Snow days costly to some workers

Published 1:12 am Saturday, February 1, 2014

Now that the ice is melted and the roads are cleared, many area employees are wondering how they’ll be paid for the last several days, given that almost all offices have been closed for at least part of a day if not several.

Thomas Scoggins of the Tuscaloosa workplace law group Tanner and Guin, said the minimum payment obligations to employees differ for non-exempt and exempt employees.

For non-exempt employees, or those who must be paid overtime, federal law only requires employers to pay for the hours actually worked, no longer how long the office is open or closed, he said.

For those employees who are paid a pre-determined salary regardless of how many hours they work, it is more complicated, he said.

If an exempt employee works a partial day, that employee must be paid their pro rata salary for that entire day. If the employer closes the office for an entire day because of inclement weather then the exempt employee must be paid for that entire day. However, if the employer is open for business, and the exempt employee is absent for the entire day, then that employee has been absent for personal reasons even if the absence is because they have made the judgment that they personally cannot get to the office safely.

The mandatory use of vacation or other paid time off is up to the policy of the employer, Scoggins said.

In Andalusia, Mayor Earl Johnson said all city employees will be paid.

“We’re telling them not to come,” he said. “We cannot put them in that dangerous condition. What you don’t want people doing is subjecting themselves to some sort of risk just to make an eight-hour paycheck.”

Johnson said that working with city employees has changed his perspective on this issue.

“Many of them do their jobs because they love their community,” he said, adding many of them could earn more in the private sector. “Nearly all of our folks are dedicated, conscientious, hardworking people who go the extra mile.”

For those employed by the Covington County Commission, that meant four days off for general staff and less for those with the road department.

Chairman Bill Godwin said the county handbook has a set policy for such a situation.

“The handbook says if the commission closes the office, the employee gets eight hours of comp(ensatory) time,” Godwin said. “They’re not paid for that time. They can use that comp time at their discretion.

“The ones that come in, like the road department, they get their regular pay, plus eight hours of comp time,” he said. “I’m not sure of all the ins and outs, but employees can use leave time to get paid, I believe. That’s what’s been done before.”