Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Now That My Office Is Closed For Hurricane Matthew, Do I Get Paid?

So I'm sitting here waiting to get hit by Hurricane Matthew, as is most of eastern Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas and I'm already bored. One of the worst parts of hurricanes is waiting in a shutter-enclosed cave, knowing havoc is about to be wreaked. What I do know is that almost every employer in the cone of concern is shut down right now.

It occurred to me that you may be wondering: do I get paid for this?

Whether you’re entitled to be paid when the office is closed depends on whether you are “exempt” salaried or not. Just being salaried doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t entitled to overtime. It’s possible to be salaried and still non-exempt from the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Many employers misclassify employees as exempt to avoid paying overtime. If you work more than forty hours per week, it’s better to be non-exempt. But in the case of weather and emergency closings, it’s probably better to be exempt.

Exempt employees: If you’re exempt and you worked any portion of the work week, you have to be paid your entire salary, whether or not the office is closed for a natural disaster such as hurricane, snow, tornado, or flood. Further, Department of Labor regulations state, “If the employee is ready, willing and able to work, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available.” This would include natural disasters, so if you are able to work after a storm then you must be paid even if you didn’t work any portion of the week. If you can’t get there on time or have to leave early due to the flooding but the office is open, they can’t deduct for any partial days you worked.

Vacation time and PTO: Your employer can deduct from your vacation time or PTO for the time taken. However, if you have no accrued vacation or PTO time available, they still can’t deduct from your pay if you’re exempt.

Non-exempt employees
: If you are non-exempt, then your employer doesn’t have to pay for the time the office is closed. However, if your company takes deductions and you’re a non-exempt salaried employee it may affect the way overtime is calculated.

Who Is Exempt?: You’re not exempt unless you fall into very specific categories, such as executives, administrative employees, or learned professionals. Plus, your job duties must fall within those categories, not just your title. In addition, your employer must treat you as exempt by not docking your pay when you miss work. This is one of those rare times when it's better to be exempt, so be glad the new rules expanding entitlement to overtime don't go into effect until December i.

Pay For Reporting To Work: If you report to work after a natural disaster, only to find out that the workplace is closed (assuming they didn’t notify you), many states have laws that require your employer to pay you a set minimum amount of time if you show up as scheduled. Florida has no such requirement (so maybe it’s a good time to start complaining to your legislators).

If you’re hit with the big storm, get in touch with your supervisor or manager as soon as possible to find out whether or not you’re expected to be at work. If you can’t get in touch with anyone, then only go in if it’s safe for you to do so.

Stay safe!


  1. I worked in Miami-Dade in Sept 1999 (Hurricane Irene). Our office was closed and we were paid.

  2. Most companies pay employees for at least the time the company is closed, or at least that has been my experience in the several companies I've worked for in the last 30 yrs in Broward county (South FL) In each company, if for any reason the office closed or closed early, employees were paid a full days pay. Every one of my friends has said the companies they work for did the same.
    That being said, the very large attorney firm I currently work for did not pay us for the day Matthew grazed our coast. We were required to take PTO or an unpaid day. This really sucked because this company just switched over to all inclusive PTO hours. Prior to this switch, on our anniversary, we received 3 sick and 2 Personal days then would accrue vacation time. When they switched, you got nothing on your anniversary. You had to accrue time before you could take anything...and although I was told we'd be able to borrow against future time, when I did that for 6 hrs I had to HR directly to get approval. In addition to all of this, this company took away a holiday last year that most other companies give...the day after Thankgiving. Now, if we want to take it, we have to use our PTO time.
    This is a gigantic firm with 4-500 employees on site and offices in several states. They walk that line but are always sure not to cross over it.

  3. What would advise an elderly Federal Employee (60+) who is terminally ill and being badgered by superiors for being incompetent, threatening corrective actions, after 20+ years of impeccable service? How do I make it stop? Tried alternate dispute resolution, in-formal EEOC, not successful and the harassment continues and has escalated to include my supervisor's supervisors. I am male all are three are female.


I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.