In most of Connecticut, we had a storm earlier this week with a little bit of snow, sleet, ice, freezing rain, and rain. In other words, we had a typical New England winter "event" (with perhaps another on its way on Monday). While this might close down some parts of the country, most schools opened late and employers went on with business.
A great post on inclement weather policies by the Pennsylvania Employment Law Blog has some pointers for companies to think about and suggestions for an inclement weather policy. Among the areas and questions that this post suggests should be covered are:
- Will employees be paid for the time when the business is closed?
- Will employees be paid if they don’t report to work due to inclement weather when the business is open?
- Can an employer discipline or discharge and employee for failing to report to work due to weather conditions when the business is open?
Absent a declaration of a state of emergency, private employers are free to determine their own policies for handling snow storms (or another natural events.) The Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security has a section devoted to winter storms, but most people can figure out this information on their own.
Some employers may ask — what should I do for our company? The answer is, of course, it depends. Some employers who need to maintain operations 24/7 (a hospital, hotel, etc) may want to designate certain employees as "essential". Others may decide that they can deal with telecommuting employees for a half-day. But establishing a policy at the outset so employees know what to expect is essential to avoiding problems later on. Ultimately, setting reasonable expectations (asking employees to call in if late, and having them make up for lost time) may be all that is needed for some.
Worth a note is that for extremely serious storms (perhaps a Category 3 Hurricane or a flood comparable with the 1938 or 1955 floods), the Governor has the power to suspend certain laws under Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 28-9. This is rarely invoked. In non-emergency situations when the Governor says that "non-essential" state workers should stay home, private employers should understand that this applies only to state workers.
Lastly, the state’s natural disaster plan is also a good resource for in-depth analysis of what should happen in these extreme circumstances. You can find it here.