Winter weather in New Jersey can be unpredictable and frustrating. Not only can icy roads and heavy snow increase your risk of auto accidents and slip and fall occurrences, but extreme weather can also interfere with your ability to get to work. Occasionally, a storm is so severe that New Jersey declares a “state of emergency.” When conditions are this severe, are you entitled to take the day off work?
What Is a “State of Emergency” in New Jersey?
If weather conditions are particularly hazardous, New Jersey residents may you may get a robo-call or recorded message from their local police departments notifying them that a state of emergency has been declared and that “only essential personnel should be on the roads.” However, this directive doesn’t mean that you are prohibited by the state from being on the roads. Its purpose is both to advise the public of the hazard level and to give the state the power to implement emergency response procedures like closing or redirecting roads, creating emergency shelters, and more. Unless the state issues a travel ban or restriction, individuals are permitted to use open roads in a manner that is reasonable for the conditions.
Can I Take Time Off for Bad Weather?
Unfortunately, New Jersey law does not require that employers allow workers to take time off for weather-related emergencies or hazards. Unless you have a written contract, union/SBA, or other employment agreement, your employment status is likely “at will.” This means that an employer or employee may terminate the relationship at any time, without a reason, without cause. (An employer may not terminate a worker’s employment for an unlawful cause, however, such as in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) or in retaliation for whistleblowing.) An employer is legally allowed to require workers to work during weather emergencies and to terminate them if they fail to report.
Will I Get Compensation for Emergency Days Off?
New Jersey State law does not require employers to pay hourly, non-exempt employees if they are unable to work a scheduled shift or day due to a declared state of emergency. Salaried employees who are exempt from overtime should receive regular compensation because under the law, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available. Your employer is allowed to require you to use a vacation day or PTO (paid time off), if applicable, for any day the business was closed due to a declared emergency and you were unable to report to work, as long as it does so uniformly in accordance with its established benefits policy, employment agreement, or union contract. An individual may have a basis for a wage and hour claim or lawsuit if an employer fails to adhere to its policy, agreement, or contract.
New Jersey Unemployment Benefits May Fill the Gap
There may be another way to recover your lost wages, however. Workers who are unable to work due to a weather-related emergency or other disaster may be eligible for New Jersey temporary unemployment benefits, even if they return to their ordinary employment once the emergency has passed. Contact the state Department of Labor's Re-employment Call Centers or go online to begin a claim.
If you have questions about employment law issues, believe you may have a claim for improperly withheld wages, or have been the victim of an adverse employment action, you should consult with an experienced employment attorney. The attorneys at the Mark Law Firm can help protect your rights and recover damages if appropriate. Our attorneys help clients in Basking Ridge, Newark, Oradell, Jersey City, Paterson, Union, and all over New Jersey. Contact us today to make an appointment at any of our convenient locations.