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September 12, 2001
Emergency Closings - Some Timely Tips
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nts such as Tuesday's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. make it difficult or impossible for employees to work. Like most Americans, many employees were likely at work Tuesday, but they were not working, they were hanging on every word from radios and televisions, or trying to access news sites on the Internet in an attempt to get the latest update.

Such events can make it impractical to operate the workplace. However, special problems arise when it becomes necessary to close in an emergency of this kind. Here are tips on pay issues that may come up, should your company decide to close:

Early closings. Under federal law, employers are not required to credit any hours worked to nonexempt, hourly employees who report for work and then are told that there is no work for them. Neither are they required to keep employees working for any specific number of hours or to pay them for hours they were assigned to work but didn't. Even so, most employers pay for unworked time when an emergency forces an early closing. However, if the plant is being kept open and employees are merely permitted to leave early at their option, hourly workers are usually not paid for the time off.

Full day's closing. On days that the facility does not open (and especially when notice has been given) hourly paid plant employees are usually not paid. Office employees seem to fare better than blue-collar workers, either being paid for this time or having it charged to their leave account. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, exempt employees must be paid for absences of less than a full week if a facility is shut down for emergencies. If you remain open, however, but they choose not to show up, you are not required to pay them (although many employers do).
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