid if you do not authorize or require them to work. Exempt salaried employees should be paid their regular salary if you close the workplace for a few days due to weather.
Caveat: If your business is a food or retail establishment in Seattle and you employ more than 500 people worldwide, you may need to pay your hourly workers if you close due to a snow day under Seattle’s Secure Scheduling ordinance.
This is a frequent concern this time of year. If you have questions about your obligations to your employees, either on snow days or otherwise, please contact Hana Kern or any member of Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland’s Employment Rights, Benefits & Labor group.