Is There Such a Thing as a "Snow Day" for Grown-Ups?

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Is There Such a Thing as a "Snow Day" for Grown-Ups?

9 February 2015
 Categories: Law, Blog

The weather outside may be snowy, icy, and otherwise frightful - but does that mean you can miss work? What if your employer is insistent that you make it to work, despite the falling snows and hazardous streets? This is what you should know.

You Can Lose Your Job if You Don't Make it to Work.

There are virtually no laws in place that protect you against being fired if you can't make it to work because of the snow. Most states are "right to work" or "at will" states where your employment can be terminated for just about any reason, and that includes lack of attendance due to bad weather. 

Public Warnings Won't Protect You.

It doesn't matter how many official warnings you hear on the news telling you to stay off the road, either. There's no rule that says employers have to listen, or close their doors. If your employer chooses to stay open, it leaves you little choice about whether or not to come in.

However, you do have some (very small) protection if there's a travel ban enacted in your city or county. Your employer can still choose to ignore a travel ban, and can still fire you if you refuse to come in, but you could probably sue to get your job back (if you still want it).

Some Employees Have More (or Less) Protection than Others.

If you're part of a union or have an employee contract, you may actually have more protection than you realize. It's smart to review your contract and employee handbook before the bad weather starts, or request clarification from your supervisor or human resources department. That way, you know what the policy is toward people who miss work due to bad weather.

Also, if your job involves operating a motor vehicle, you can refuse to drive if the conditions are hazardous - but the rules extended by the National Labor Relations Act only apply if more than one driver is refusing to get on the road. If you're the sole delivery person for the local pizza place, you can't claim the same protection.

In some cases, almost nothing can get your out of driving through a blizzard to get to work. If you work for a business that never closes, such as a hospital, you may be considered an "essential person"—someone whose presence is vital for the business to operate. If so, there's an even stronger incentive for you to get to work, because your inability to make it through bad weather can be seen interpreted as a lackadaisical attitude toward your job.

Keep in mind that just because you can be fired for refusing to come into work doesn't mean that you will be fired. An action like that can kill employee morale and send other employees looking for more reasonable employers. More than likely, you will simply lose the income for the hours you didn't work—which is better than losing your life on the road. Contact an employment law firm to learn more.