should you go into the office during severe weather?

A reader writes:

What do you recommend employees do during a storm like Sandy? I live in Boston and rely on public transportation. The MBTA (and the governor and mayor) recommend everyone who can stay home and off the streets. The MBTA is running service now, but has issued warnings that service may end or get interrupted later in the day. I think I could get to work, but I’m worried that I won’t be able to get home easily. My manager emailed our team to say she’s working from home and to use our judgement about getting to the office. I decided to stay home and I’m just curious what your thoughts are on the matter.

Obviously the office is open (to what extent staff is actually there, I’m not sure). I’m mostly curious because I’m new to the company (started in the spring) and corporate culture in general. Previously I worked at a nonprofit (in the arts) and that company always stayed open during severe weather, so I don’t think I have a good gauge about what to do.

Stay home.

When your city is telling people to stay off the streets, you stay off the streets. They issue those warnings for a reason. People are going to get killed in this storm, and in many or all cases, it’s going to be because they were on the streets.

You should also take your manager’s words at face value when she tells you to use your judgment about whether or not to come in. And note that she herself is working from home.

Reasonable employers (and even many/most that normally aren’t especially reasonable) do not expect people to put themselves in harm’s way to get to work. Your employer is sending you a very clear message. Believe it!

I’m locked in my house and not going out until Wednesday, and I hope everyone else on the east coast will do the same. Join me in wrapping yourself in a blanket, drinking tea on your couch, and preparing to read books by flashlight if your power goes out. That’s the only sensible thing to do sometimes.

{ 221 comments… read them below }

    1. Piper*

      There are a employers out there who are absolutely unreasonable, though. I have a relative who received an e-mail from her employer stating that they are expected to be at work, no matter what. She lives in the direct path of the storm just outside of the evacuation zone and the state has declared a state of emergency.

      If I were her, I still wouldn’t go and I’m sure there would be a good case for her if she got fired for not coming in during a hurricane. This employer is insane.

        1. Mike C.*

          *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge*

          Christ, even my workplace started relenting when the State Patrol said to keep off the roads last year during the snow storm. However, most of the folks with giant 4x4s wanted to actually use them for once so lots of us came in anyway.

          1. Natalie*

            When our state closes the highways, they put barriers on the entrance ramps and getting caught out on the highway will earn you a big fine.

          2. Anonymous*

            Oh, crap! those are the people that scare me to death. They have heard that 4x4s are good in snow but they DO NOT know why! I have seen some stupid, dangerous stuff done in big 4x4s by people who just don’t understand.

        2. Heather*

          Funny you should mention the media. I’m a former newspaper editor and we never got to stay home for major storms! In fact, the more major the storm, the more you’d better plan to show up for work if you don’t want to get in major trouble.

      1. Piper*

        By “case,” I mean case for unemployment because obviously I know it’s legal for the employer to fire her for anything they darn well want to.

      2. Just a Reader*

        Some companies have hero complexes, and unreasonable policies, about coming to work in bad weather.

        1. Lisa*

          This explains my boss to a T. I added my experiences to the bottom. See … “mind games” below.

      3. Steve G*

        What a stupid policy – my friend managed a call center in NYC at Dish network and they required all-hands-on-deck during the 2-foot winter storm in 2010 and Irene, when the subways/buses closed. Yet low pay, bad management, and high turnover. So people were bullied into going to work and had no way to get home, they were calling my friend to drive them because he was a manager, but he had stayed home.

        1. Harryv*

          If a company at that size doesn’t have a failover site on the West coast or outsourced overseas, then the management is to blame. My company has people across 5 time zones and have well defined emergency plans where we will never have to put employees or customers at risk. And we aren’t even part of a 24 x 7 help desk!

          1. Josh S*

            “Where you will never have to put employees or customers at risk”

            This works until the Yellowstone Supervolcano erupts. ;) “Never” is a strong word…

        2. nyxalinth*

          I had a similar occurance, and since I’m not above a bit of name and shame, I will say that Convergys in Florida had just hired me, and the day I was supposed to start, Hurricane Charley hit. Public transportation–my only transportation–was shut down. I did the right thing and called in…and was told either come in or don’t come in at all.

          I know from working in call centers that you can’t miss training, but during a hurricane? Really, Convergys? You couldn’t respect your employee’s safety and reschedule training? this was in 2004, before the economy really went to crap. I’d hate to see how they are now.

          1. Steve G*

            That is rediculous. And no one is going to be productive if they do come in – you’d spend 1/2 the day watching the news reports, gossiping with who else showed up, and then planning how to get home.

            1. nyxalinth*

              Well, I’ve since found out that they have a reputation as being one of the worst call centers to work for, which didn’t surprise me one bit.

        3. Jenn*

          I experienced that when I worked at a call center. They actually sent out a list of things to do to ensure we would be able to man the phones even if the city were shut down; the list included planning on sleeping at the call center (bring your sleeping bag!), carpooling with someone with a 4×4, and bringing extra food. Yeah, no. If it’s that bad, I’m staying home and they can reroute the calls to another center.

      4. ChristineH*

        Yup. I have a friend who was griping earlier about her employer expecting her to be at work today. She wisely chose to stay home anyway.

        1. Just a Reader*

          I once had an employer who closed the office once but wanted me to come in because I lived a mile away. Nevermind that the whole city was shut down and my car was stuck in a snowbank. They threatened to fire me if I didn’t leave my car and walk to work.

          1. Sharon*

            I would totally call that bluff just to watch the look on the face of the unemployment office clerk when you give them the reason you were fired. :-) I might even slip the clert ten dollars to report back to me how hard the company got spanked.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                There’s actually no violation of law there that I can think of, assuming the employee is at-will … but perhaps someone can correct me if I’m wrong.

                1. fposte*

                  Yeah, you’d quite probably get unemployment, but I don’t think there’s any federal protection that would invalidate at-will here.

                2. Just a Reader*

                  This place was only 5 employees. NEVER AGAIN will I work in a place so small that there are no employee protections in place.

      5. K.*

        A friend told me that her employer expected her to find a “plan B” to get to work since public transportation is shut down. She lives in Brooklyn and works in Manhattan; taking a cab over a bridge in a hurricane is life-threatening. There are parts of Brooklyn that are flooded already. (It’s also expensive.) She was like “No, for real: not coming in” and is letting the chips fall where they may.

          1. K.*

            She had to use vacation days but won’t face any sanction. She was far from the only one who refused to come in, wisely, because it was A HURRICANE. She’s without power as we speak. (I was without it for about 24 hours but it’s back now). She plans to be back at work tomorrow, although transit is still an issue.

        1. Blinx*

          That’s just ridiculous. They’ve closed the tunnels. Wouldn’t be surprised if some of the bridges close too. And the eye of the storm is STILL hundreds of miles away!!

        2. ChristineH*

          That’s going to be kinda difficult as they’re beginning to shut down bridges and tunnels. I too would love to see how this pans out for your friend.

        3. Anon*

          I learned my lesson from the NYC transit strike a while back where my boss expected me to wait hours in freezing cold weather for the LIRR when I wanted to use vacation days and stay home. During Sandy and for 2 days after (3 days total), the first day I told work I didn’t think I would be able to get there which ended up being fine with my boss and the next 2 days (since I knew public transportation was still a mess) I said I had a bad cold! Never tell the truth in these situations people! Say you’re sick!

      6. Rana*

        Sometimes it’s just cluelessness, too. There have been several times I’ve been in the situation where the campus I was working at didn’t want to suspend classes due to adverse weather. The “reasoning” (such as it was) was that the students all lived on campus, and most of the faculty (or at least senior administration) lived within a few blocks, ergo, it’s okay!

        If you were one of the people with a normally half-hour commute that was going to turn into four hours of battling ice and winds, not so much.

        1. Kou*

          I dealt with this when I was a student; I was one of only a handful of commuters at a school where the overwhelming majority lived on campus. It was also operated by a convent so most of the professors also lived on campus. I had a final exam during a snowstorm, and I wasn’t from that part of the country so I had NO idea how to drive in snow or ice.

          But the campus was still open, so I made the most nerve wracking drive of my life to get there. I got there a little early (I’d left a lot of buffer time) so I stopped in the cafeteria to get some coffee, and ran into a different professor. She looked surprised to see me, and asked why I was there. I said I had a final, and she said “No you don’t.” It took us a few minutes to realize what had happened: They’d announced to professors they would close campus at a certain time in advance, but not the students until RIGHT AT THAT TIME. So then I was stuck on campus all day for no reason.

        2. KellyK*

          Wow, that is clueless. The college I attended had a similar policy about adverse weather. If an “inclement weather day” was declared, commuter students could miss classes without the absence counting against them, but that was it.

          Even for on-campus students, there’s weather so bad that it’s just not smart to go out. Walking across campus in the middle of a blizzard might be safer than driving across town, but it’s still not a good idea, especially if none of the walkways have been cleared. (One of my friends broke her foot trying to get to class during just such a blizzard.)

          The school also had purchased a bunch of nearby houses and converted them into mini-dorms, so you might live “on campus” but still be a few blocks away on the other side of the street.

    2. Anonymous*

      It’s a question because companies aren’t reasonable enough to say “There is a state of emergency, please stay home.” and instead say weasel answers like “Use your discretion”. If you use your discretion and stay home when everyone else comes in, and there’s no real issues with the weather, you end up looking bad by comparison. Sure, no job is worth dying for, but there’s a pretty big gray area between “certain death” and “no big deal” that companies refuse to take a stand on.

      1. KellyK*

        I don’t think it’s always weaselly (though I’m sure in some cases it is). Most companies have people commuting from a pretty wide range of areas, and what’s totally reasonable for someone five miles from the office might be foolish for someone 50 miles away and suicidally stupid for someone 50 miles away in the other direction who has to cross a river or two to get to work.

        That’s even more the case with snow, where it’s not just what the weather conditions are between you and your work but what kind of vehicle you have, whether there are hills, and how good a job the city or county does at getting things plowed.

        However, once a state of emergency has been declared, “Use your discretion,” should be replaced with “No, really, stay home.”

        1. Anonymous*

          That’s exactly what I was saying. Companies still send out the”Use your discretion” even after emergencies have been declared. Case in point: Our company didn’t close this am even though the governor had declared an emergency yesterday and asked everyone to not go out unless they absolutely had to. Now that the weather is going downhill quickly, they’ve finally decided to close.

          1. Blinx*

            Was that my old company? They used to close, but got into a big snafu with the unions for some reason. Now, no matter what, their policy is “we never close”. If you call into an automated site number, they give you the “use your discretion” line. Luckily, they also give power to management to tell their department not to come in. Hopefully, you get a reasonable manager.

        2. -X-*

          What Kelly K said.

          If it’s very hard to come in for more people, but a few have easy ways to come in, and no one is penalized for playing it safe “Use your discretion” is reasonable. And really, if there is no danger involved, the person who slogs through some super-long commute to take care of business should look extra-good.

          But If there is danger and/or the government says “Stay inside” then the business shouldn’t suggest people might come in. Unless they’re in public safety themselves.

    3. KellyK*

      Totally agree. Unless risking your life is already in your job description (police, fire, military, etc.), it’s not worth it.

    4. Xay*

      Also, some jobs do not (or cannot) allow people to work from home and don’t offer any kind of administrative leave so staying home during a natural disaster means using vacation time or not getting paid. That may not be a problem for a day or two, but what if your city is shut down for a week? or longer?

      1. Stells*

        We had that issue in Texas a couple of years ago – big ice storm came through and kept the roads frozen solid for 5-6 days. I commute 20 miles, and didn’t have a vehicle that could get out of my apartment’s (not very level) parking lot. I used up a week’s vacation time, while my coworkers who lived less than 5 miles away inched to work (and spent the day watching live weather feeds and making snowmen).

    5. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I’m glad we’re discussing the question, because I definitely went back and forth today trying to decide. I can’t work from home (not because I’m not allowed to, just because all the stuff I need is at work), so I really wanted to go in if I felt it was reasonable to.

      And I still feel *a little* bad about not going, since I walk to work and the weather hasn’t changed since I made the decision. BUT, I’m sure that my office is completely empty, so I’m alright with my choice. :)

    6. Lanya*

      I worked at a place where we were told to “use our judgment” about whether to come in to the office in bad weather…but then we would be judged if we didn’t come in.

      Often, when we did make it to the office in a blizzard, the internet and phones would be out anyway, so we braved the conditions to sit there and look at each other for 8 hours before going home in (usually) deteriorated conditions.

      Unfortunately it seems like “weather bullying” is more common than I thought!

    1. K*

      Yeah, or as an emergency first responder, or for a utility company. All y’all have my respect and appreciation!

    2. The IT Manager*

      If you work in media, you are to rush to an beach in the path of the storm and stand outside while the rain/snow/whatever pelts you.

      On the plus side, those braving the weather are allowed to dress casually for a change. :)


      I was a reporter in Florida, so I know from hurricane coverage! We usually got to the newsroom or shelter far in advance of the storm and camped out until it was safe. The newsroom itself was a hurricane shelter. I actually miss those days…

  1. iDuckie*

    I wish that all businesses were like this. We had a massive sleet storm where I live a few years back (we do not get these storms often where I live) and while the entire city was shut down, and the mayor said to not leave unless it was dire emergency, my place of business was open and you had to come to work. Now, if you called in, you would still get an absence, but it wouldn’t count against you. I was the only one in my dept to show up, and only half of another dept (of about 300) showed up.

    1. taivins*

      That is great that they let you call in! Sadly, my father’s place of business (a Northern Tools location) is not as kind about absences. He was unable to get to work due to 3ft snow and uncleared roads, called in to work, and was still slapped with a”unapproved absence” at his next performance evaluation. The manager explained that my father should have gotten a room the night before at the hotel next to the store & walked to work.

  2. Kristinyc*

    I’m fairly certain that was one of the reasons the MTA is shut down in NYC (well, that and the electrical risks if the trains were running). That pretty much gave most of NYC no choice but to stay home. Luckily, my office is closed anyway.

  3. Sandy Says*

    I’m in DC, so once I heard that the metro was closed, I emailed my boss and told her I definitely would not be in the office. (I either walk or take the bus. No way in hell I would walk in this crap.)

    Unless your job is one of the few that requires you to be available in an emergency (which you would probably know about ahead of time) it just doesn’t make sense to go in–while it’s not bad out now, there is a danger that people will go into work, and then get stranded when they try to come home.

    I’m working from home, but I can only do about 50% of my job from home, so please keep the AAM posts coming!!!

    1. Meg*

      Yeah, I take a bus to the metro station, then take the metrorail to my job. About 30 minutes from my front door to my office if the bus is running on time. We were told Friday that we may have to telework, given that we are web developers in my department. I asked my supervisor about teleworking (because all our stuff is stored on the intranet, and we need to connect remotely thru a VPN to telework), and he sent me the “Important Links” email… after I left the office (late).

      The instructions on how to connect remotely to the intranet… is on the intranet. It’s akin to locking your keys inside. Luckily, I got an email today stating that we are treating it like a holiday, to NOT come in, and we are NOT expected to telework. Woo hoo!

      1. Your Mileage May Vary*


        One of the good things that can come out of these situations is the realization that the company’s emergency procedures aren’t so great. Do you think they’ll re-think how to post those instructions for the future?

        1. Meg*

          Probably, but it’s a secured government intranet and they don’t want to make the instructions on how to break in publicly available.

    2. AHK!*

      I was on one of the last buses out of NYC back to DC last night, and it was like biting nails just waiting for all of the announcements of closures. Once the Metro announced their closure, my office announced that we would be closed.

      And today no one is in the office to turn on our computers so that we can actually telework. I guess everything will just have to wait.

  4. Ali*

    I work from home for a 24/7, though non-essential, business (media company). So basically, I still have to work as normal since I don’t have to worry about commuting or anything. However, if I lose power, my manager knows that’s to be expected since he may also be unavailable.

    The only bad part is that unlike a lot of people, I’m a contractor, so I won’t get paid for any time I missed. No vacation time or anything. I’m praying for the best because long power outage=lost income. Bad.

    1. Blinx*

      I was an on-site contractor for years, and losing a day’s pay is a HUGE incentive for showing up for work. One day, everyone made it in with no trouble, but a storm showed up earlier than expected. All I kept thinking about were all the nearby creeks I had to drive along/over to get home. We all eventually left early, but I had to take many, many detours to get home. A LOT of flooding.

  5. km*

    Fellow Bostonian — if you rely on the MBTA to commute to work, I don’t think any reasonable company would give you grief for staying home. We get a lot of severe winter weather where the T stays open the whole time and plenty of employers stay open as well, but with Irene last year and Sandy this year and the T shutting down entirely, I think people understand that you’d have absolutely no way to get home!

  6. OP*

    Hi – I asked the question. My gut was to stay home. The MBTA just announced they are shutting down at 2pm and within 30 minutes the office announced they will close at noon. However, the company policy clearly states that if the City of Boston is declared a State of Emergency we’re closed (which it hasn’t yet). Just the state of MA is in a state of emergency. It’s a distinction my company pointed out in their closing email for today. They assume we’ll be open tomorrow, but my gut tells me that will change, especially if the MBTA remains shut down.

    I asked the question because I’m new to the company and it’s hard to judge. I agree that this is a safety first situation, but I didn’t want to misread the company culture.

    1. Mike C.*

      You are going to send in a tip to the local media, right? They’d love to hear about this sort of thing.

      1. books*

        Honestly, lots of places are “open” with similar policies. If we all sent a tip to the media, they’d be inundated with obnoxious people whining about how their office didn’t tell them to stay home today, and it would be a non-story.

        1. OP*

          Oh yeah, I’m not concerned about it on that level. I really just want to know before I shower and get dressed whether I have to try and get to work. Although now it’s after noon so I guess I’ll switch on The West Wing and work on a project for my class.

        2. Mike C.*

          How is it obnoxious (or even whining) for people to complain that their boss is overruling the warning of state and federal officials during an emergency?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Agreed, although I do think that Piper’s story above is different (about the employer in the direct path of the storm requiring employees to be at work no matter what).

              1. books*

                Absolutely, but Boston is not in the direct path and the OP’s employer said she could work from home… If the OP was sending this from Atlantic City (a la Piper’s story), and her boss said she should come in, sure maybe she should call the news (I’d really call the mayor over the news fwiw).

      2. Jess*

        I’d point out that the storm hasn’t really hit up hear yet, and while I think closing is the best policy, it’s not actually dangerous to be out on the roads yet (and there’s plenty of traffic outside my window). I’m pretty sure that closing at 2pm is not only for safety, but also as a tactic to force what is open to close early. So, while it’s annoying that places haven’t completely closed, it’s not entirely ridiculous to be allowing employees to “use their own judgement” right now.

        1. Mike C.*

          I’d point out that being on the roads when you don’t need to puts yourself at risk, gets in the way of first responders and if something bad happens then you need first responder help.

          It’s stupid and selfish to be asked to come into work on a day like that.

        2. Just a Reader*

          I’m in Boston and just drove home–scary ride. Things are picking up and it’s definitely not safe to be on the roads.

  7. Alex*

    This makes me feel better. I faced the same dilemma this morning. Being as the governor is closing state highways soon, I probably would have been screwed on the way home, plus I have to watch out for my mother with limited mobility and hearing.

  8. E*

    I think it’s worth it to note that the writer used to work for a non profit. I also used to work for a couple of non profits, and the more dysfunctional ones have created, in my experience, a culture of martyring yourself to the job. It creates a weird culture where your judgement is off when you’re not in that situation anymore.

    1. Verde*

      I work for a non-profit and yes, we bust our butts all the time, but we do not put our employees’ safety at risk. We have a formal inclement weather policy. If roads are bad and transit is having problems, we start with “use your best judgement” and move up to formally closing the office if things worsen.

      However, we are also public media, so at least one person has to be on hand at all times. We make arrangements with people who live close to be the “on-call” staff in case someone can’t get in, and we will cover a (luckily within a block) hotel if someone can’t get out.

  9. Anonymous*

    My organization/company sent out an organization wide email saying that work was cancelled and to focus on emergency preparedness while home (we’re right in the path). My boss has said work is not cancelled and we are to work from home and attend a bunch of video conferences today. :)

    1. Jenn*

      My company just sent out an email saying that even though you might not be “essential staff”, you might still be needed in another department (answering phones, etc). We’re supposed to “check in” to a phone number to find out if we may be needed elsewhere, before leaving.

      1. Chinook*

        I have worked for a few places that have this policy. I think it is to make sure that there is someone available if need be (i.e. for things like payroll, building emergency, etc.) otherwise you run the risk of the only person there being the receptionist because no one gave her permission to go home and she didn’t know everyone else had already left.

  10. LCL*

    I am glad to hear that your business is being sensible about this. My company provides one of those essential functions that has all available people report during storms. It is hard enough providing service during and after a storm, the less traffic on the road, the faster the utility workers can get your lights back on.

  11. ChristineH*

    I’d say better safe than sorry. It may not be too bad right now, but you never know what’ll happen later on. You don’t want to chance getting stranded.

    Stay safe everybody!

  12. Em*

    Funny, we’re all telecommuting today, but a big part of my job is screening resumes and conducting initial phone interviews with people – and something feels inherently awful about calling people (all in the NYC area) about a job opportunity when there are much bigger issues arriving in the next 24 hours.

    I’m a transplanted Florida, and I honestly don’t think the NE has even the slightest clue what is about to hit – I’ve lived through a few cat 1’s which derailed Florida businesses for a couple of weeks (no power, no gas, etc.), so thinking “OK, storm comes Monday and Tuesday, we’ll work Wednesday or Thursday!” may be a bit…naive.

    We’ll see though, stay safe everyone!

    1. BadMovieLover*

      Last year’s storm definitely caused trouble with the power grid, and we were out of the office for at least two days. NSTAR took a lot of heat for that, so this year they said that they would bring more staff from non-affected areas to restore service quicker. Hopefully they can.

    2. Sandy Says*

      “big part of my job is screening resumes and conducting initial phone interviews with people – and something feels inherently awful about calling people”

      If it makes you feel any better, you might be making these people’s lives easier if they don’t have to hide the fact they are talking about another job from their bosses! Just be understanding if they respond with “I can’t talk now, there is 3 fee of water in my basement.”

  13. Joey*

    I’d like to chime in here. There are definitely some jobs where you should go in mostly essential govt services like public works, fire, pd, utilities, 911, etc. and it’s not just firefighters and officers. Admin has to be there too to make it function.

  14. BadMovieLover*

    My wife still had to go to work, because she is in healthcare. I think that’s one of those fields, though, that are usually the exception to the rule.

    1. Piper*

      I think it depends on the position in healthcare. Like if she’s in a doctor’s office – are people really going to be coming in for dr. appointments? But if she works in the ER or urgent care, that’s an entirely different scenario.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      My friend is a PA and was in St. John’s hospital in Joplin when it was destroyed by the tornado in 2011. It’s definitely important to have people there to move the patients if something does hit.

  15. Snow*

    Where I live, all public transportation has been suspended today and tomorrow. And yet, my friend who doesn’t even own a car is expected to go into work. We both work in a field that lends itself to telework, yet he’s not allowed to do so. We’re not medical professionals or critical personnel, so this decision makes little sense.

    It’s is extremely irresponsible of the employer to demand employees to come in on days like this when the federal government is closed and public transit suspended.

    My plan is to telework as long as possible – and thankfully, my boss agrees that keeping employees off the streets is the right way to go.

  16. Laura*

    I live/work in Boston. MBTA is closing at 2pm FYI.

    Although my employer closed to office, we are expected to have a full work day and all meetings from home/teleconference.

    I wish I could read a book and cuddle with a blanket like AAM!

      1. Laura*

        I know! I found out via a friend on facebook, but I have just confirmed with a few news websites and it is closing. Busses also.

  17. AJ-in-Memphis*

    I live in the south (obviously) and my employer will shut the office if there is any indication that employees will be in danger getting to or from work. Upper management has the ability to work from anywhere there is an internet connection and hourly employees get a free day off. That’s how it should be for everyone. Some of my friends that work in public service jobs don’t have the same luxuries though.

    Be safe on the coast guys and for Pete’s sake they are telling to stay home for good reasons! Listen to them!

    1. class factotum*

      Hello AJ! I miss Memphis so much. There were several times when I was there when I would be one of only a few people at the office. I would go to the JCC before work to swim, then go straight to my office, which was two blocks from the JCC. Sure, the roads were covered with snow and ice, but at 5:30 a.m., if you are the only person on the road, it’s not so bad. I never knew whether to go or not because they never announced closings that early, so I would just go.

      I was in the pool when Hurricane Elvis blew through. I was very happy to go to work because it was one of the few places around with electricity. My house didn’t have power for ten days. Work was the only place I wasn’t sweating to death.

      1. AJ-in-Memphis*

        Hello @class factotum!

        I wasn’t living here when Hurricane Elvis blew through (2004?)…but I was in IL and we had the exact same storm the week before – they called it “straight line winds” instead of a tornado. But I think everyone went to work for that for the same reasons you did….And yeah, Memphis is pretty much like every other southern city during winter: “we take NO chances!!” lol I love it!

  18. Kristin D*

    I’ve got a question for the group. A number of my friends’ companies have stated that they can decide not to work today, but they must take vacation time. I have also worked for companies like this in the past, and it seems to happen most often with consulting companies, who will obviously lose a lot of revenue if they just give people the day off. I can see that in this case, they see this solution as a way for the employees to share (or bear) the brunt of the losses from the storm. However, I don’t really agree with this because I think it encourages employees to come into work in an unsafe situation in the case that, for example, they have already used up or planned all vacation days already (or don’t want to cancel a future vacation because they had to use it during the storm). Thoughts?

    1. LCL*

      For public employees, which is not the type of company you described, having to use a vacation day is common for storms. That is because it will be against some government ordinance to pay employees while telling them not to show up.

      Not all public functions have to be done on an emergency basis. EG, it is critically important to have your materials ordering and accounting done right, but that can wait during a storm and those people should stay home.

      It might help your friends’ outlook to think of vacation time on the books as being emergency leave pay, if they need it. I agree that many companies in the US are stingy with vacation…

      1. Xay*

        That’s not necessarily true, re: public employees. When I worked for the state of Florida, we had an administrative leave code that could be used if state agencies were officially closed (which came in handy during our multiple hurricane years). Federal employees have a similar situation.

    2. Xay*

      My company (a federal contractor/consulting company) is like this because they feel that you can’t charge the client if no work is being done. However, I know of some similar companies that include an inclement weather clause in their contract that basically states that they can be paid by the client if there are weather or other extreme circumstances that are outside of either party’s control.

      Personally, I think that forcing people to use leave does encourage people to go to work in unsafe conditions. I ended up going into work during Atlanta’s ice storm/deep freeze because I couldn’t afford to give up a week’s worth of vacation even though the agency I was contracted to was shut down for non-essential employees. At that time, I wasn’t allowed to telecommute, so I had no choice.

    3. Sandy Says*

      While I think it’s crappy that the company makes people take a vacation (and I wouldn’t do it if I were the boss), it’s not at all unusual. Will they let people work from home?

    4. Meg Murry*

      For companies I’ve worked for the choices were either 1) take a paid vacation day or 2) take a no penalty & no pay day (doesnt’t count as a strike/call off point for companies that have that kind of system). I thought it was a reasonable way to handle it.

    5. Verde*

      If we’re at the midpoint, where you could maybe get to work but maybe not, then you have to take a leave day of some sort if you choose not to come in. However, if you can and do work from home, then you do not have to use leave time.

      If we officially close the office, then no one has to use leave time, though the hourly people are not going to get paid unless they do.

      Though it may seem lame to have to use a leave day, I will add that my company provides an obscene amount of vacation and holiday pay, a rarity in the world today, so burning a couple of days here and there for severe weather is not much of a hardship.

    6. Anon2*

      I think you’re right that it encourages people to come into work when it’s dangerous to do so. But, I just think it’s a bad policy all around. Occassional, inclement weather is just a cost of doing business. I think if the company chooses to close, then they should pay their employees – and I think non-essential companies should close when governments urge people to stay off the roads.

  19. sockknapper*

    I’m in the Boston area, my employer sent out a lame ‘use your discretion’ email (which means come in or use a vacation day) then followed it up a few hours later with an email saying that the office was closed so that no one would feel obligated to come in, and that everyone should work from home as best they can.

    It’s a huge relief – I work from home regularly, but my daughter’s preschool is closed today so I have also have to deal with a stir-crazy toddler. She’s already loudly interrupted a call with my boss, he now knows all about her potty training progress, but he has to forgive me because of the circumstances, right?

    1. Aimee*

      The first time my husband had to work from home with a sick toddler (usually I’m the one to stay home, and my bosses are very understanding that there may be noise in the background, but I had some important in-person meetings that day and had to go into the office) he learned that I wasn’t kidding when I told him to keep his phone on mute during his conference call unless he was the one talking. He forgot and the entire conference call got to hear my son yelling about what he did in the bathroom. Thankfully everyone who heard it had a sense of humor about it!

  20. Anonymous*

    We stayed home for Ike in Houston during the storm and up to a week post storm, mostly working from home. Schools were out for a week too. Power was out for about a week in my area and even up to 2 weeks in others. Someone I know had power out for a day. We had no running water for about 3 days. Trash was taken after 6 weeks.

  21. UpDownSide*

    During grad school I worked for a big box store during the Maryland “Snowpocalypse.” My HR manager actually pulled a few of us in and asked us if we’d be willing to be put up in a nearby hotel so that they could have an assured number of staff on hand the next day–but the implication was clear; if we declined and then called out, it would not be forgotten. So we did. And the card they paid on was rejected. So I paid for our hotel rooms and had to wait to be reimbursed. And then the Governor closed the roads. And then they still refused to close the store the next day.

    Ten people made it into work, we saw maybe a dozen (insane) shoppers, and half of them were only there to get the last sleds of the season (not an exaggeration).

    Looong story short, I had to buy a change of clothing and stay at my shift manager’s house the following night, because I was carless (actually, it was just iced in, but I’d gotten a ride to work) and regardless, the roads were closed.

    By the end, I was seeing red (and khaki, so that’s a hint). I maintain that others’ poor preparation is no reason to make underpaid retail workers go to work in dangerous weather conditions.

    1. Meg*

      At least it wasn’t blue and khaki. I worked for them before during a snowstorm in DE (sometime between 2009 and 2011, the exact year eludes me) and I was stuck there as a manager for 12+ hours because I lived close enough to walk. State of Emergency, and good out Brown and Blue in full swing with no water, no milk, no bread, no shovels, no batteries, etc. And people still pouring in like we’re a shelter.

    2. Sandy Says*

      I worked at a 24 hour CVS way back in high school–not long enough to be there for an emergency, but enough to hear people talk about it. Because we were a 24 hour store, they made every effort to stay open, and treated it like a major holiday. Most of the employees lived pretty close, so they would ask for people to volunteer for work (at time and a half, I think). A few people almost always volunteered. The only person who had to come in was the store manager.

      I thought that was a good way to handle it–that way the store was open for people who needed last minute food, supplies, or prescription medicine, but none of the employees were forced to come in dangerous conditions.

  22. Karen*

    As a fellow Bostonian, I can tell you no! Don’t go in! If you are commuting via the commuter rail into South Station and then take the T to wherever from there – don’t go in. The years that I’ve been working in Boston, hardly anyone comes in during bad weather – whether you are coming in from the suburbs or from Cambridge.

    …And while I am on the subject, if you do take the commuter rail into South or North Station, if you cannot work from home, I highly recommend you take in a train ONE to TWO HOURS earlier than normal when it starts to snow. Those commuter rail trains break down all the darn time, and then you have the T to deal with!

  23. Hannah*

    I’m from the Chicago area and several years ago we were hit with a large snowstorm. It was predicted to start snowing heavily during the day, but it wasn’t bad at 8 AM when I would normally be leaving for work.

    I called my manager on her cell to get an idea of what I should do about coming in. Everyone in the company had the capability of working from home (we all had laptops and VPN). My manager said she had already received word from exec management that they were upset with people “abusing the ability to work from home” (uhhh, I thought situations like inclement weather were exactly what telecommuting was for), and they expected everyone to come in.

    I grumbled a bit, but drove in (about a 30 minute drive). They kept us there until 3 PM — and by that time, it was HORRIBLE. My car was completely stuck in the parking lot and it took 3 of my male co-workers to dig/push it out for me. I think it then took me over 2 hours to actually get home.

    After that experience, I said…never again. I’m not putting myself in danger for a ridiculous company and if they want to fire me over not coming in during a weather emergency, I’ll gladly take my unemployment.

    1. Anon*

      If you had said you lived somewhere else instead of Chicago, I would swear we worked for the same company. This EXACT same situation happened to me in either 2009 or 2010. Karma is a bitch though… My boss’s fancy car got stuck in the snow when he FINALLY had the good sense to leave!

      1. LPBB*

        That sounds familiar!

        At one of my previous companies, the VP/part owner would refuse to close the call center in all but the direst of situations. Of course, she would work from home while she was grumbling about having to close early or wondering why there were such high rates of call outs.

        Then there was a freak ice storm and a huge branch fell onto her car*and totaled it. Her longtime personal assistant made some kind of pointed comment about the wrath of God or karma that finally hit home and the VP has since relaxed her stance some. Now she reserves rooms in the hotel across the street and asks for volunteers to stay and work through the event.

        *She wasn’t in the car at the time. She might have been guano crazy, but she definitely did not deserve any kind of horrific injury.

    2. Sabrina*

      I’m from Chicago and have had similar experiences, only I wasn’t allowed to work from home. My policy was that if the local schools were closed, I was staying home. And you know how Chicago area schools are! Sure they close a lot more than they used to but it’s still not a frequent occurrence. In 10 years with that company only once did they close, and that was early, around 3PM. If you had come in, you got the rest of the day off with pay. If you stayed home, you had to use PTO. If your shift ended at 3PM normally, you were just thanked for your time.

    3. Laura L*

      Yes! So many people did that that day. I was unemployed and job-hunting, so it didn’t affect me. But it took my dad 2 or more hours to get home when it’s usually 45 minutes.

      1. Another Ellie*

        I’m guessing I know which storm you mean, as well. We were sure to be home by the time that the storm was supposed to hit (a time that was predicted accurately and widely publicized). Then we got to sit and shake our heads as people abandoned their cars on Lake Shore that evening. Nobody should have been asked to even come into work in the city that morning, since everybody needed to be heading home by noon or maybe 1pm at the latest to account for traffic and danger from the storm. I realize the average workers wind up at the mercy of their bosses. But the higher-ups really need to listen to the city and encourage people to stay home, not to come in. It creates a public danger, and then a public nuisance when the plows can’t get through all of the abandoned cars.

        1. Laura L*

          Yep. And I think it even took longer for my Mom to get home and she uses Metra, so she wasn’t stuck on the roads.

          But, yeah, that was the one day in all my months of unemployment that I was happy to be unemployed. Even though it meant snow-blowing the driveway before my parents got home.

          1. class factotum*

            That was the storm where it took my husband and me four hours to shovel our driveway! We had to shovel snow away from the back door just so we could get out of the house.

            1. Laura L*

              Same with us. Even with the snow-blower and with me clearing the driveway as the snow came down, it took the 3 of us (me and both my parents) 3 1/2 to 4 hours to clear the driveway the next day. Plus a little extra shoveling for our elderly neighbor. I was SO SORE the next day!

    4. Anon2*

      Same here, though elsewhere in the midwest. I was watching the news, not sure if I should go into work, but they kept saying to stay off the streets if possible. I had tons of PTO, so I decided to call in. The weather was fine when I called, but by the time I would have gotten off work it was pretty bad and I was so happy for staying home. I found out later though, that our big boss was unhappy with me since the weather was fine when I would have been coming in. Pffft! Our jobs are not essential and I’m not risking my life or my property (car) because my employer continues to have inadequate emergency preparedness.

    5. Josh S*

      Winter 2005? I think I remember that one. All the folks who left with the early shift (4:30 quit time) were barely 1/4 mile away by the time the late shift (6:00 quit time) were leaving. I walked across the street to a bar and stayed until 8pm or so, once the traffic had died off and the plows had been through.

      Lots of people had 3+ hour commutes that night. Mine was only about 45 minutes (compared to the 30 minute normal time). I swear I got home at the same time I would have if I had gone straight home.

      Oh, and the bar was having a “Snow storm special” so double win!

  24. Laura*

    I am amazed at all the Boston AAM readers. I feel like we should start our own networking/hangout group (or just an excuse to grab some beers at Publick House in Brookline )

          1. Josh S*

            I didn’t realize you’re in Chicago too!

            That’s you, me and Jamie all in Chi-town! We should (at the least) start a Chicago sub-group in the LinkedIn page…

          1. Laura*

            We will “pay” you if you make a guest appearance at the boston group. We can pay you in green tea and mango sticky rice..but thats about it.

  25. Scott M*

    If the manager is staying home because of the weather, then you should stay home (unless you have drastically different commutes distances).

    I do agree with posters above that wish management wouldn’t use the vague terms of “use your own judgement”.

    Remember the ice storm during the 2011 Superbowl in Dallas? I was in the middle of that. The office was closed for a week. Not “use your own judgement” closed. It was “Don’t dare come into the office, because if you kill yourself we will have to hire someone else” closed.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I survived the 2007 ice storm that cut across the Midwest. My company was closed for one day (the last day of the storm, which I spent in my cold house with no power or heat). I left that day for a motel 30 miles away. Did not work Tuesday because although they were open, no one would answer the phone! I didn’t get busted for that, though. I left like 100 messages and no one called me back.

      The managers did give all of us an extra paid vacation day for the day we were closed, though. It really was a horrible storm–shut down almost the entire city.

  26. Katie*

    I know this isn’t related to work at all, but what are these cities doing to protect their homeless populations during the storm? Anything?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Generally cities will set up additional shelters for anyone who might need them, in addition to the shelters that they operate normally. The key, though, is getting people into them.

      1. Mike*

        Unfortunately, getting people to the shelters and other assistance is a big part of the problem even in good weather.

    2. Ariancita*

      I know in NYC there’s a huge outreach effort to the homeless to get them in the expanded shelters, but no idea how successful it is.

      1. Chinook*

        In Alberta, when extreme weather is about to hit (anything below -25 with a windchill or heavy snow) public buildings and churches are sometimes opened and no one sane would think of kicking someone out of a warm lobby. If you are in an area where a major road goes through, schools have also been know to open their gyms to travellers.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t know about the street people in NYC, but there are a ton of them living in the subways, way down below the regular lines. Mole people, they call them. I don’t know what will happen to them. They rarely come out for anything. :(

    4. Natalie*

      My city isn’t in hurricane country, but we’re in blizzard and subzero temps country. Around here, extra shelters are opened up and outreach workers from social service organizations go around and try to convince people who don’t normally go to shelter that they should during the storm/cold snap. It seems to work, although I’m sure some people decide not to go to shelter and then later show up at the ER or police station just to hang out inside.

  27. JP*

    Well there’s an industry I know that doesn’t care much for employee well being: retail. I live in thr suburbs in NY, i used to work for a retsil store at the mall by me. Last year we had that huge snowstorm right around halloween too. I had an 12 to 8 shift, i decided to leave home early because it had already started to snow. 5 minutes after i leave i i realize that there is no way im naking ot there with all the snow . So i turn around to go back home n my car start spinming n inland in a ditch ! So i call for help n then call my manager to say i cant make it and tell him im stuck. He says : “Well, why dont you get another car n take a different route?” I was so stunned i said ok but never actually went to work that day. I worked in retail for a long time I hope I never have to go back.

    1. Josh S*

      Proper response:
      “When you pay me a decent living wage, I’ll consider buying a second car. Until then, I’m lucky to afford this one, which is currently stuck in a ditch while I wait for a tow truck. Which will cost me more money that I can’t afford based on the sucky wage you offer. See you tomorrow.” [click]

  28. Annie*

    Agree: stay home. In the end, I don’t think it will benefit you to go out of your way to go to the office because no one cares how much effort it takes for you to get there. One time, thinking I was a good employee, went into the office during a snow storm, was one of the few there, and managers didn’t even appreciate the effort. I don’t work there anymore but I said: Never again because no one gives a damn whether you go to work or not.

  29. Mary*

    My employer deducted a vacation day (because I don’t have any more paid days it’s an unpaid day). I have a 1.5 hour commute to Boston. Clearly some employers do not care, mine included.

      1. Mary*

        looks like I’m out of luck, AAM, but thank you for the heads up! I’m exempt, but missed the whole day, because even tannouncement ran in the morning (and an announcement for them to be cancelled shortly was made before noon) I guess I willingly stayed home. Good to know though. I won’t have to live on Ramen for week because I’m missing one day of pay, but it’s frustrating because all my friends at other companies were told to stay home. Frustrating but so is life!

          1. Lisa*

            It sounds good in theory, but the hassle of fighting for it then basically destroying your rep with your employer make the law seem worthless. Anon notes to labor boards don’t work unless it happened to multiple people so they cant figure out you tattled. And I say “tattled” because the perception is that you ratted out your employer and then arent a team player.

            1. KellyK*

              That is the biggest downside of any legal protections. Actually using them torpedoes your reputation.

              However, before giving up on the idea of getting paid for that day, it might be worth discussing politely with HR or whoever is in charge of vacation. I’m sure they’ll insist on it being a vacation day, but maybe you can at least have a temporary negative vacation balance so you don’t have to go without pay. You can point out that something isn’t legal without filing a complaint or even threatening to.

          2. I'm exempt*

            That might be the law, but I’m exempt and I’ve never had an employer pay me for a day I didn’t work due to snowstorms, hurricanes, etc.

  30. Lora*

    I so wish that business schools had Operations as a requirement rather than a concentration/major. I’m a process engineer and there are technical solutions to a lot of the shenanigans involved in, “you MUST come to work come hurricane or high water!” Lots of those are not even particularly expensive. The trend for howmany decades has been towards Lean Management, which is fine if you’re making iPhones–nobody ever died from being two days late to their purchase of a iPhone 5. If you’re making, say, uranium nuclear reactor cores…probably want some redundancies there in case the dude who runs the uranium mold caster gets hit by a bus.

    It’s beyond weird to me that so many managers have not actually done the calculation of insurance costs + employee turnover + hazard pay + utilities + backup power + other overhead – profits made that day when nobody is out buying anything other than gas, bread and milk anyways. If you’re in business, shouldn’t you know your break-even point of operating expenses vs. Profit centers?

  31. Name Removed*

    During a hurricane several years ago, my first company made it clear they were unhappy that some employees – *who lived in areas with mandatory evacuation orders* – would not be coming in. In they end they told everyone to use their best judgment, and I stayed home since the state changed my regular highway into contraflow lanes.

    The following Monday, when everything was pretty much back to normal, they sent out an email saying essentially “the next time this happens, we expect you to have planned better so that you can come in”. Really? Better planning would have taken away the mandatory evacuation order?

  32. Chinook*

    If it hasn’t already been said, though, if you work for a national/international organization and do payroll from your office, I beg you to PLEASE have a back up plan for processing payroll for everyone on time. When my New Jersey based company didn’t process our payroll on time (they ended up being a day late), a snowstorm on the East Coast is not going to stop automatic debits for car payments and rent to your bank in Alberta.

    And said employees will have NO sympathy for you when the same Head Office refuses to close a store during a snowstorm that closed the highway it is on, making it the only store open in the mall and causing said employees to spend the night in the store.

    That being said, such work can be done remotely from home OR the Company can make all affected employees happy if they voluntarily offer to cover any bank fees, especially if employees don’t ahve to ask for it first.

  33. Suz*

    All of these comments really make me appreciate my current employer. If the Minneapolis schools are closed, our offices are closed. They send everyone a text or phone call to notify you and try to get it out as soon as the school closings are announced so you get it before you leave home.

    1. Nameless*

      That would be nice. I actually work in a school (Northern Minnesota), but if schools close, all hourly workers are still required to come in (and get “talked to” if they don’t show up). It often ends up that the administrators all “work from home,” while only hourly staffers are in the offices. I’m amazed at how many people don’t know these kinds of things about schools, especially teachers and non-supervisory administrators. (And there is none of the “use your discretion” about it. Come in or get yelled at by your administrator who probably didn’t come in him/herself.)

  34. BuffaloNY*

    Like many here, I work for a company that rarely closes due to weather, even at times when people probably shouldn’t be driving. I have a really hard time not coming in because certain members of management ridicule those who call in mercilessly (and obviously publicly, since I know that it happens.) I usually tough it out, though grudgingly, and most employees are then worried, annoyed and not very productive. I realize that they don’t want people thinking they can call off due to a few snowflakes, but the problem is that someone with decent judgment needs to step up and take responsibility for determining when to close due to dangerous circumstances.

    1. Laura L*

      I feel like Buffalo is one of those places where people aren’t worried by “a few snowflakes” and that closing for actual bad weather wouldn’t really be an issue.

    2. Ex-western-NY-er*

      I now live in VA. The first time my office closed due to snow, my mother didn’t believe the office was really closed and told me that I better go in, because I was a new employee and it would look bad if I stayed home. Well, I did go in and guess who was the only person in the office….

      In my western NY experience, offices almost never officially close, but if you can’t go in, you don’t go in.

          1. KellyK*

            Also probably a climate thing. I can picture someone in Western New York being unable to believe that an office would actually close for the sort of weather that shuts things down in Maryland and Virginia.

  35. Ellie H.*

    The university I work at has totally shut down for the day. It’s a ten minute walk to my office from where I live, so the commute wouldn’t have been a big problem, though of course I am glad not to have to walk outside in the hurricane. Still, I’m kind of upset because I am not benefits-eligible and I think I might just be forced to take this day unpaid. I’m not totally sure how this will work out, but it’ll be disappointing if that is indeed the case.

  36. Elizabeth West*

    Don’t go out!

    I’m watching TV right now (advantage to not having a job) and there are 45-foot waves behind the storm, that will slam in after it makes landfall! Even with tornadoes here, I’m kind of glad to be landlocked right now. I love the ocean, but man…

    Everyone stay safe!

    1. Jessica*

      Yeah, the full moon is definitely not helping the severity of the storm right now, unfortunately. (Or, it is helping the severity of the storm, but not being helpful to the people who have to deal with the waves.)

  37. Vicki*

    Not a hurricane, but…

    I once had a job 40 miles from y house and a manager who insisted that I needed to drive in that day for a 1:1 meeting. It was pouring rain (something that isn;t very common in the SF Bay Area).

    I drove down. Halfway to the office, an SUV ahead of me lost control, swerved, avoided hitting the embankment by swerving back again, clipped the rear end of my car and put me into a spin. My car stalled facing north in the southbound lanes.

    I got it re-started and onto the shoulder. No one was hurt. The car was driveable… and I drove it down the next offramp, back onto the freeway the other way and home.

    None of that would have happened if I had said, sensibly, “No. I am NOT driving in this weather. We can have the 1:1 the next time I’m in the office.”

    Moral: If it’s unsafe to travel, stay home. If the _City_ says it’s unsafe, believe them.

  38. Penny*

    I’m in HR and I’m expected to be in work tomorrow because it is a skilled nursing facility. Administration wants all department heads at work during weather disasters – the theory is that if nurses have to be there so should management.

  39. Cassie*

    I live in California and as far as I remember, our university campus has never closed – with the exception of 911. I was only a part-timer back then (and didn’t work that particular day) but staff were allowed to leave midday because the nearby federal building was being evacuated for safety reasons. I’m not sure how the university handled the pay situation, but in the past, when staff are allowed to leave early (such as the day before a major holiday), pay is not deducted. You just report working 8 hours as usual (these are non-exempt employees I’m talking about). Of course, I work in an academic dept where TPTB are a little bit more relaxed, compared to financial services depts such as accounts payable (who require their staff to clock in and out – and likely do not let their staff leave early just because the next day is a holiday).

    We do have a winter campus closure, usually around Christmas Eve to New Year’s – we get the official holidays paid, but the weekdays in between are not paid. You can choose to use vacation or not get paid on those days.

    Hope everyone rides out the hurricane safely!

  40. Lisa J*

    I was in the same boat (pardon the pun) as the OP this morning, so I called my supervisor at 7am to see whether or not I had to come in. Granted, my organization’s website had it posted on their homepage that federal offices were closed today, but I wanted to double-check (especially since I work in a lab, not an office). Being that I’m a contractor for Big Federal Organization, plus the new person on the team (started less than two months ago), I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to get yelled at for being the only person who didn’t show up. My boss said “Lisa – stay home”. So, that was that!

    One good thing to come out of this storm however – my dog was in serious need of a bath, so when I took him out this evening in all the rain, I took his bottle of shampoo and scrubbed him as I walked him. I guess even when I’m not at work I multi-task!

  41. Lexy*

    I work for a big global company headquartered in NYC (my office is on the other coast). Today there was a company-wide email that about 15 offices were closed on the East Coast and another 3 or so were on “wait & watch – use caution” status. This from a company/industry that looks at 16 hour days as a right-of-passage.

    I was IMing with some coworkers from NYC/Boston and they all heeded advice and were working from home in PJ’s Taking as many hot showers as they can while they have hot water.

    Of course since we do client work and most of our clients were closed today… makes it a little easier to say “stay home”

  42. Anonymous*

    I love in the south where we do not know how to drive in icy, winter weather. Years ago, I worked for a northeast-based company that insisted we had to be at work no matter what if the office was open. I was young, stupid and naive and headed to work one icy morning only to land in a ditch. After that, I developed my own rules for whether or not I would show up for work in bad weather. They could pay me or not, write me up or not, put me on unpaid leave or not, didn’t matter. I’m responsible for my own safety and act accordingly.

  43. Aussie*

    I really can’t believe that you would be forced to go to work when it is unsafe. Honestly, how much money are these businesses going to lose to be closed for a few days. Especially retail! If everyone else is told to stay home who is going to be shopping? I’m from Australia and I’m sure there is insurance to cover business expenses when these things happen.
    Wouldn’t the businesses be better off having happy employees who come back to work safe? I really wonder about the productivity of the people at work?

  44. Lisa*

    Mind games by boss during storms

    He sends a staff meeting invite for 8 am at 9 pm the night before frankenstorm. Then sends an email minutes later that says “well if you think you cant come in, then i guess you can work from home.”

    Normally for years, this meant he was testing people to see if they will still come in, cause of course he mentions “I as well as a few brave souls will still be in the office, if you need files etc.” Anyway, none of the new people hired in the last year showed up. They believed his email about “using your judgement” about working from home. HA, I loved it. Of course, it means that we wont get those emails claiming the option to work from home anymore due to them all thinking he meant it. I am happy that the boss cant manipulate the new kids, because they all are used to having reasonable employers that dont risk employee lives as a “commitment to the job” test to see if you are committed enough to show up.

  45. Anony*

    Working in the health care field, you might as well ignore what message public officals are sending b/c employers expect you there regardless of any kind of weather. I once drove an hour through 10 ft of snow just to get to work and my managr was still calling people to come in.

  46. Kimberly*

    When I was living in West Texas, there was a school district superintendent that took the cake. 1st he tried to cancel all outside classes/sports because it was in the mid to upper 90s. Cancel football practice in West Texas because it was over 90. Yea that didn’t go down well. The concept of hydration was explained to him.

    Then that December or January there was an ice storm. The state closed the roads, the mayor closed the city. The superintendent (who was from up north) said this is nothing – any teachers that don’t show will be fired, and any students that don’t come to school will be reported truant. The head of the school board called the television station and the newspaper (1 of each) and told them to announce the schools closed. Then the school board, mayor, and Texas Department of Safety had as they say out there a come to Jesus Meeting with him about life in the south. The town had a lot of “hidden” bridges because of low water bridges over dry creek beds. Not only was this fool putting adult employees at risk, he was putting kids at risk.

    1. Laura L*

      That’s funny, because I’d have a similar reaction. When I was growing up in the north, activities were sometimes cancelled if it got to the mid- to upper-90s.

      Although, ice storms are dangerous anywhere, so I wouldn’t have the same reaction to the ice storm.

  47. Rai*

    I am only a receptionist. My work isn’t important enough to risk my life for. HOWEVER, I am expected to be at work. Regardless of the weather. Once, the only road into town was closed by the state police, and my employers told me to DRIVE around the barriers and come down anyway. I did. I got lucky. After I did, the state police showed up and started giving 500 dollar fines to cars that were doing that.

    My employer doesnt care if I live or die. But the fact is, in this economy, I don’t have a choice. I can’t loose this job. Student loans, rent, bills, heat don’t pay themselves.

  48. Bill Duke*

    I live in Cleveland and there’s atleast 1-2 days per winter that I use a sick day to call off due to weather.

    Of course i kinda feel bad about it because i could eventually get to work. But even though I may be driving safely and being patient, someone else might not. And even if they were an accident could still happen.

  49. donaldshryock*

    work a park district off in the winter except when it snows .we have to come in to watch the sled hill . if some thing should happen to and from work can you. can my son sue the park district . for making me to go out when the roads are totally bad . its either watch it or you don’t work here any longer

  50. Jay*

    Reading this just makes me realize one of the many reasons I’ve started to go back to school to pursue a degree to become a math teacher. The “real” world office world doesn’t care about you or your well-being. They care about $ 1st. I understand it’s a business but would it kill companies to close for a day or 2 per year if it’s really bad out? Assholes…anyway if it’s bad out I don’t go in…period and no work place will threaten me into it. Look out for yourself first…nobody else will.

    1. KellyK*

      Depending on where you teach, schools might be a lot worse for this than the corporate world. There’s no way to work from home, you get very little in the way of personal days because you get the summer “off”, and missing a day is a very big deal. Some school districts tend to be really careful about bad weather because they have the kids’ safety to consider, but others pretty much never close.

  51. Snowstorm*

    What if your an exempt employee and you can do all your work from home but your employer will not let you in severe weather!? And purposely makes you stay at work while the weather gets worse and worse!?

    1. KellyK*

      Before the weather gets bad, talk to them about it. I would ask if there’s anything you can do to arrange work-from-home in the event of major bad weather. Maybe they got burned by someone “working” from home, and they don’t allow it anymore. Or maybe they just have an unreasonable attitude that work only happens when butts are in seats. No way to know unless you ask about it.

      The other thing I’d do in your situation is have an emergency plan for what you’ll do if you get stuck at work and it’s not safe to drive home. Have a change of clothes, some basic toiletries, a pillow and a blanket. Food and water is good too if you don’t work close enough to a restaurant to be able to walk there in bad conditions. If you have kids and need to arrange for someone else to pick them up or be there when they get off the bus, try to work that out with someone ahead of time.

      If you’re being asked to come in in truly dangerous conditions, don’t risk your life for your job. (I’m thinking of the difference between “the road is snowy and you need to drive slow” and “the road is a skating rink and there are cars in ditches and snowbanks all over the place.”)

      Oh, and start looking for another job.

  52. jake*

    Can i take legal discourse if my manager lies about transferring me … was not fired\ did not quit etc. But prevented me from looking for other work.

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