Hurricane Sandy and Employer's Wage Obligations
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a frequent question is whether an employer must pay wages to employees who did not work due to a storm closing. While you should consult with counsel for a specific answer in light of your pay policies and practices, there are two answers for salaried exempt and hourly non-exempt employees.
Employers do not have to pay non-exempt, hourly, employees when no work has been performed as, by definition, they are “hourly” and only to be paid for hours worked.
Employers must continue to pay salaried, exempt, employees if they work any time during a work week and are available to work the remaining days, whether they work or not. In other words, if the worksite is closed for less than a week, and a salaried exempt employee has worked part of the week, s/he must be paid for the week. As Hurricane Sandy hit at the beginning of the work week, if the employee did not work at all during the week, no pay is earned and none need be paid. See Conn. Regs. §§ 31-60-14, 15 (the employee need not be paid for any workweek in which s/he performed no work). However, be careful as some salaried, exempt employees may claim to have worked from home. If they did work at home, they would be due their salary for the week.
Other than what the law provides, there is one additional consideration: is not paying the employees for the storm closing going to hurt employee morale? That remains as a business decision that you will have to consider. If a written policy is currently in place that informed employees that they might not be paid during the week in which the employer is closed, this may not be as much of a concern. However, with employees returning to work after having been living without power, they may not fully appreciate that the storm also caused the employer to suffer financial losses. Day to day events in the workplace may be dangerous. Be safe!