2. Calculating the wages of exempt employees
When an employer shuts down its operations because of adverse weather conditions for less than a full workweek, exempt employees must be paid their full salary. This rule also applies if exempt employees work only part of a day.
If an employer is open for business, on the other hand, an exempt employee who misses work due to the weather situation is considered absent for personal reasons. In lieu of paying salary, an employer with a bona fide leave or vacation policy may require the employee to use his or her accrued paid time off to cover the absence. As long as it is permitted by state law, leave time in this circumstance may be taken in full or partial days.
If an employer has a leave policy, but the absent employee does not have a leave account balance, the employer is not obligated to pay the employee. Unpaid leave, in full-day increments, may be an option for employees who do not have a leave account balance.
3. Reliance on remote work
Employers trying to get up to speed after Irma may choose to consider allowing employees to work remotely (i.e., at home), whether as a long-term or short-term solution. As noted earlier, non-exempt employees must be compensated for all time spent working. Thus, employers must pay non-exempt employees for performing any work remotely and, moreover, may need to rely on employee self-reporting of hours worked in such a scenario. Exempt employees, too, must be paid their regular salary in this circumstance, unless leave time can be applied for partial days.
4. Potential delays in wage payments
One possible consequence of a natural disaster such as Irma is the delayed processing of employees’ wage payments. This situation can cause employers to unintentionally run afoul of state law. Georgia, for example, requires employers to establish pay periods divided into at least two equal periods within the month. In South Carolina, moreover, an employer must provide seven calendar days’ advance notice to employees if there is a change to the designated payday or a decrease in the employee wage rate. Yet, as a practical matter, employers may be unable to process or fund payments to satisfy these requirements, especially in the immediate wake of the storm.
Although some laxity may be afforded to those who experience significant difficulty meeting these types of obligations as a result of the hurricane, the states currently in Irma’s path (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) have not indicated if there may be any relief from or waiver of the normal wage payment laws. Furthermore, if payroll is processed in these states for employees working in other states, it is important to be mindful of those state laws and potential penalties for delayed payment.