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Worker asks: Must I use vacation day for weather-related closing?

Exempt employee wants to know if he can

Exempt employee wants to know if he can be forced to use vacation day when business closes. Credit: Getty Images/YinYang

DEAR CARRIE: A while ago, you answered an hourly employee's question about whether he should be paid when the office closed because of a snowstorm.

You said the employer could require those nonexempt workers to use vacation time to cover that missed day of work, even though they missed it through no fault of their own. I am an exempt worker and as such I can be contacted by my company at any time, even while I am on vacation. And I am expected to respond to the emails and calls as I can work remotely. I work in New York for a California-based company. Yet, when the office closes because of inclement weather, just like nonexempt employees, I am required to use vacation days to cover the lost time. Is it legal to treat exempt employees this way? — Snow Job

DEAR SNOW: It doesn't seem fair, but it sounds legal. Because of your exempt status, the company can legally ask you to work extra hours without paying you a cent more. Yet, it won't cut you any slack when it shuts the office for the day and makes you use your paid time off to cover a closing.

But here's something your exempt status prevents the company from doing: It cannot dock your pay if it closes because of bad weather. It can dock your pay only if you miss a full day for personal reasons. So what is left? Your paid time off. Your employer can legally require you to use that time.

But it's worth mentioning that even if all your paid time off has been used up for the year, your employer still can't dock your pay to cover a closing.

When employers break any of the rules regarding employees who are exempt, that status is lost, putting the employer on the hook for overtime pay.

DEAR CARRIE: I am an employee of a large health care hospital affiliate on Long Island. I transitioned from X-ray to MRI over a year ago, but I have not been compensated for that promotion. I get a different story every time I bring the subject of the raise to management. The salary increase should be anywhere from $5 to $10 or more an hour. What are my rights regarding getting paid what I should be earning in the new job? Am I entitled to the raise retroactively for services already rendered? — What Raise?

DEAR WHAT: Some lawyers maintain that unless you are covered by an employment or union contract, you may not be able to force your employer to act. They say the law requires only minimum wage. But other laws that may come in to play are those that prohibit discrimination. So if two employees perform the same job, the differences in pay between them must be explained by years of service, skill level or some other nondiscriminatory reason.   

So check to see if you have a contractual basis for pushing your company to honor the raise. And consider writing a letter to your supervisor to remind him or her that your promotion comes with a salary increase. Sometimes putting something in writing makes the point more forcefully. 

Go to for more on federal rules regarding some exempt employees. 

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