5.6 Emergency Closing or Early Release

This policy was last updated May 2, 2023. See the update history page for more information.

From time to time the Institute or a part of it may suspend operations or release employees because of an emergency such as power failure, hazardous weather conditions, or severe transportation difficulties. Listed below are general guidelines regarding emergency closings or early releases. Specific details will be issued by the Emergency Management Office if necessary at the time of such closings or releases; information about pay practices for a closing or release will be issued by Human Resources.

In the case of a pandemic or other wide-spread health emergency, or in the case of an emergency closing longer than two days, special policies on leave, pay and other related policies may be announced.

5.6.1 Authorization to Close the Institute

Authority to close the Institute or release employees from work rests with the Executive Vice President and Treasurer or designee, in consultation with the Chair of the Faculty and Senior Officers (if time permits).

A decision to close or to have an early release or late start is announced on MIT’s home page, on the MIT Emergency Information page, on the MIT Alert system (email and text message), on social media (@MITPrepared), and on the Institute's emergency telephone line (617-253-SNOW or 617-253-7669). In addition, an Institute closing is announced over certain local radio and television stations. 

A suspension of classes and academic activities does not automatically extend to the work of employees. Conversely, a closing for employees does not affect students unless the announcement so states.

To avoid confusion, separate announcements are made for MIT and Lincoln Laboratory.

In the absence of an announcement, it should be assumed that the Institute is open, and employees should not be released with pay. At the discretion of the department head or project supervisor, employees who so request may be released without pay, or with their time charged to personal leave or vacation.

5.6.2 Essential Employees

Certain essential services are required to be maintained in any closing. The employees involved in these essential services are excused from work only with the specific authorization of their supervisors, regardless of MIT Alert, webpages, radio, or other announcements. The supervisor should make clear beforehand who are essential employees in emergencies, what their obligations are, and establish procedures to let them know whether they will be needed to work. Failure to report to work during emergencies by employees required for essential services may be cause for disciplinary action.

5.6.3 Variations in Emergency Situations

Emergencies may vary in their effect upon employees and operations on different shifts and at different locations. For example, the Institute may close on one shift and not another or at one location and not another. In certain circumstances the Institute may not close but may release employees on one shift early because of transportation or other problems primarily affecting only that shift. Each situation is evaluated and a decision made on the basis of the specific conditions or forecasts at the time at the particular location.

5.6.4 Payment During Emergency Closing or Early Release

Since the nature and effect of the emergency may vary, the pay policy to be followed may also vary. Usually, pay policies cannot be announced until the following day because of the need to assess the effect of the emergency upon all three shifts. Supervisors should not make any commitment to employees about closing pay until after the pay policy has been announced.

An emergency closing is not in the nature of a holiday. Holiday pay policies do not apply, and all employees do not necessarily receive an equal amount of time off or additional pay.

While the Institute strives to be fair and reasonable in payment for closings, there is no legal obligation to reimburse employees when work is not available because of emergency conditions. The Institute reserves the right, therefore, to determine whether to close, whether employees will be paid, and, if so, on what basis.

Only employees regularly scheduled to work on a day of closing are eligible for closing pay. Employees instructed to report for work who do not report are not eligible for closing pay. Where there is special justification, an exception may be made with the approval of the appropriate Human Resources Officer.

5.6.5 Computation of Pay for Time Worked During an Emergency Closing or Early Release

Closing pay for the hours of an emergency closing or early release is paid at straight time, plus any applicable shift differential. Any employee regularly scheduled to work who does not work during an emergency closing or early release receives closing pay for the hours of the closing or release, if eligible under the terms of this policy. Hours not worked during an emergency closing or early release are counted toward the calculation of premium hours for the work week, but not paid as premium hours.

Hours authorized and actually worked to maintain essential Institute services during a closing or early release are paid in the normal way as time worked. See Section 5.4, Overtime Pay for Support Staff for more details.

5.6.6  Employees on Leave During an Emergency Closing or Early Release

An employee absent for any reason, including vacation, sick leave (whether paid as Sick Time, Serious Illness Reduced Pay, or the State Formula Rate), parental leave, or any other authorized leave, with or without pay, receives no time off or pay for an emergency closing or early release.

5.6.7 Reporting for Work or Working Remotely During an Emergency Closing or Early Release

Employees who normally would work onsite during the hours of an official closing or early release are generally not required to report to work onsite during an official closing unless they are essential staff (Section 5.6.2) or in other exceptional situations.

Employees who are able to work remotely, including those on a hybrid schedule, are generally expected to work their regularly scheduled hours, without regard to the closing or early release. However, employees who cannot work their regular hours remotely for reasons connected with the closing will be paid for those regularly scheduled hours. For example, during an emergency closing due to a snow storm, an employee may not be able to work their regular hours because of a loss of power, shoveling, or family members home due to closure of their school or day care due to that snow storm; in such a case, the employees should work the hours they are able, and will be paid for their regularly scheduled work hours. Employees must notify their managers if they cannot work their regular hours because of the emergency.

A local emergency, power outage, or disruption that disrupts an employee’s off-site work but does not affect the Institute or their regular on-site work location is not an "emergency closing" and the employee is not eligible for emergency closing pay if they were unable to work their usual hours remotely. The employee may choose to use any available vacation or personal time in order to be paid for the hours not worked.

A support or service staff member who chooses to report to the work site but is not required or authorized to work on-site during the closing receives only closing pay and does not receive any additional pay or time off.

Exceptional situations should be discussed with the appropriate Human Resources Officer.

5.6.8 Lateness

A separate policy covers the situation in which the Institute does not close but employees are late because of transportation difficulties or severe weather conditions. (See Section 5.5, Lateness.)

5.6.9 Employees at Distant Locations

Ordinarily, a release or closing on account of weather in the Cambridge or Lexington areas does not affect employees at more distant locations. A supervisor of employees at such a site is expected to recommend action to fit local conditions, and to obtain approval for an emergency closing through the Vice President for Human Resources, their school Dean or another member of Academic Council.

5.6.10 Payment of Employees on Fixed or Variable Schedules During an Emergency Closing or Early Release

Employees regularly scheduled to work a fixed number of hours on a day of a closing or release will be paid for the regularly scheduled hours, consistent with this policy and any specific pay announcement for the closing. 

Employees who work a variable schedule and who are allowed to leave their work site early due to an early release will be paid until the end of their normal workday. In no case may an employee on a variable schedule receive payment for emergency closing or early release if including those hours causes them to exceed their number of normally scheduled hours for the week.