Question:

If we choose to close temporarily, do we need to pay employees?

Answer:

It depends on the employee’s classification.

Nonexempt employees only need to be paid only for actual hours worked. For these employees, you may:

  1. Pay the employee for the time, even though they did not work;
  2. Require they take the time off unpaid;
  3. Require they use any available vacation time or paid time off (PTO)*; or
  4. Allow employees to choose between taking an unpaid day or using vacation or PTO.

All four options are compliant with federal law. We generally recommend option 4 — allowing but not requiring employees to use vacation time or PTO. If your office is required to close by health authorities, mayor, or governor and your state has a sick leave law, employees may be able to use accrued paid sick leave during the closure depending on the terms of the applicable sick leave law.

Exempt employees must be paid their regular salary unless the office is closed for an entire workweek and they do no work at all from home. You can, however, require them to use accrued vacation or PTO during a closure if you have a policy that indicates you will do so, or if this has been your past practice.* When it comes to accrued vacation or PTO, it is safest to give employees advance notice if there are situations where you will use their accrued hours whether they like it or not.

*California limits mandatory PTO use without significant notice. Check state law.