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Salary & Closures

Salary & Closures

Salary & Closures

Currently I work for a small manufacturer which had to shut down for a few days due to the big wind that rolled through the East Coast.
I am curious to know how other companies deal with employee pay during closures (say, due to weather/natural disaster).

What happened for us:
Hourly employees received no pay. They were allowed to allocate paid time off if they had any available. This makes sense to me.
Salary (exempt) employees were required to allocate PTO for the closure days. By the letter of the law (FLSA), this is allowed.
(It states that employers can require an employee to apply accrued PTO towards the closure days.)

The kooky bit, is many employees have no PTO left, so they are requiring the use of PTO from the next year (which hasn't been "accrued" yet). By the same token, our usual PTO is pro-rated during the year. So they essentially force PTO upon us when it is convenient to them, but only dole it out slowly during the year normally. Some of us have flights & hotels booked, and now no PTO left to cover the trip.
On the one hand, they are not even required by law to supply any PTO. On the other, they already offer 1-2 weeks less than the local competition for the same years of service. Yes, the standard "Update your resume" reply is welcome.

They seem to be in the legal right here, if only barely. Do we have any right to feel jerked around?

RE: Salary & Closures

Consider the alternative. For those who had insufficient PTO saved up, the company could have allowed them to go unpaid during the closure. Would those employees feel jerked around in this case? Probably not - it would be written off to bad luck.

In the case you described, people who borrow but won't need the PTO next year will experience a net benefit by getting paid now. People who borrow but WILL need the PTO next year will have postponed the period they go unpaid, thus they also benefit (although only a little).

My analysis assumes that you have the option to take unpaid leave next year at the originally scheduled vacation time. If that's not the case, then I would probably feel jerked around. Even if that's not the company's standard policy, I would hope they would make an exception due to extraordinary circumstances.

Maybe you should build up a week or two of "reserve" PTO time unless unused time is lost.

RE: Salary & Closures

I always thought that the salary law struck a balance between salaried and hourly employees (I don't think that's the official names) by requiring that salaried employees be paid a certain amount every time subdivision, week, month, whatever while hourly employees were paid just for when they attended, but they got overtime. So the salaried employees would be paid if they couldn't make it in.
Requiring them to take PTO seems like it doesn't follow the law. It's Personal Time Off, where you're given the option when to use it, sick, vacation, personal. Now if this was twenty years ago, and there was a sick time option, I would say they could make you take that.
Sure doesn't sound like I'm right.

RE: Salary & Closures

I've seen this before. Once I was confronted with a similar situation. I tried to opt for "time off with no pay"...yippeee I don't have to go to work (and I can afford a week or so with no pay). All the heads in the management ranks and HR department simultaneously exploded, with all the attendant wailing and gnashing of teeth. The driver for this decision was administrative / payroll accounting. It was a much easier task to assign PTO to those days than to figure out a way to not pay me.

Blue Technik LLC
Virtuoso Robotics Engineering

RE: Salary & Closures



For those who had insufficient PTO saved up, the company could have allowed them to go unpaid during the closure.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) they cannot. If the place is closed (IE: employee is available and wants to work, but cannot), and it is closed less than a week, (employee worked some of that week), they are required to be paid their full salary, even if they have no PTO. So in our case, they're "borrowing" those PTO days from the future because it is convenient.


My analysis assumes that you have the option to take unpaid leave next year at the originally scheduled vacation time. If that's not the case, then I would probably feel jerked around
Unpaid leave would be highly unlikely.


Maybe you should build up a week or two of "reserve" PTO time unless unused time is lost.
Our PTO does not carry over to next year. Nor do we have a full allotment on Jan 1st.


I always thought that the salary law struck a balance between salaried and hourly employees
This is why we're rather annoyed. This seems like a blatant attempt to have the benefits of exempt employees (free O/T), without picking up the tab when it is required of them. Again, I don't think they've done anything outright illegal, but they're definitely not buying any favors or morale.

RE: Salary & Closures

I think that's not a standard interpretation. Pay is mandatory only if an employee is already at work and is told to go home. If they are told ahead of time to not show up, they don't get paid. We went through this 20 yrs ago during the Rodney King riots in LA.

Labor laws only ensure that if the employee does actual work for the company, the employee gets pay. Otherwise, no work, no pay. Shutdowns and temporary layoffs are the province of unemployment insurance.

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RE: Salary & Closures

I'm not a lawyer (with much thanks to whichever Diety you prefer), so my interpretation could be utterly wrong.



Thus, if the employer closes the office due to inclement weather or other disasters for less than a full workweek, the employer must pay the employee’s full salary even if:

the employer does not have a bona fide benefits plan;
the employee has no accrued benefits in the leave bank;
the employee has limited accrued leave benefits and reducing that accrued leave will result in a negative balance; or
the employee already has a negative balance in the accrued leave bank.

Seems to say that as long as you worked a day in that week, then the salary must be paid. They can put the employee to -4 personal days, though, which is effectively what they've done.

So what they've done is legal, even if it's made half their staff hate their guts.

RE: Salary & Closures

The section seems tp apply to a very specific form of salaried employee, which is not often the case in most companies, i.e., they refer to people where " a predetermined amount constituting all or part of his compensation, which amount is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of the work performed" is paid per pay period. That's diferent than any "salaried" position I've ever had.

FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Salary & Closures

Really? That sounds like a standard salaried position over here - my salary is agreed in advance of work being done (and before joining the company in most instances) after which the only variation is via promotion, grade rise, cost of living increment, etc. I do (so far!) get a performance-related bonus which is just that - a bonus; it is paid annually as a lump sum. My salary is fixed. It might change each year dependant upon my performance the previous year but it isn't a monthly variable dependant upon my hours and my throughput of work.

What is the norm for salaried staff in the US?

RE: Salary & Closures

It might be just laziness on the part of the payroll guys; my wife is salaried, and her paystub shows a half-month chunk of time and pay, but mine is diced into hourly chunks of time and pay.

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RE: Salary & Closures

Even without the legal angle in this discussion, there is still the question of should you feel jerked around or not, and I'd say of course it depends, but I would say that in general, randomly not paying employees and screwing with their personal time off is prone to making someone feel like they are being jerked around.

I guess it always depends on the company size and financial position, but I think many companies would just pay their employees through this sort of period rather than invite resentment that CW42 seems to be feeling. I'm not sure how my current employer would respond to this situation, but I know I've had employers in the past who simply paid me for this kind of thing. In one case there was a massive blizzard and I actually made it into work, but most didn't, and they paid everyone, and I didn't complain or feel resentment.

M.S. Structural Engineering
Licensed Structural Engineer and Licensed Professional Engineer (Illinois)

RE: Salary & Closures

A lot depends on the employeer and how they treat their employees. I have worked for a company that allowed me to take a day every few weeks to take my wife to chemotherapy without using sick day or vacation time. When I was a contractor and paid hourly, I was only paid for what I worked unless the plant was closed for an unseeable instance. In one case, we were sent home early on a work day becasue of a bad snowstorm in Houston. My contract company was not charged for the hours that we missed, but my contract house timesheet was marked as 8 hours for that day. and they paid me for the full day. Another time we were out for 1-1/2 days when a transformer blew up and the site lost power. The company was not billed for us being off, but the contract house was billed for my full time. I have also worked at a facility where we could NOT get to work because of a snowstorm and the governer had order all unneccessary driving to stop and that included work unless your position was deemed an essential one. The company I worked for paid us salaried employees with out requiring PTO.

To the OP, your company is following the letter of the law, but could use a little spirit.

"Wildfires are dangerous, hard to control, and economically catastrophic."

Ben Loosli

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