During office closures due to inclement weather or other disasters, may a private employer direct exempt staff to take vacation or other PTO?

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

According to a U.S. Department of Labor opinion letter, +2005 DOLWH LEXIS 55, employers with a bona fide benefits plan may substitute or reduce the accrued leave in the plan for the time an exempt employee is absent from work, even if it is less than a full day, without jeopardizing the employee's exempt status, as long as the employee still receives in payment an amount equal to the employee's guaranteed salary. However, if the employer closes the office due to inclement weather or other disasters for less than a full workweek, the employer must pay the employee's full salary even if:

  • The employer does not have a bona fide benefits plan;
  • The employee has no accrued benefits in the leave bank;
  • The employee has limited accrued leave benefits and reducing that accrued leave will result in a negative balance; or
  • The employee already has a negative balance in the accrued leave bank.