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If my Work Closes Because of An Emergency, Am I Still Owed Wages?

Empty meeting room.
By Kellie Pantekoek, Esq. on March 23, 2020 3:55 PM

Not many people have the luxury of taking days off of work and giving up money.

However, despite your willingness to work, you may not have a choice if your work shuts down. If your employer shuts down the business temporarily due to an emergency or other reason, do they still have to pay you?

Can't Do Business

Sometimes, a business may shut down temporarily either because there isn't enough work for employees or because of government action. Currently, tens of thousands of businesses are shut down around the country due to emergency orders stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.

Beyond the current public health emergency the country is experiencing, businesses are also often unable to continue operations during major snowstorms or inclement weather. Employees may not be able to travel to work places safely. Work places may not be able to operate because the power went out.  

Many employees may be wondering if they're still owed wages that they would have earned had the company not shut down by emergencies.

Am I Still Entitled to Wages?

As always with legal questions, the answer is, "It depends."

Non-exempt employees

If you are a non-exempt employee, meaning you are paid an hourly wage, sadly, the answer is no.

According to the Department of Labor, the Fair Labor Standards Act only applies to hours actually worked. Employers don't have to pay you if they shut down the business temporarily because you didn't work those hours.

Salaried Employees

You may be luckier if you are an exempt employee, meaning you get paid a salary. If you worked part of a week, but the company shuts down for the rest of the week, the FLSA requires employers to pay your full salary for the week.

However, don't get too excited yet. The FLSA does not require employers to provide vacation pay. So, if you have vacation pay or paid time off, an employer may require you to take the vacation time to cover days when you can't come into work because the office is closed.

This assumes that you have enough vacation days to cover the closure. If you don't have enough days or any days at all, the employer will have to pay your whole week's salary without any deductions.

If you believe your employer owes you pay, consult with an experienced wage and hour attorney for advice. Also, be sure to consider filing for unemployment insurance if you were laid off because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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