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So You Were Unable To Report For Work Owing To The Hurricane: Must Your Employer Pay You For Your Enforced Absence?

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Hurricane Sandy has posed a lot of questions in its wake. Questions that employers never thought of answering and questions that workers never thought would be required to be asked.

Workers, who were stranded at home, unable to report for work owing to breakdown in public transportation, or power outages, or some other reason, are worried whether their enforced absence will cost them their wages.

So the question that arises is whether you, as worker are entitled to get paid if you are unable to join work owing to the weather or your company is closed because of weather issues.

The answer is not very simple and there are many factors that have to be considered. It all depends whether you are an exempt employee or a non-exempt employee, federal and state laws also play a very important role as does the company policy, though very few companies have anything in their employers rule book about such contingencies – however, the current storm will have them scurrying to their lawyers for relevant clauses and legal counsel.

If you are a non-exempt employee and eligible for overtime and your office is closed owing to the storm, the news is not very good for you; the law mandates that your employer is not obligated to pay you for your absence, even though it was not voluntary. However, most employers, given that they place a value on their workforce will pay their employees for this period. So for non-exempt policy, the government does not mandate it and whether you will get paid for it or not depends on your employer’s workplace policy.

However, if you are an exempt employee and get a salary and are not eligible for overtime and have worked for some portion of the week, you are entitled to be paid for the entire week, even if you were absent from work. However, your employer can also ask you to use the enforced holiday as a vacation day.

The rules change if your workplace is open, but you cannot get to work. Remember there are others who have been able to report for work. If you are non-exempt, the same rule applies, but if you are exempt your employer can dock your pay if you are absent throughout the day. However, if you manage to join work for even a portion of the day, then your employer will have to pay the full day’s pay.

So eventually it all boils down to whether you are exempt or non-exempt. But given the extraordinary circumstances employers usually think about the moral and ethical issues and know that it will cause demoralizing and confrontational issues for the non-exempt workers, if they pay the exempt workers and not pay them. After all, both are guilty of the same offense – how can one be rewarded for it and other penalized for it?

However, one thing all workers must keep in mind. If for any weather-related reason you are unable to join work, make sure you inform your employer and tell him why. Remember there will be quite a few workers who can come to work, but won’t, because they have an excuse. These are the people who will give employers the license and the excuse to penalize those who are genuinely affected.

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So You Were Unable To Report For Work Owing To The Hurricane: Must Your Employer Pay You For Your Enforced Absence? by
Authored by: Harrison Barnes