Does an employer need to pay an employee who cannot report to work due to circumstances beyond his or her control, such as a natural disaster or other emergency?

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

Typically, no. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an employer is obligated to pay a nonexempt employee only for time he or she actually worked.

If the office or other place of work is open, but the employee is unable to come in for any reason - such as road closures or public transportation shutdowns - the employee does not need to be paid. If the employer allows telecommuting and a nonexempt employee is able to perform work from home, he or she must be paid for any time spent working.

But if the nonexempt employee is unable to work from home for any reason - such as a lack of Internet access - the employer has no obligation to pay the employee.

An employer may make deductions from the salary of an exempt employee if the employee is absent for one or more full days for personal reasons.

The US Department of Labor has said that "an employee who is absent due to inclement weather, such as because of transportation difficulties, is absent for personal reasons."

However, if the exempt employee performs any amount of work during the day that is not de minimis - such as responding to some emails from a home computer or filling out paperwork while waiting on the station platform for a train that doesn't arrive - the employee must be paid his or her full salary.