As discussed in a prior newsletter article, winter weather causes numerous issues, such as absences and office closures. This year, the Old Farmer’s Almanac has predicted that the Northeast will receive “above-normal precipitation” for the 2018 winter season. Accordingly, many employers will need to decide whether to close in preparation of a potential storm, have an early dismissal, or remain open. This article will expand on this theme and discuss a new alternative for employers during inclement weather – allowing employees to work from home.

Paid Time Off

If an employer remains open, and a non-exempt employee elects to stay home (and not work), the time is unpaid unless the employee has available paid time off (“PTO”). In fact, under the New York City Sick and Safe Time Act, paid sick leave (or PTO) may be used when an employee’s child’s school is closed due to inclement weather. Non-exempt employees may be given the option to use available PTO or receive no pay. On the other hand, under federal law, employers are required to pay salaried, overtime-exempt employees regardless of whether they work during inclement weather or not.

Working from Home

Alternatively, employers may allow employees to work from home during inclement weather. While we typically do not recommend permitting non-exempt employees to work from home, it all depends on the organization and the particular circumstances. If the employee is classified as non-exempt, and works from home, the employer needs to provide a way for the employee to track his/her hours. Further, if non-exempt employees work from home, the employer needs to pay them as if they were working from the office. Allowing an exempt employee to work from home benefits the employer since work projects can be accomplished.

Considerations

There are a few things employers may want to consider when deciding whether or not to allow employees to work from home during inclement weather. When employees run into situations where their child’s school closes, their stress increases tremendously and decreases productivity. Further, last minute closures may present difficulties for parents who need to find child care for the day. Therefore, allowing employees to work from home reduces stress and protects against dangerous driving conditions. Employers are encouraged to monitor employees’ productivity considering children may be distracting. Allowing employees to work from home prevents complete loss in productivity if the office needs to close.

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