I have a lot to talk about this week from my attendance at the ABA Labor & Employment Law Conference. Look for posts soon.  In the meantime, this morning’s snow and sleet suggests that it’s a good time to dust off those storm policies and get ready for another season full of snow, sleet, freezing rain and overall winter madness. Thus, while I’m catching up at the office, take a look at a post from last year on snow day policies.

Nothing like a good snowy (and now messy) morning commute to start the day off right.  But as the snow changes to rain around the Hartford area, today’s storm is a good reminder to dust off those snow policies and make sure that it’s up-to-date. 

While public schools routinely close on such days (and hence the term "snow day"), 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.

So, what are some of the issues that you should consider when drafting a policy? In addition to the above, you may want to address these questions:

  • What are the situations when an office will close?
  • How will employee receive notice that an office is closed? Is there a central number that they can call for information? Will an e-mail be sent out to home or blackberry e-mails?
  • 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?

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.

So, what else can you do on a snowy day like this? I’d take a cue from the kids — get a cup of hot chocolate.