The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Finding Success Through Others


At times we all feel like we’re on an island. No time seems to be more true than the last two weeks on the East Coast and Mid-west! Many of us spent the last two weeks digging out, trying to work remotely and deal with child care concerns when school is cancelled minutes before we leave for work.

I don’t often share personal stories such as this, but as I sit high above Michigan Ave in Chicago watching the snow fall I can’t help but realize the deep impact this has on employers. I am often called to answer the common questions: “Do we close the office?”, “Do we have to pay employees if they can’t get to work?”, and “How do I decide who gets to work from home and who has to take a vacation day?”

I wish there was an easy answer I could share – but there isn’t. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act you don’t have to pay hourly employees unless they work. At the same time, you do have to pay exempt employees for a week of work, so if they came in at all that week, they need to receive their full salary for the week. Vacation and PTO (Paid Time Off) are outside the guidelines of law in most cases, and you are permitted to dock the time off bank from an exempt employee, as long as they receive their full pay for the week.

When I am faced with these questions, I often turn to other HR professionals. This month I was able to reach out to the two mastermind groups I run and see how they handled the situation. Working with other HR professionals allows the group to go back to leadership with various solutions that others embraced in their organization. This is just one of the many valuable features of mastermind mind groups. If you are not familiar with the concept of peer-to-peer advisory groups, learn more at the site of a recognized expert in the field, Karyn Greenstreet.

Back to the question of what to do when natural situations keep employees from coming to work. The most critical tip is to decide this in advance. Have a policy in place of what the expectations are for getting to work – and who will be paid. I generally recommend using public transportation service as a guideline, and create a pay practice that aligns with your company culture. Most importantly, make sure your employees know where to find information of whether or not your office will be open. There is nothing worse than having your best employee trudge through sleet and snow to arrive at work and find the doors locked!

And if you aren’t sure what to do – consider aligning your organization with other professionals in our advisory group starting at the end of February!

Photo by Axel Taferner used under the following license.

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