Q.- Our business is located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hurricane Sandy affected our area. One of our hourly-paid employees showed up for work at his regularly scheduled time of 7:00am Monday morning. We told him that he had to go home because of the hurricane and he had to take a vacation day. Was this practice OK?
A.- Probably, assuming you have a policy of forced vacation. Pennsylvania does not require an employer to pay an employee not to work. An employer only has to pay an employee for not working if it has a policy to do so, and the employer must follow its own policy. The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act regulates wages on a federal level, but does not require an employer to pay for any time not worked. This includes vacation time, whether forced or elected. Under the FLSA, an employer is permitted to tell an employee when the employee has to take personal time off.
Even if your actions are permissible under state and/or federal law, you might want to think about the employee relations message it sends for an employee to arrive at work in severe conditions and be sent home without any recognition of his dedication to the job. You may wish to consult a labor attorney.