As winter storms threaten to affect residents and businesses throughout New Jersey, employers and workers are doing a familiar dance around whether employees will be compelled to show up for work when snow or ice storms make it unsafe to travel to the office or jobsite.
Workers may think it is unfair, but it actually is legal for your employer to require you to report to work in severe weather. In fact, there are no federal or state laws that clearly outline the issue. Most reasonable employers will be understanding of the situation and allow workers to make their own decisions regarding their personal safety. They may decide to refrain from making employees believe that their job is on the line, but they may also dock their pay for the hours not worked.
Even if the call is made by your employer to close the office, there is no obligation for them to pay nonexempt employees for time they did not work.
Exempt and Nonexempt Employees
Federal law separates employees into two categories: exempt and nonexempt. Nonexempt employees are subject to laws that govern the way they are paid, rules that protect them from unfair practices but that also provide some leeway to employers. For example, nonexempt employees are due overtime for work in excess of a 40-hour workweek. On the other hand, those same employees are not guaranteed a full week’s pay if they work less than a full 40 hours.
Exempt employees, most of whom are salaried or management employees, have no guarantee of overtime. However, if the office closes, exempt employees are guaranteed their usual salary regardless of the hours they put in, as long as they did work that week.
Employer policies may dictate different terms that may include paying all employees for weather-related closures, but that is not written into the law.
That said, some employers may institute a policy that charges employees PTO time (or paid time off, such as personal or vacation leave) for hours not worked because of office closures or inclement weather travel issues that keep employees home.
Government or Emergency Orders
If the governor declares a state of emergency or bans road travel because of dangerous weather conditions, employers may have little choice but to close the office until the emergency situation subsides. The government may suggest the closure of workplaces, but the individual employers are still able to make the decision for their own businesses.
If an employer goes ahead with plans to require employees to report to work, the employer may open itself up to liability for negligence if an employee becomes injured on the way to work in such conditions.
Many emergency or essential workers are excluded from these government orders, as workers such as law enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMTs are needed on the job despite an emergency declaration.
South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC, Represent Clients in Disputes with Their Employers
If you were hurt on your way to work after being forced to report during a snowstorm or other dangerous weather condition, you may have a case against your employer for negligence. In this situation, you are unlikely to be covered under Workers’ Compensation. However, this lack of coverage also extends to your employer, who may become the target of a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. You should explore your options for seeking compensation by speaking to the South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC. Call us today at 856-235-7075 or contact us online for a free consultation. With office locations in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients from Cherry Hill, Burlington County, Camden County, and throughout South Jersey.