Unrelenting Winter Forces Difficult Snow Day Decisions for Employees, Parents

By Samantha-Rae Tuthill, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
February 15, 2014; 8:00 PM ET
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With rounds of snow and ice repeatedly pummeling the South, Midwest and Northeast this season, school closings, canceled flights and business shutdowns have begun to add up for workers.

In the winter storm system that spread from Texas to New England this week, multiple states, including Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland, all declared states of emergency. Massachusetts Transit Authority limited public transportation systems, and Pennsylvania and Connecticut issued certain vehicle bans. Emergency managers urged non-essential personnel to stay off the roads as much as possible.

Abandoned cars left by commuters at I-75 headed northbound near are piled up in the median of the ice-covered interstate after a winter snow storm, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

For businesses that remain open during these stormy conditions, these situations put workers in a difficult position.

How an employee is compensated for staying home is dependent on their employer's policies. If an office shuts down, it can still legally require workers to use personal time off or vacation days to make up for the missed work.

According to Donna Ballman, member of the National Employment Lawyers Association, whether or not an employee must be paid for snow days is dependent on their status as either an exempt or nonexempt employee. Exempt employees must still receive payment if they worked part of the week, or if they were willing to work and the office was shut down.

Non-exempt employees, however, are not required to receive their full salary for days missed due to inclement weather. Nor do they have to pay for employees who become stranded at the office unless they are still actively working.

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Working parents may face additional challenges if schools close but businesses stay open. Childcare can be hard to procure in poor weather conditions. Businesses should be mindful of the difficult or dangerous conditions their employees may face in times of tumultuous weather.

Alison Green, management author and U.S. News & World Report contributor, states that reasonable employers should make allowances for employees who cannot reasonably come in to work in dangerous driving conditions.

Solutions could range from allowing employees to make up missed hours to working remotely from home or providing the day off. Some businesses even provide local hotel rooms for employees who have long commutes during severe snowstorms.

Economically, it may not be feasible for all businesses to close for each storm, and essential or emergency personnel need to stay available in any condition. Employers' safest bet for avoiding monetary losses by closing during bad weather would be to assist employees' safety to the best of their abilities.

It may be tempting for workers to try to commute to their offices to avoid missing pay or losing vacation days if those are the policies of their employers, but when emergency officials are urging drivers to stay off the road, it is highly advised that these guidelines are followed. Unless absolutely necessary, during severe weather not only will put one's own life in danger, it also risks the lives of emergency personnel who may need to rescue stranded or injured drivers.


Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Samantha-Rae Tuthill at tuthills@accuweather.com, follow her on Twitter @Accu_Sam or Google+. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook and Google+.

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