how should companies handle snow days?

It snowed on Friday, and my mail shows it. Today we have four questions about how companies should handle snow days.

1. My company wants me to use PTO when I’m working from home on a snow day

My company is requesting that workers who work from home on days of inclement weather use the day as a vacation day, although sometimes we have deadlines that don’t allow us to actually take the day off so we are still working a full 8-hour day at home. I feel strange using PTO time while actually working.

Yeah, that’s not okay. If you’re taking PTO, you should be getting the day off. PTO isn’t for full days spent working from another location; it’s for days spent not working at all.

It sounds, though, like this may be an issue of your company-wide policy just not being in sync with what’s going on in your department. Your manager should be able to exempt you from this policy on days when you’re working from home due to weather. I’d assume she’ll be reasonable on this until proven otherwise, so I’d start by saying to her, “I need to spend the full day working from home, so can you ensure that I’m not docked PTO for the day?”

If she says that’s not possible, then say, “How would you like me to handle this then? I have work that I need to do today, but obviously I can’t spend a PTO day on it. Should we change the deadline and have me use PTO today, or do we need to keep the deadline and have this be a regular, non-PTO work day for me?”

2. I worked from home on a snow day and then was told to use vacation time for it

I work for a large institution which provides bus service to our off-site office location. A major snowstorm caused the bus service to be suspended today, which I had anticipated, so I brought my laptop home last night. I had been working for several hours today when my supervisor told me that I would have to take the day as a personal day because I didn’t make it in to the office. I’m an exempt employee, and have worked from home in other bad weather situations, so I was shocked when I was told I had to take the day off and use my time. Although there are a few alternative ways for me to get to work, none were viable options today.

I lodged a complaint, and stopped working after letting my colleagues know that they would have to complete the task I was doing and canceling a conference call I had slated for the afternoon.

Do I have any recourse for the time I put in before learning that I would have to use my accrued time off?

Not legal recourse, no. Your company is allowed to structure vacation time any way that it wants, which includes what they’ve done here. However, I’d push back on this with your boss. If you’ve worked from home in bad weather in the past, what changed this time? I’d point out to your boss that you made a reasonable assumption based on what was allowed in the past, and ask why he felt differently about it this time.

You’ll have the best chances of the outcome you want here is if you don’t approach this adversarily, even though you’re rightly pissed off. Approach it from the stance of genuine confusion and trying to understand where he’s coming from so that you’re on the same page in the future, even if in your head you’re thinking he’s an ass.

3. When bereavement leave overlaps with snow days

I get three days off for the death of my brother. I am exempt. The third day, the company was shut down due to weather. Should I be charged for that day or do I get another day off?

It depends on your company’s policy. Some companies would be glad to extend the bereavement leave by another day, and some would consider it to overlap with the snow day (and so wouldn’t extend it). The best thing to do is to simply ask your manager. Say something like, “I’m uncertain how my bereavement leave works with the snow day. Should I count Monday (or whatever the day after the snow day would be) as my third day?”

I’m so sorry about your brother.

4. My manager called me at 6:30 a.m. with snow day weirdness

Due to the storms today, my company had a delayed opening. This is my first delayed opening I had with this company. I figured this would happen, so I ensured we finished the work due today yesterday.

The weather hotline for my company advised at 6:30 this morning that it was a delayed opening, liberal leave was in effect, and if you were commuting from the area I live in to contact your manager because the state said not to be on the road.

A few minutes later, my manager called me. I assumed my manager was calling about what the recording said about coming to work if you live in my area. Boy, was I wrong.

My manager was calling to have me contact all of my staff to see if they were coming in. During the conversation, my manager told me she was unaware of the recording indicating a delay. She still told me to call my staff.

My concerns:
1) Company policies require staff to contact supervisors; there is no department policy advising otherwise. My staff who utilized leave followed this policy perfectly.
2) This phone call took place almost 4 hours prior to our opening. I feel that is too early to assess whether a person can come in. Plows may have not hit all roads.
3) Employees don’t have to contact us until an hour before we open.
4) My manager was completely unaware of what the recording said.
5) On a bitter note, there was no wishing me a safe commute!

Overall, I feel like this was most unnecessary. I would at least like to tell my manager that when there is a delayed opening, calling my staff 4 hours before while the sun is not up will not be useful because people cannot completely assess their situation. Does that sound reasonable?

Sure. But I’d be more focused on the fact that your manager seemed not to realize that the company had already issued people directions on this. The fact that she didn’t know that could explain the whole thing. So I’d focus on that first, saying something like, “In the future, if the company hotline has announced instructions for the day, is it okay for me to follow that and have my staff follow that?”

If she tells you that your department needs to handle things differently than the company-wide policy (which could legitimately be necessary), then work with her to create a policy for your department that meets whatever its needs are. That policy should not include you calling everyone to find out their plans at 6:30 in the morning. If you need to hear from them individually, the onus should be on them to contact you (I’d hope through email, a voicemail on your work line, or another method that’s less intrusive than a crack-of-dawn phone call at home).

You can also point out to her that if your staff needs to make a decision about coming in three hour before everyone else does, people are more likely to err on the side of caution and stay home. If they can wait until later, when they can more accurately assess road conditions, you’ll probably get more people coming in (not to mention being generally safer, if the roads get worse rather than better).

{ 247 comments… read them below }

  1. Jessa*

    FYI in the first paragraph of your first response you say from another “vacation,” I think you meant “location.”

    As for the OP I’d get this straightened out because if you work you need to be paid, I don’t think they can charge you PTO for the portion you actually WORKED. Even exempt people, I don’t think can be dunned for time they worked.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They actually can indeed make the OP take PTO for that time. It’s illegal not to pay someone for time worked, but they can put any restrictions on PTO that they want — that’s why companies get away with making people work from vacations. (It’s possible some state has a law that changes this — California? — but typically they’re allowed to do this.)

      That said, they shouldn’t do it, and it’s very possible that if the OP pushes back, she can get it fixed.

      1. Jessa*

        Weird. It never occurred to me that you can dock someone PTO AND pay them for the very same hours. That’s weird. I mean if you’re working it’s logically NOT PTO. I get they can make you take PTO if you’re not there, even for snow and all. But if you have an 8 hour day and you don’t go in, but you work 4 hours, how do they do that? Pay you 4 hours and dock you 8 and then ALSO pay you the 8 they subtracted from your leave?

        1. V*

          They’re probably paying the person out of their PTO allowance. i.e. Jane was paid 36 hours of regular time, and 4 hours of PTO (or whatever). Since they’re technically still paying the employee, there is no legal issue – only the issue of where the money is coming from, which in most states is not governed by any laws, despite how crappy this situation is.

        2. fposte*

          I think it’s that it’s not about “hours” when you’re exempt–you’re not being paid for those hours or even that day, you’re being paid for that pay period. If what you’re doing doesn’t meet the organization’s standard for “work,” they can’t literally dock you because that’s against the law for exempt employees; they can, however, say that that’s a day that has to count as time off for you.

          And honestly, a lot of exempt jobs mean that you do some work on a PTO day. Not that I’m saying it’s okay to force people to do both simultaneously, but there’s not always a bright line between the two.

          1. Jamie*

            Absolutely – but as an exempt person the work I do on a PTO day is emergency based or answering some email while I’m enjoying my down time.

            When I’m working from home the VPN is fired up and I’m “at work” even if I’m technically in my house.

            And every time I’ve had a PTO time get sucked into a major work issue or there is an emergency I just let HR know so she doesn’t apply the PTO hours.

            I can say I’d be very unhappy if I worked from home and was docked time – the lack of logic and ethics would really bother me. It wouldn’t be the time or money that kept me up nights – but the inherent bad management.

        3. Victoria Nonprofit*

          I think this just stems from something I learned here: They don’t have to give you vacation, so therefore they can take it away or require you to use it in whatever way they want.

          1. Jessa*

            Oh I get that. I just thought that when the OP said PTO they meant a full day’s worth as in 8 hours. I get they can take it away whenever, but if the OP worked 4 then they’d be getting paid for 12. Because you’d STILL have to pay them the hours worked. I don’t think you can pay someone for work out of a PTO pool? I could be wrong though.

            To me it just sounds really stupid on the part of the company anyway. If you’re working you’re working, if you’re not you’re on PTO. I just can’t get why they’d charge PTO if the person WORKED.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              No, they’d still just get paid a normal day’s worth. The law requires that they be paid for the time worked (or if they’re exempt, that their pay not be docked). It doesn’t say anything about whether it’s charged to their accrued PTO or not.

          2. Marmite*

            I learned that here too. I was lucky enough to work in jobs that did give PTO when I was in the US, so it never came up that it’s not a requirement. Here in the UK nearly everyone is legally entitled to a minimum 5.6 weeks PTO per year (my job offers above that).

            I get the advantage to employers of not having to offer paid vacation time, but what are the advantages to the employee? I assume there must be some, but I can’t think what!

              1. Stephanie*

                Only thing that comes to mind is some vague free market argument about it freeing up extra funds and possibly allowing for more hiring. (Do I buy it? No.)

                1. Jamie*

                  Victoria beat me to it.

                  I don’t need 5+ weeks vacation and I’d much rather have a higher salary and less time off.

                  It’s not like it’s a trade we’re making now, but if they obligated companies to give those large amounts of leave it would absolutely affect salaries…so in a perfect world the people who prefer the time and others who prefer the cash could negotiate their own deals.

        4. Jamie*

          Actually there are non-nefarious reasons for doing so.

          When we have to have non-exempt people work on a company holiday we give them the option of a regular days pay and keeping the day on the books, or their regular days pay + holiday pay.

          So it’s basically just giving them the option to cash in their holiday pay or take the time later.

      2. Melly*

        That makes no sense to me. How can they require you work on your vacation day? I don’t know if I would trust a company that would willingly do that to their employees

        1. doreen*

          Not all jobs are the same, and there are varying values of work. Just as an example, I took the day off Friday because of the snow although my office wasn’t closed. I still needed to find out who on my staff made it in so I could report that back to my manager (who also took the day off) so he could report that up to the people who would actually make the decisions about how we were going to operate based on the staffing.

          And there are certain jobs where people are expected to be available whenever they are needed- prison superintendents and police commanders get vacation and days off like everyone else, but they had better be available if there’s a prison riot or a police officer gets shot.

          1. Melly*

            I understand that, I just mean if you work, whether at home or not, it shouldn’t count as a vacation day.

            1. doreen*

              Like I said , it depends on how much work-I’m not so sure I want to be the person who fills out my timesheet using only 7.25 hours of PTO because I spent 15 minutes on the phone. Especially since no one is watching me to see if I left 15 minutes early some other day.

              1. Jessa*

                True but I think if you get to being over an hour or more, it should be properly accounted.

                As for people that are on call all the time, some get on call pay (IE if you call them in you have to pay them a minimum of x hours.) Usually 2 or 3 I think where I was involved in it. But you don’t get to call, wake them up, etc. for free. It basically makes sure the company/city/whatever, is actually only calling people when they need to. Because it’s supposed to be rare.

                On the other hand a lot of cops for instance who are in on-call departments (homicide especially) can make, with their OT/On Call pay more than senior police management can.

                It’s also why jobs with on call people regularly, have a rota. You don’t call the same person every time.

                1. fposte*

                  But you’re still talking non-exempt–there’s no extra for on-call time for exempt workers. Hours don’t matter to exempt workers.

  2. Anonymous*

    #3, I’m so sorry for your loss, and I hope that your leave is extended. While it can be nice to have the distraction, you deserve to have a break. Please take care of yourself.

    I must be having a bad day, because my initial response to the managers of numbers 1, 2 and 4 was just to wave my middle finger at my monitor. Get your stuff together, management. Have faith in your employees, and don’t be jerks.

    1. Chinook*

      But is bereavement leave “a break” or time that is needed to deal with the realities of death that includes a funeral, burial arrangements, legal documents, banking and all sorts of minutiae that needs to be taken care of during business hours? I think it is the latter and the reason that many places will give you longer leave for closer relationships. And, if this is the case, than the argument can be made that you would need another bereavement day because many of those details would not have been able to be taken care of everything were closed.

        1. Me*

          Good heavens, yes. I’m fine with an employee taking care of personal stuff on the clock when emergencies come up. Assuming they get their tasks done routinely, the team or I can usually compensate for the occasional bump in the road when an emergency hits.

          However, it is horrible to have someone sobbing at his desk. It’s pretty inhumane and would be a serious morale vampire if we didn’t do the right thing and let them have some personal time to grieve.

  3. Sophie*

    It’s posts like these that make me both be glad we don’t have snow, and wish that we did. It seems like a complicated minefield, where if you have a good employer, it’s great, and if you have a bad employer, it’s unfair and decreases morale.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I’ve been really lucky, I guess, because I’ve never worked for a company or had a boss that gave me grief for either using a PTO day or working from home during a snowstorm. I only live about 5 miles from work, so I can usually make it to the office, but when we lived on the other side of town it was about 15 miles away, and it could seriously be 2-3 hours in the car. Each way.

      Even so, when there is bad snow, I usually work from home, because I have to drop my daughter off at school each afternoon. So leaving work to go get her and come back can take more than an hour when the roads are bad. If I work from home, I can be there and back in 20 minutes. So it seems silly to waste all that time in the car when I could be working instead.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Same here. If I lived really close, I would probably go in anyway, but I live clear across town from Newjob, and driving there in weather like this (6 inches of snow, high winds, and dangerous sub-zero wind chills) is NOT going to happen. It was messy on Thursday, and it took me 40 minutes to get there. I grabbed my computer and went home. (I had called my boss while inching along in traffic.)

        I’m not going back in tomorrow or Tuesday, either. We’re supposed to get more crap later in the week, but it will warm up before that. Hoping the mess will have cleared up some by then. It’s just too scary driving in this, especially with the wind blowing the way it is. As long as my power doesn’t go out, I can work just fine from my couch.

      2. Jamie*

        Mine is like this too, and I think there are a lot more reasonable employers out there than we think since people who are being treated fairly with time rarely need advice about it.

        Roads are hideous here still, I came in because I needed my desk…I worked from home so much yesterday if I had to deal with a laptop for one more day I don’t know what I’d do. But if I had opted to work from home it would have been no problem.

        If your position allows that kind of flexibility it’s nice if tptb let you exercise that.

    2. Windchime*

      I live in a suburb of Seattle, and snow is uncommon enough here that, when it happens, even a couple of inches causes pandemonium. People literally abandon their cars in the middle of the freeway. For most of my life, I lived in an area where snow is common so we would just brush off the car, shovel the driveway, and go to work. But here, if it snows more than an inch or so, we all just work from home. Fortunately, nobody on my team is customer-facing, so it works just fine for us and our employer is fine with it.

      1. Kathryn T.*

        To be fair, we also have REALLY STEEP HILLS here in Seattle! I’ve watched the plows trying to get up the roads to my house, and it’s a dicey proposition — and that’s a little old suburban hill, not a giant hill like Queen Anne Hill.

        1. Julie*

          snow is uncommon enough here that, when it happens, even a couple of inches causes pandemonium.

          So true! When I lived in Seattle, there were no plows and no salting. The trucks went up and down the streets spewing gravel on top of the snow. It helped a little, but not when you’re trying to go up Olive Way or Belmont Ave. E. Once, I was driving down – I think it was Roanoke St. – in Montlake, and even though my tires stopped turning, the car did not stop going downhill. I thought we were going to end up in a houseboat on Union Bay. We finally realized that we needed chains for the tires in order to get anywhere safely. Plus, I’m from a sunny climate, so I didn’t know how to drive in the snow.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I used to get a chuckle when I lived in California and we’d have a little bitty thunderstorm (rare where I was). Everyone would lose their minds like the world was coming to an end. I grew up with huge electrical storms and tornado warnings; I’d be like, “This is NOTHING, you guys!” But I can totally see how they would freak if they weren’t used to it.

    3. Marmite*

      It also varies greatly depending on how accustomed the place you live is to dealing with snow. When I lived in Alaska there were never snow days, despite there being snow many days. The local schools sometimes did two-hours delays, where the whole school day was shifted back two hours (started two hours late, finished two hours late) to allow for roads to be cleared. And they cancelled recess when the temperature dropped below minus 10F.

      Here in the UK snow is rare enough that it causes chaos and an inch can shut down public transport, schools, and many offices.

      1. Katieinthemountains*

        Yes, I live in the southern U.S., and the best we can do is salt the overpasses and deploy the one snowplow and maybe some repurposed construction equipment. We don’t have salt domes, a fleet of snowplows, or chains, and everyone in this town forgets how to drive when it rains, let alone snows. Plus, the schools frequently cancel, start late, and/or release early, so a lot of women especially are out because their kids are.
        I can burn leave in even-hour increments only, so I do what I can from home and during the hours I’m in the office, and I have to use PTO for the remainder, even if the office is officially closed on a day I could get to work. But I would pitch a royal fit if I were told to do a substantial amount of work and they were gonna dock my precious leave. Not even my boss would stoop that low, and until very recently, he had a secret policy that we couldn’t accrue PTO on any week where we didn’t work at least 24 hours, so people were a) being punished for taking actual vacations and b) not getting the full number of days promised in their offer letters.

      2. Mary*

        I’m in Alaska now. We don’t close for snow. We rarely close for cold (some schools will cancel for an extended period of -50F, but otherwise it’s business as usual, with the exception that kids don’t go outside for recess below a certain temperature). But if it gets above freezing or rains in the winter? That’s when things grind to a halt.

  4. Editor*

    A snowstorm like the one the northeast just had makes me wish for better paid time off policies at most jobs. If a company has a use-it-or-lose-it PTO policy and the leave year runs with the calendar year, some people will already be running a leave deficit.

    Also, January is a horribly busy month for many payroll staffers because tax documents have to go out, among other things. So having a payroll where many people are confused about how to post their hours for that day must be a pain on top of all the other stuff that has to get done.

  5. TeaBQ*

    Is this where we share our snow day horror stories? A couple of years ago, in a similarly bad snowstorm, I checked in at work and found out the office was open. The trains and highways, however? Very much closed. I wondered if work assumed we all had dog sleds that would enable us to actually get in.

    1. When I was a grad student...*

      … it snowed about 12 inches. This was in the south, where there are no plows, so the university was shut down for 2-3 days. My faculty mentor wanted to know why I didn’t walk the 2.5 miles to work. His wife, another professor, held class while the university was closed (which I missed). They lived about three blocks from campus.

      A few years later we had a big ice storm. I was lucky, found a place to stay the first night, and then got my power back. Aforementioned professors slept at home with no power in the bitter cold for a week (kharma!). One fellow grad student slept at the lab (with the cockroaches). When I realized she’d been doing that all week and offered to let her stay at my place she said “oh, I don’t care about that, but you could have been taping my shows!”.

      1. Stephanie*

        This was in the south, where there are no plows
        I grew up in the Dallas area, which never handled snow well. Two to three inches would shut the city down!

        1. TL*

          it snowed once while I was at university in San Antonio – less than an inch overnight and the high the day after was in the 50s. Entire campus closed, except for the main dining hall.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit*

            I genuinely don’t understand this. I get that places that don’t often get snow don’t have the resources for plowing, but… one inch of snow is driveable in any car. Really. Salt/plowing/etc. is unnecessary. What’s the challenge?

            1. Kat*

              The problem is ice. typically (at least in souther Georgia where I am from) the snow doesn’t stick. It quickly turns into water which then freezes. If it were just snow, I think it would be easier to deal with, but also, y’all get days off for extreme winter weather which can be a foot of snow. so why can’t we get days off for our extreme winter weather which includes an inch of snow? This comes from a Boston girl who misses her snow days (which she got paid for from a specific account saved for snow days).

            2. Editor*

              I moved from central NY state to Kentucky. I learned not to drive in Kentucky during or after snowstorms because other drivers were out of control, and I did not want my car — or me — to be T-boned by some clueless pickup truck and its driver. It isn’t the snow that’s the problem — the people on the road don’t know to keep more distance between more vehicles, don’t know how to steer into skids, don’t know other basics of winter driving and haven’t developed the reflexes for it.

            3. tcookson*

              My university is closed right now (along with all the local schools and many businesses) because of just a couple inches of snow. But like Kat says, the problem isn’t really just the snow — it’s the ice that results when the snow melts and refreezes.

        2. Windchime*

          This is how it is in the Seattle area. They seem to have about 10 plows for the entire city. My little hometown of 3,000 people had 3 or 4 plows.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        How could she hold a class if the university was closed?
        Did everyone go online (I’ve done that) to a chat room or did she actually call students and tell them to show up for class?

        Oh man!

        1. AnonK*

          When I was in grad school, I had a professor hold class over spring break. He got the university to open a building for him. So it does happen!

          I personally refused to go based on principal, so I don’t know how the class went.

          1. Girasol*

            I’m imagining a prof saying “…and this material WILL be on the finals!” to an empty room.

          2. Stephanie*

            I had a professor who scheduled final presentations for our capstone projects AFTER the end of finals. (We had a dead week between finals and graduation.) The registrar had to hold off on calculating honors (summa cum laude, etc) for our one class.

            1. TL*

              Jeepers! Most universities have policies against that and reporting avenues if your professor doesn’t abide by it. (we have a few profs who broke rules like that, but they would get consent from the entire class – if one person said no, the whole thing was off.)

              1. Stephanie*

                It was sort of a unique situation: we were doing our senior design engineering capstone projects with a university in France and I guess between all their spring holidays and our really early finals…that was the only time we could coordinate the conferences. Still, students were pissed as that week is traditionally a blow-off/packing week for seniors.

            2. Simonthegrey*

              Man. I have a required day – finals HAVE to occur on finals day, or if I give the final early, I have to have an activity in the classroom for all students on finals day. Then, within 3 days of the day of the final, I have to have ALL grades posted and verified. Our school is very strict about verification for grades since it affects financial aid and other issues for students, and I have had calls from my dean about it. In my first semester teaching, I had entered all my grades but for one student I had put in an incorrect date (a grade of F had to be accompanied by the last date of attendance). I didn’t catch it, and an hour after grades were due I had a call from my dean asking why my grades were late. I quadruple check that stuff now.

        2. When I was a grad student...*

          The professor sent us an email announcing that she was giving the scheduled lecture. A few grad students who lived near campus did make it to class and were nice enough to share their notes.

        3. tcookson*

          Our university used to leave it up to the professors’ discretion about holding classes when the weather was bad, and the university hardly ever closed. However, since the old chancellor’s retirement, the new administration has been much more liberal with calling snow days, and professors can not hold classes when the university is officially closed. So much better this way!

      3. Victoria Nonprofit*

        Ha, I had a similar grad student experience. My university shut down after a 12-inch snow (in DC), but my job (at a think tank downtown) didn’t. I lived in a neighborhood without Metro and with highly sketchy bus service (Glover Park). Because I am Minnesotan, I knew what to do: I shoveled the hell out of my car using a spaghetti pot and was in the only person on the road. It was actually fairly awesome.

        1. Stephanie*

          I had a friend who lived in Glover Park. I remember I was leaving her house and saw a 32 bus fly by. She was like “Oh don’t worry! They tend to travel in caravans of three or four, so that means another one is just behind it!”

        2. Clever Name*

          That’s hilarious. Were your coworkers surprised when you showed up?

          We lived in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area for years, and we’d usually get one good ice storm every year. People would pour boiling water on their cars or use credit cards to try and scrape the ice off while I just used my ice scraper. People would look at me in amazement and ask where I got my scraper. My answer: Kansas. :)

          1. tmm04*

            Recently there was a bad storm with freezing cold in Texas where my son, a Canadian, lives. When his co-worker came to pick him up for work with his car windows all iced up, he asked “You’re Canadian, do you have a scraper thing to clean off my windows?” lol, which he did!
            Snow day policies are difficult because each storm is unique but you try to cover off all the scenarios. And then Mother Nature throws you a different one. The best you can do is cover off the most common scenarios and then say people will contact each other thru a phone/email tree to confirm. Managers, particularly new ones, often don’t know the policy hence so much confusion and bad feelings. Let common sense prevail!

            1. Chinook*

              Of course a Canadian has a scraper in their car because we know what it is like to clean a windshield with a credit card (because that is how you scrape the ice of the inside of a windshield) and we don’t want to spend that much time outside scraping. That and they are just easier to store in your trunk year round along with a spare set of gloves.

          2. Mena*

            Note to readers: don’t pour boiling water on your car. You will crack your paint AND your glass.

            1. Chinook*

              Funny, when I saw Clever Name mention the boiling water on the windshield, all I could think of is that it just means you have more ice to scrape off if you aren’t fast enough.

            2. tcookson*

              We had an ice storm at the end of December, and the university closed at 12:30 p.m. Our dean told us to use our judgment and go home anytime before then that we needed to, but I ended up staying right until the official close time because I was trying to finish some things before leaving.

              I got to my car and it was already covered in a half-inch-thick layer of ice! I almost couldn’t even get the door open because it was frozen shut. I finally got in, and I just sat in the car blasting the defroster for a good five minutes before getting out to scrape ice. It melted just enough ice at the bottom of the windshield and the front edges of the front windows to give me a starting place to start chipping at with my ice scraper.

              1. Jamie*

                This! Just run the defrosters for a while and then once you chip into the ice it will slide off in sheets.

                I really regret not getting the remote starter – but when it’s like this I’ll tell you I wouldn’t trade my heated seats for the world.

                1. tcookson*

                  Yeah, that’s what it did — the ice came off in just a few big sheets after running the defroster for about five minutes — sweet!

                  What I wouldn’t give for the remote starter or heated seats either one!

        3. Paige Turner*

          Ha, I also lived in Glover Park during the Snowmageddon storms. I don’t like to talk about it- I’m from Florida and the whole thing put me off snow for life.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit*

            Glover Park is amazing. But the street I lived on was only nominally paved and was literally never plowed. And the buses run without heed to a schedule.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Ugh! Ice storms are the worst. I was out of power for 12 days during the 2007 one. My house wasn’t damaged, but I lost a giant ponytail palm I loved that was too heavy to cart around with me. :(

        Some of my city is out right now (I guess from the wind) and I’m praying my power doesn’t go out, because I can’t stay in here if it does. I don’t have any alternate heat and my gas furnace won’t blow without electricity.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Meant to add, my boss at Oldjob let us all have an extra vacation day the first working day after the storm when we were closed. But we were open the next day, and I called about twenty times trying to get hold of someone (I was in a motel 30 miles away by then). Bosswife was supposed to answer the phone and she did not! But I didn’t get in trouble for not showing up because I left message after message. If I did, I would have been MAD.

        2. tcookson*

          Twelve days! That’s brutal. We were out of power for six days during the 2009 ice storm. We live on the last street of the old part of our neighborhood and there are now subdivisions behind us in what was a cow field when we moved in here. The neighborhoods behind us got their power on 2 – 3 days before we did, and we spent a lot of time with our noses pressed longingly to the back bedroom windows looking at the lights on in their houses — electricity envy.

    2. Anonymous*

      I don’t know anybody with a dog sled but a lot of my coworkers ride snowmobiles to work! (And snowshoes for people who live closer)

      1. AnonK*

        I have a pair of snowshoes and live 1 mile from my office. I’m contemplating using them tomorrow to get to work. I actually have a few things to do in the office that I’ll be much more productive at of I’m by myself, so I’m thinking that the exercise may do me good!

    3. Ruffingit*

      Don’t be such a wuss. You’re supposed to trudge uphill both ways in the snow with the snow shoes you fashioned from tennis rackets. ;)

      Seriously, this is bizarre. The office is open, but the highways and trains are not? Your company has major common sense problems.

    4. Anoners*

      My horror story is losing power in Toronto for 4 days (getting it again on xmas eve). Then our basement flooded xmas day. I feel bad for my landlord who spent her xmas day dealing with it.

    5. Anonsies*

      You jest, but my workplace jokes about people skiing to work… Only they’re not joking, people do that because they have to. Some people will walk several miles to work in the snow, since the official policy is “open no matter flippin’ what.”

      We provide essential services but not all of us are necessary for operations, so there’s some mixed feelings about it.

  6. Stephanie*

    I’m reading all this from Phoenix and am simultaneously fascinated and glad I’m avoiding all this. (Won’t gloat too much because I’m well aware what awaits me in like three months.)

    1. Min*

      Being able to gloat during the winter was the only thing that got me through Phoenix’s 8 months of summer.

      1. Stephanie*

        HA. Pretty much. After it hit 120 F one day this summer, I was like “I need to move.” But hey, uh, you don’t have to shovel it?

    2. EM*

      Aw, I lived in Phoenix for a year and miss it terribly. I would move there permanently in a heartbeat if I could (came from Chicagoland and back there now).

    3. JoAnna*

      I’m in Phoenix, too, but was born and raised in North Dakota. The weather was a big reason why my husband and I relocated. You don’t have to shovel hot, scrape hot, worry about your car starting in hot (although overheating is a concern), or bundle up yourself and/or little kids in 4-5 layers to go out in hot.

  7. Ann Furthermore*

    Years ago, there was a huge blizzard where I lived and I was completely snowed in. I called my boss, told him there was no way I was getting my car dug out, and that I was staying home. He laughed and said he was doing the same thing, and told me not to worry about it. I might have had to take the next day off too, I can’t remember.

    But what I found so funny was that I called the office weather hotline and it said that the office would open at 10 AM. On the news though, it said that the one and only road from which the building could be accessed was closed. So….the road to the office was closed, but the office was still open. Genius.

    1. fposte*

      My university officially does not close, ever, and even sends out a note in advance of bad weather reminding us of this fact and stating that we should not believe media reports saying that the university *is* closed.

      Supposed to be -18 with 10 inches of snow for the Monday morning commute. I think it’ll have to be open without me.

        1. fposte*

          You’re probably better off where it’s normal–there’ll be an infrastructure for it. Think of how Seattle shuts down when there’s two inches of snow because who knew white stuff could fall from the sky?

          1. Windchime*

            heh, I just posted the same thing. The news channels all pre-empt the morning shows and keep broadcasting, because snow! It’s snowing! Look at all this slush on the road!

          2. Ruffingit*

            Yeah, exactly. Houston, believe it or not, had snow that actually stuck to the ground and people just aren’t prepared to deal with that. Hurricanes? No problem, totally covered on that one. Snow? WTF is that white shit falling from the sky?? LOL!

            I remember it being icy in January and I went to the store to buy an ice scraper for my car windshield and the guy said “We don’t sell those after November or so.” They just aren’t normally needed. Finally did find one at a car parts specialty store.

        2. Felicia*

          Me too! Well not normal, but totally happened before and didn’t think twice about going into work. Though I’m Canadian so I had to google what -18 and 10 inches would be in metric to truly understand. had it been -18C and 10 cm then that wouldn’t have been bad, and t hat’s how we measure the weather:)

        3. Anonymous*

          -18 with 10 inches of snow sounds like Canada (because C vs F). We don’t usually get snow when it is that cold.

          Our governor closed schools today because it was too cold for kids to stand outside at bus stops, but work continued as usual. (Though I hear a lot of businesses were recommending staff work from home when possible.)

      1. ChristineSW*

        I sure don’t envy you all in the Midwest, Chicago, etc. It’s going to get bitterly cold here in NJ, but it’ll be nothing compared to what you’re all in for. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

        1. Victoria Nonprofit*

          Minnesota here! -12 as we speak, which is the high for today. The windchill high is -39. Wheeee!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          The good part is that they said this would be really short-lived. It’s not supposed to linger past Tuesday. But it’s not very much fun right now; my house is getting colder by the minute. Stupid polar vortex. Rawr.

          PLEEEEEEEZE GOD don’t let my power go out!

        3. Becky B*

          And I take no comfort that Mars is currently still worse! (

          I don’t want to even stick my nose outside until Tuesday, and am glad I can work from home tomorrow. The city of Milwaukee has closed except for essential personnel, and I heard that includes librarians, which…I can’t see why librarians can’t stay home and warm too.

      2. Anonymous*

        I work at a university too, and I only expect it to close if the city or county declares a snow emergency and orders everyone off the roads. Which could happen, Monday’s forecast is a HIGH of -8 (-22C) and 8-12″ (20-30cm) by Monday with more “lake effect” snow on Monday. (I live next the one of the great lakes, and sometimes we get more snow due to that, but the forecasts always sucks to predict how much we will really get).

        1. Schuyler Pierson*

          I live a mile and a half from Lake Michigan so we get that lake effect snow too. I don’t know if that’s going to make it warmer here or cooler, but luckily I had planned to take tomorrow as a vacation day before I even knew what the forecast was. I may have to traipse down to the Metra station on Tuesday instead of driving… luckily it’s only a block away!

      3. Anon*

        I used to work at AT&T (in NYC), and they said they NEVER close either. In early 1996 there was a blizzard, and my boss said I should expect to come to work. I managed to get there on the subway, but no students showed up for the computer training class (big surprise), so we got to go home (and they did actually close the building right as we were leaving, so I guess they do close in extreme conditions).

      4. tcookson*

        My university used to be like that — never officially closed. It makes me so glad for the current administration’s more liberal snow-day policy. We’ve been officially closed more times in the past 5 years than in the past 100, I think.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

      We have people who live so close to work, they can walk. We’ve officially closed only twice for snow in 20 years, although Sandy kicked our asses for a week closure. (Sandy! Said like “Newman”)

      As long as power is on, many people can work remotely so there’s not much of a reason to close the office. A big East Coast snowstorm cuts down incoming call volume drastically so we just need a couple of bodies in house to open the phones.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

        p.s. I should say that the principals of the company and the senior execs are the ones who make it in and open the building. That’s a pretty important point. Not a bunch of high level people sitting at home drinking hot toddies and telling junior people to work it out somehow.

      2. doreen*

        My office is the pretty much the same- closed twice for snowstorms and a week for Sandy for non-essential staff. However, there have been other times were no one has made it in – the difference is that if we’re “open” and no one comes in, they have to use leave time. If the office closes, there is no charge to leave credits.
        Sometimes, a decision is made after the fact to restore leave credits, This happened after Sandy with the “essential” staff- and what a problem it caused. The whole idea of restoring leave credits was so that people who couldn’t get to work because of the storm didn’t burn leave, so people who were on pre-planned leave didn’t have leave restored and people who did get to work weren’t granted an extra day. I suspect that’s why there is almost never a decision to restore leave credits.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

          We just paid everybody for Sandy and called it a wash. (Little hurricane black humor there.)

          It couldn’t be sorted. Our problem was we had no power, not actual storm damage. So some people were in the office with emergency lighting strung up…some people were working 24/7 to try to get generators to work to bring up our phone system….some people were at home managing customer’s needs through text messaging and gmail accounts . Plenty of people weren’t working, through no fault of their own.

          I don’t know of an instance where someone already had charged days scheduled but they’d have been an awfully small person to request a PTO return under those circumstances.

          1. Cat*

            I wouldn’t have judged anyone who requested that. I would have assumed that if the office is closed, you don’t need to use PTO; done; full stop. It’s not like them not having to take PTO makes anyone else’s situation worse; or compensates everyone else for having to deal with the hurricane.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

              Sandy was an enormous crisis. Not only did we lose a week’s revenue, but we were the lucky ones. Our supply chain up and down the East Coast was crippled, took months to recover.

              That’s just the business part of it. We all had families and friends who were out of homes for extended periods of time and people who were financially ruined because of their property damage.

              Worrying about credit for PTO for days you had scheduled in advance would be extraordinarily petty. Everybody in South Jersey was just grateful our homes didn’t wash away.

              1. Cat*

                I guess, but some of the people who had PTO scheduled were probably some of those people trying to make sure their homes were okay. Just because they had PTO scheduled didn’t mean they were sitting on a beach somewhere while everyone else was suffering. It’s a minor thing, but it also seems kind of churlish of the company to charge people PTO for that kind of situation. (Though, to be honest, it wouldn’t have come up anywhere I’ve worked – PTO has always been deducted AFTER you took a day in jobs I’ve had; so I guess I’m just used to thinking of it that way.)

                1. fposte*

                  Sure, but PTO is what it says–time off that’s paid. It’s based on people’s not working, not on how much fun the person is having outside of the office; otherwise people who use it when they’re ill shouldn’t have to burn a day either.

                2. Cat*

                  Right, but we’re talking about the morality of asking for it back, not the legality – companies can do whatever they want re legality and you can argue that either of those solutions is reasonable depending on the circumstances. But I disagree with Wakeen’s Teapots that it is inherently small-minded for employees to ask to keep PTO when the office ended up being closed on that day anyway, regardless of the reason.

                3. fposte*

                  If everybody had gotten the day off, I agree, but WT’s account suggests that both the office was *not* closed and that people were working at home. It’s not fair to the people who worked all day to toss a freebie to people who didn’t do any work at all, either.

                4. Cat*

                  I guess I don’t disagree with that; my thinking more generally is that if someone had prescheduled time off and then could neither get away or come into work because of the hurricane, it would be nice for the company to give them the same PTO-deal they gave everyone else – or, more to the point, it’s not something to judge them for asking about even if it’s not practical.

                5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

                  I’m out of reply room to fposte and Cat so I’ll reply to myself here.

                  These facts might make the situation clearer:

                  The storm knocked out our phones and our computer system for a week, but not our customer facing websites and order taking system. (It was like Seinfeld and the car rental episode: You know how to *take* the order, you just don’t know how to *fill* the order.)

                  People who could/did work started at the highest point up the chain and it descended from there. The people who couldn’t/didn’t work were folks like our warehouse pickers & shippers, receptionists, clerks, etc.

                  If we had implemented the “fair” and official policy, the people who wouldn’t have been paid or would have lost an entire week of PTO would have been the lowest paid and most vulnerable in the company.

                  We’re not Walmart. Everybody got paid. (And, for the record, nobody bitched. Not a peep.)

              2. Lore*

                I was one of those people–and I asked how to handle it not in the expectation of getting the PTO back, but because we have to fill out quarterly attendance reports and I just wanted to know what they wanted me to say. In the end, they were kind enough to credit me back three of the days (days when either the office was closed or the transit situation would have meant I couldn’t get there), but it was moot because I wasn’t able to take them again before the end of the year and we can only carry over a very small number of days.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

                  Logical question.

                  Sorry about the lack of time left to use vacation..that was an *insane* time period, wasn’t it?

            2. doreen*

              But that’s just it – the office wasn’t closed for essential staff. There was a later decision to restore leave to those who were unable to get to work because of the storm. And how it makes everyone’s situation worse is that it’s less likely that leave will be restored in similar situations in the future.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

                What we could have done is require everybody to report (power outage, not unsafe conditions) and then send them home.

                Every. Day.

                That was considered for 30 seconds and then deemed lame. Doing lame things during a crisis makes the lame things tenfold lame.

            3. Girasol*

              I’ve always figured that one uses PTO on a snow day when planning to spend the day snow shoveling, fire stoking, or staring at a storm and does not use PTO when holed up in the home office online and mentally at work. Do others see it that way?

            4. Observer*

              It would have ticked me off big time. Those of us who were dealing with this, were stretched thin, and most of us were busy worrying about friends and / or coworker and staff at the same time. You were out on vacation at the time? OK. But don’t complain that you had to use you PTO for it!

              And, just for your information, this kind of request CAN present an issue for others. The staff involved with payroll barely managed get payroll out on time. Untangling all leave issues etc. took extra time. At the same time, there was a huge amount of additional paperwork as a result of the mess.

              1. Cat*

                I just think the assumption that people who had scheduled PTO at that time weren’t also worry about friends, family, co-workers, etc. is weird – I mean, they also live and work in hurricane affected areas. They were probably dealing with the same nightmares as people scheduled to work on those days.

                1. Cat*

                  But in this case, it seems to be more about who was useful in the office and could get in vs. who wasn’t or couldn’t and everyone got paid.

                2. Observer*

                  If they had any brains, they worried about friends and family, but if they were off on vacation, they were not pitching in or even calling into the tele-confernces to see who could do what. Even though our office was TOTALLY washed out, most of our office staff was back up and working withing days, but it was a brutal few weeks for some of us (including our fiscal staff who also handle payroll and PTO). They would NOT have been happy to have to deal with the paperwork.

    3. Girasol*

      We had a situation like that: the main road to the office was closed due to ice. Dutiful employees spent hours slithering in on the back roads only to be turned away at the door due to a power outage. I was listening in from home on the emergency team’s communications and learned that there was a hotline for emergency closures. But updating it required high level permissions that they didn’t get until the power came on and the roads thawed, and besides, they were the only ones who knew about the hotline anyway; it was a secret. (While some of us are office workers we’re a factory with equipment that needs attention, so to be fair, since the factory guys are truly needed on premises, butt-in-seat is required of everyone.) I used to have to pay up in PTO to work from home but fortunately my new boss allows us to call it a work day if we work all day from home.

  8. Stephanie*

    #4 sounds like a federal employee or someone who follows OPM weather guidelines (most notably, the term “liberal leave”).

    I remember when I lived in DC and worked as a fed, I always heard the joke about the government/DC shutting down at the sight of a snowflake. Yeah, not the case. I found myself shuffling on icy sidewalks to the Metro to head to work on many a “liberal leave” day, figuring the vacation day wasn’t worth it. Only time I remember the government shutting down during my tenure was the 2010 Snowpocalypse.

    1. Cat*

      My office also follows OPM – they seem to vacillate between closing at a flake of snow and not closing even though the roads are genuinely a disaster. We’ve had a couple of snowstorms that didn’t materialize even though the government had already shut down recently (following on the heels of one where people ended up stuck on the freeways for 8 hours trying to get home).

      1. De Minimis*

        I’m a fed and live in an area where they occasionally get moderate snow and ice, though nothing like the Northeast or upper Midwest. Our facility doesn’t close that often for weather–it’s healthcare and there are patients coming in for appointments [which sometimes are hard to get] so our executive director tries to err on the side of remaining open. So far we have closed for one full day this year and opened an hour late one other day. It’s snowing today so we’ll see what happens tomorrow although I suspect at worst we’ll open 1-2 hours late, the snow is winding down although it won’t be warm enough to melt anything until sometime tomorrow.

        About the only thing that can really shut everything down is a big ice storm, due to power outages.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        I’m in the UK which tends to fall apart when it snows, you’d think they’d plan better for it now but apparently not. My dad told me once about a headteacher who’d seen a heavy snow forecast for the following day and taken the decision to close the school and announce it before everyone went home the day before. It didn’t snow in the end and this headteacher came in for a lot of stick for having made the call so early. Although Dad did say that if we had had the heavy snow after all, that guy would probably have been praised for his quick thinking.

        1. Chinook*

          I am surprised that a school was closed due to snow. In Alberta, the schools stay open unless they are damaged (burst pipe, no heat) in case a student shows up because they didn’t hear it was closed. Nobody wants a student injured (frostbite or hypothermia are real concerns) or killed because a building was closed. Even if the roads a dangerous, I believe a principal or other designated staff member has to ensure the school doors are open and, thus, must live within walking distance.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      OPM really botched the call last week. They decided well before midnight to issue liberal leave and the snow was still coming down. The roads were a total mess. I stayed home but I don’t really appreciate being docked the leave for it.

      1. Cat*

        To be fair to them I think they’re in a tough situation because the weather varies SO MUCH over the DMV. Where I lived, I was completely unaffected – I got on the bus as normal and got in quicker than usual because there was less traffic. The roads were completely clear. And Metro was running unimpeded. But then elsewhere, the roads were a total disaster. I don’t know what a good way of dealing with that is except to expand telecommuting capabilities, I guess.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, basically. I’d be fine weather-wise in the middle of DC, but coworkers who lived way out in WV or MD would have completely impassable roads.

      2. Elysian*

        Agreed – I walked to my office, which follows OPM, and I was slipping all over the place. I was just scared watching cars skid through the perilous-when-not-icy traffic circles.

        1. De Minimis*

          I’m going to roll the dice and just come in late tomorrow, hoping they will text me around 6 to say they are either closed or will be opening late. All the bad stuff on the roads today will refreeze overnight since we’re going to the single digits.

          We have a text system to inform employees, and there is also a weather hotline. Employees aside, I think it’s irresponsible to expect our patients to try to get here in unsafe conditions, although I guess the logic is that we need to be open for them especially when they’ve made appointments.

          1. De Minimis*

            I rolled the dice and lost….we opened as usual, so I burn a couple of hours of vacation. Oh well. The roads weren’t bad. I need to just assume we’re opening from now on. At least it’s a shorter day today, and I got a little extra sleep.

  9. llamathatducks*

    Alison, I’m missing the distinction between the situations of OPs 1 and 2 that lead you to answer their questions differently? Why is situation 2 okay when situation 1 isn’t? Or are they just both okay legally but bag policy, and you just emphasized different parts of that in your two answers?

    1. llamathatducks*

      Whoops, I meant “bad policy” there! Gotta remember to spellcheck my phone’s interpretation of my typing…

    2. V*

      Not sure if this was Alison’s focus, but one thing I did notice is that for OP#1, it seems that her boss was telling her she had to work from home AND use PTO, while it appears that the boss of OP#2 made her actually take the day off (she mentions stopping working and cancelling conference calls). I suppose OP#1’s situation could be looked at as slightly worse, since she’s being asked to work AND use up her PTO.

    3. OP2*

      I’m reading it as OP1 always works from home and was told that because the office (which she never goes to) was closed, she would have to use PTO. I normally work in the office, but can and do work from home as needed.

      My frustration is that I made it known that I would work from home if the bus wasn’t running, but was told hours later that I would have to use PTO. Had I been told earlier, I would have just taken the snow day.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Neither situation is okay! I told both to push back with their managers.

      However, the distinction is that OP #1 is being told “work from home AND use up PTO that day,” and OP #2 is being told “don’t work from home even though you have in the past, and take PTO for the day,” and heard it retroactively (well, halfway through the day) as well.

  10. Not So NewReader*

    I so understand about the two hour rides to a work place that is 20 minutes away. By the time I get there I am so stressed that I really am not productive at all. (Nothing like seeing a highway plow go right off the road. I know I will not make out BETTER.)

    I remember one bad winter, we were getting up most days at 3 am to plow the driveway and clear off cars in order to be at work by 8 am. (It snowed 18 inches every other day… it was awful.) The town ran out of money so the plowing just stopped. It’s amazing how quickly a driver can lose orientation as to where the unplowed
    road is.
    I think that companies that insist their workers show up under these conditions are soulless. It’s gotten to the point where companies are over the top on this one.
    I am glad governors are making announcements that people should stay home. Someone has to draw the line on this insanity.

    1. De Minimis*

      Of course our stupid governor got that wrong too…encouraged people to go home early due to impending tornado-producing storms that were going to arrive right around rush hour…..but at the same time said that state employees would not be permitted to leave early [although I assume they could if they used leave…]

      1. Not So NewReader*

        There are times where I am not proud of our government leaders and this is a prime example.

    2. Prickly Pear*

      Our mayor basically told us to all stay home and that’s fine, but I work in retail. No weather-related closures ever, in all the time I’ve worked here. It makes me mad at how deaf he is to who actually makes up the population here (mostly people too poor to move to a suburb, because that’s what we do here).

      1. Editor*

        In the 1970s in central NY, there were some bad storms where the sheriff shut down the county. It’s one power that I really like seeing on a local level. Basically, it meant that retail had to shut down, too — only gas stations and the hospital and similar places could require workers to come in.

        The downside, of course, is that people had to use PTO or were docked pay (especially in retail). But people were safer. I remember hearing through the grapevine that some small retailer fired an employee who didn’t come in during the storm. I don’t know if this was a local urban legend or not, but the story was that the employee called the sheriff to find out if it was legal, and the sheriff was so ticked he paid a visit to the business owner in question and the employee was reinstated.

        Then I moved to Kentucky where the sheriff collects taxes, and to Pennsylvania where the sheriff transports prisoners, and never had the delight of hearing that the county has been shut down and that everyone should just stay home. Maybe it’s my background, but I think every county is better off if there’s a law enforcement official who can say that people need to get off the roads because weather conditions are too dangerous for driving.

        1. Collarbone High*

          I agree with this — public safety should take priority over commerce, and sometimes managers lose sight of that. (Like the Kmart manager who told the reader’s wife to come to work during a tornado.)

          In high school I worked at a family rec facility whose owner would vastly overestimate the public’s desire to go bowling during a blizzard. We’d have teenage employees driving 20 miles on icy roads to end up standing around for two hours and then get sent home because, surprise, there were no customers. It would really have helped to have the sheriff say “NO, you cannot open unless you provide essential services, and mini-golf is not an essential service.”

  11. AnonK*

    Some of these policies have me shaking my head. I’d feel differently if we weren’t talking about such a significant storm – I think we’ve all had that coworker who uses a very manageable (for the area) storm as a reason why they can’t possibly make it in. I give most companies the benefit of the doubt that these weird PTO policies were created with this in mind, and not for the recent/current storm with dangerous temperatures and conditions. Hopefully employers do the right thing tomorrow with employees in the Midwest that are getting pelted with 12″+ of snow and then severe arctic chill.

  12. Rebecca*

    I have to relay a true situation from my first job. This company provided no sick time, vacation time was stingy (10 days per year after you worked 10 years, and 8 days were taken for bi-yearly shut downs). If you were late for work, called in sick, had a child care issue, etc. you were issued attendance points. 12 points in a rolling 12 month period led to dismissal.

    I lived 3 miles from the office. We had a huge snowstorm, 28″, on top of 18″ that had fallen a week or so before. Our state was under emergency status, all roads were closed, and travel was prohibited except for emergency and snow clearing equipment. On top of this, my Jeep was snowed in, and I had the flu with a 103 temp. I did not go to work that day. The next day, still sick, I went to work (my road was cleared somewhat and the Jeep got me through).

    I was assessed a full attendance point for failing to show up for work the previous day, state road closures and sickness notwithstanding. My manager said because other people made it to work, I should have been able to make it too.

    I’m so glad I found another job.

    1. AnonK*

      How awful for you! Glad you got out.

      The worst thing about policies like these are they encourage poor decisions. How many people got sick because someone was in the office ill when they really should have been at home and in bed?

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I hate policies like that. You know there will always be those martyrs who drag themselves to work when they are dying or when it’s completely unsafe to do so. Then the company uses them as examples? Sheesh. That’s just stupid.

  13. Schnauz*

    My office closed, with pay & no deducted absentee points, for the first time last year. They always send an email prior to inclement weather that our clients don’t shut down (because we’re a global company not because they’re more diehard than we are in the snow) and so we don’t either – leave early & you can clock in 30 min early with no penalty. It’s actually not bad, I just roll my eyes every time they basically say “clients don’t care, so we don’t either.” Also exacerbated by the fact our two locations are only about 1 day apart weatherwise & both are located in snowy locations.

    1. Julie*

      At my company, all we do is provide service to clients, so we’re always going to have clients that are not closed when some of our employees (in various parts of the US and Canada) are experiencing extreme weather. When that happens, we get an email telling us to tell the clients that there might be some delays in due to weather delays. They don’t want technicians driving unsafely or coming in when it’s not a good idea. And the company is still profitable – even with telling clients there may be delays for the sake of safety.

  14. The Other Dawn*

    This sparks some curiosity for me. I have an interview tomorrow (first real interview, at my last job for 17 yrs) and I’m wondering if there is a way to screen the employer for a crappy snow day/leave policy without being obvious. Anyone done that before? My former job was 10 minutes from my house and I never called out for weather-related events. Except Sandy and the blizzard, of course. There were a few times I stayed home when there was a lot of snow and just worked remotely. It was never an issue. I’d hate to get stuck in a place like the ones OP 1 and 2 are at.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      That’s a really good question!
      It’s not typically something that comes up in interviews, or that you even find out about until it happens.

      I don’t know how you would bring it up normally, but if the snow is recent (like that day or day before) I suppose you could ask about how they staff during these situations.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I’m guessing my asking about this wouldn’t really raise any flags, because I do live about an hour from the place. So if there was snow, it could drastically affect my commute. Maybe it’s something I’ll bring up if I get an offer. Being able to remote in on a snowy day would be great. I really don’t want to make a one hour commute into a two-three hour commute.

        1. ChristineSW*

          Questions about paid leave are typically not discussed until the offer stage, so yes, I would definitely wait to see if you get an offer to bring it up if they don’t bring it up beforehand.

    2. theotherjennifer*

      It depends on the work you do too. I’m a project analyst with a company issued laptop and an awesome boss, so I was able to work from home on Friday – i’m not driving 2 hours on a not plowed highway to work for 4 then drive another 2 home – i’m too old for that crap and it’s not safe and while there was not a state of emergency at that time, why risk your life to go sit in your cube? Office opened at 11 but our boss told us to work from home. However, the customer service reps are not able to work remotely so they have to come in or take PTO. That said, I went in Thursday (i live north of Boston), against my better judgement because the weather guys said “only 3 inches throughout the day” and it was of course, more like 6. But I left at 1 and worked at home the rest of the day. My feeling is too that if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to work remotely then you are more likely to be able to do it when you need to. Good luck on your interview – I would just say something like “wow, how about that weather” and see if it segues into anything else.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe I am too old and too tired of all the “head games ” that go on in the work place but I think you should just ask point blank.

      I did on my last job that I applied for. The road I need to use is famous for getting dicey FAST. I have an okay car and good tires. But nothing protects you from ice or that oncoming vehicle. Framing it this way I landed on “How critical is it that I be here on a snowy day?”

      I hold on to the concept that Alison says: The interview goes BOTH ways. As a job seeker I am interviewing the boss, too.
      Honestly, I have a scar on my face from trying to get to work when the state closed the roads and I am unwilling to put myself out there like that again. It’s a deal breaker for me.

      If a company says “Well our customers don’t care therefore we don’t care.” that may not be a company for me. I would have to wonder what else they don’t care about and how all this lack of caring is going to impact my quality of life.

      Now clearly they are not going to say that on an interview because everyone is on their best behavior. BUT the interviewer could simply say “We expect you to be here.” Don’t skate by that- it could be a massive understatement. You could restructure the question and ask again “Well, how did the employees make out during this last big storm?” See what the interviewer says.
      It could be that she throws out an unforeseen such as “A couple people live in your area and they carpool. Maybe you can join them.”
      If the interviewer questions your conversation about bad weather just tell her that you want to know that upfront so you know what the job calls for.

      1. Clever Name*

        “Well, how did the employees make out during this last big storm?”

        I think this is a really good way to phrase it. You could even ask in the very beginning while you are still sitting down/getting settled in a chit-chatty way and exchanging pleasantries.

      2. fposte*

        I think since you just had the weather, you can pull that off right now. But otherwise I’d say that you need to tread very carefully, because this isn’t a common occurrence and it seems a little strange as a focus during a job interview, suggesting it’s a key thing in your decision-making. I’d think it was very weird if I were asked about our work policy during tornado events, for instance.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          It’s not key to my decision-making at all, although it is something I might factor in. I’m in the Northeast so snow and ice, while not a super common occurrence, does happen. And I would be traveling from the coast to inland where they tend to get hammered during a storm.

          1. fposte*

            And I think that you can ask right now because it’s easy to bring it up (“Wow, so what did you guys do–did people work at home, or did you close?”). But if it were, say, mid-summer, I wouldn’t just ask it unless there were a natural and logical segue from something else, especially if it’s something that could be seen as a commuting question rather than an office policy question. Obviously if it’s on an island or over a pass like Jackson Hole or something weather is a much more immediate issue, but if we’re talking something that averages out to, say, one day annually, I would raise an eyebrow at that question.

            It would stand out less to include it in questions when going over PTO packages, maybe with HR, since you’ll probably have several questions and that’s not such an interview moment; it would be easy to slip in a “And are employees expected to use PTO when weather forces closure?” question and see whether you get a “We never close” answer or a “No, that’s a day off for free.”

            1. The Other Dawn*

              I think I’ll wait and see if it comes up naturally tomorrow. If not then I will wait until it’s time to look at the PTO policies and such, assuming I get that far. Thanks.

  15. RegularWhoWorksInEmergencyManagement*

    I drove to work this morning through nasty conditions because…

    It is my job. I work in emergency management.

    But we are starting to get calls from people seeking transportation help. I cannot stress enough that if it is not an emergency situation, stay off the roads. We have very limited resources for moving people around, and that is reserved for life-threatening situations (like you need dialysis _today_).

    I actually had people waiting help getting to work at retail stores. Hint for retail store managers…. your store should be closed. No one is coming in today. When the NWS says, “Becoming stranded in your vehicle will quickly become a life-threatening situation”, then you should not be making your employees come to work.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Tell that to all those managers that are nasty and insist on people coming in or face being fired!
      Makes me so mad. No common sense at all.

    2. Anonymous*

      Someone please tell my manager that… I’m headed out to work retail right now in the Chicago snowpocalypse. :( I just bet my partner a million dollars that no one will come in the store.

      1. RegularWhoWorksInEmergencyManagement*

        Here is the statement for Chicago. Very hazardous or impossible travel with windchill that _will_ result in frost bite and lead to hypothermia or death.

        “A winter storm warning means significant amounts of snow are
        expected or occurring. Strong winds are also possible. This will
        make travel very hazardous or impossible.

        A wind chill warning means the wind will combine with very cold
        air to create dangerously low wind chill values. This will result
        in frost bite and lead to hypothermia or death if precautions are
        not taken. Bring pets indoors.”

        1. Anonymous*

          yeah, that’s all well and good, but we’re right off an el stop so as long as the CTA is running, we’re going to have no excuse not to come in. Physical health and safety?! Why does that matter when we could be open and making money?! :P

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Yes, when the forecast includes the word “death,” everybody should stay home.

          A friend’s daughter works at Pizza Hut in their town and she had to work today. They should have been closed, but NO. SOME stupid ass might want a pizza delivered. :P My friend would not let her drive; she took her there and went to pick her up.

    3. RegularWhoWorksInEmergencyManagement*

      Here is our local message from the NWS (edited for readability but not content). Note the line about “anyone that becomes stranded in a vehicle may encounter a life threatening situation”

      “Even though the snowfall will be diminishing early this afternoon, the combination of snow that is already on the ground and the gusty winds may cause near blizzard conditions. In open areas, visibilities will drop below one-quarter mile, and the blowing and drifting snow will cause some roads to become impassible. With such poor travel conditions, and with wind chills plummeting to dangerous levels, anyone that becomes stranded in a vehicle may encounter a life threatening situation. These conditions are rare for this area so anyone considering travel should not take this weather situation lightly, and be certain to take the necessary precautions to stay safe. The best advice is to avoid travel unless it is absolutely necessary.”

      1. Chinook*

        I find it interesting that the snowfall is what makes people panic, not to cold temperature. In my mind, if it is snowing, then atleast it is not deathly cold. Around here, when the sky is bright blue and the snow glistens, you know it is cold enough to be dangerous. Luckily, I haven’t worked at any office job where I have been punished for choosing not to risk my life, and that includes last month where I am still a temp and I contacted my boss to tell her that, since the buses aren’t running, I wasn’t coming in. It sucks losing a day’s wages but I also know that, you life isn’t worth it.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I wish you would write to every Retail CEO there is because they so fail to understand these basic concepts.

      So let’s see, it takes ten rescue workers and three rescue vehicles to pull the donut shop worker out of the ditch she went into because the boss said NO excuses- get to work.
      I think the bill for that rescue should be sent to the boss.

      I can remember one storm where the snow was so bad I could not see the hood ornament on my vehicle. I rolled down the window and stuck my head out the window hoping to spot the yellow line.
      I still have no clue how I made it that day.

      1. Anonymous*

        While you’re at it, write to everyone else too. There are two sides to this equation, and the big one is that people DO go out in these messes and want/need services. Combine employers, visitors and that weather travel is uneven and there is no straightforward solution. I’ve never had to miss work for weather.. but I’ve always lived within an hour’s walk to work, so there was always staffing. And I’m no saint – I can’t claim I have always remained at home during holidays, weather days and the like though I’ve tried to keep it to a minimum.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yes! What I said earlier about the martyrs that will go to work even when it’s not safe. Or they’re dying of the plague. Those people need to be billed (or something) if they end up needing emergency services because they were stupid.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          There’s something to be said for living close to your job. My last job was so close to home I could walk (glare ice/blizzard did not matter) and still get there. I volunteered to fill in for people who were not so fortunate to be that close. I never asked to leave early, so that way someone else could. I felt it was just the right thing to do. I think I got paid back many times over for doing that.

  16. Jubilance*

    My state isn’t dealing with a ton of snow, but we are having extremely cold temperatures. The Governor closed K-12 school throughout the state for Monday, but my workplace made sure to send out an email Friday at 4pm saying that we would not be closed due to the extreme cold. But since it’s so cold we could have casual dress all week. Thanks?

    Sadly I also have a manager who hates when people work from home (I guess cause he can’t monitor what they are doing every second of the workday) so I will be going in :-( Other teams are working from home with no problems and I wish I was on one of them.

    1. kelly*

      It sounds you’re in Minnesota. I’m in Wisconsin and work for the state. Most (at least 95%) of the schools in the state are closed on Monday due to the extreme cold. Local control laws mean that the governor thinks he doesn’t have the authority to cancel school for extreme weather, either snow, cold, or a combination of the two. Tomorrow would be the first day back from Christmas break for most schools and most buses have been sitting in bus garages unused for 2+ weeks and it is extremely dangerous to have kids out in the extreme cold.

      I was told that the university is not shutting down due to the cold but we were told to use our best judgment about coming in tomorrow and Tuesday. I’m on the fence about tomorrow – it’s predicted to be 50 below with windchill when I’d be leaving for work and be around 40 below when heading home. My work place has a small permanent staff and student help. I’m thinking that one coworker may not come in if he doesn’t want his kids travelling to daycare in that weather. That leaves me and one other person plus the student working over break. I hope that the university makes the decision easy and shuts down because I could see a lot of people taking PTO and not coming in because of the weather.

    2. Clever Name*

      I had a boss like that. I lived about 20 miles from my office, so it would take me over 2 hours to get to the office in bad weather. I also had a work-issued laptop, so it was quite easy for me to work remotely. The one or two days I worked from home due to the snow, my boss called me many times to ask what I was working on, to ask for status updates on things he normally never asked me about. I eventually figured out he was checking in on me to make sure I was working, which was really ironic because I knew he didn’t actually work 8 hour days and regularly sat in his office giggling at YouTube videos or reading Yahoo News. (My coworkers eventually figured this out by comparing notes about when he came in– just before 9– and when he left– usually 3:30–and the times he told different coworkers a different story to explain is whereabouts, or the times when he left and told us he was going to the mall with his daughter or the movies with his girlfriend.)

    3. Elizabeth West*

      But since it’s so cold we could have casual dress all week. Thanks?

      At least they are letting you wear your warm clothing. Dress clothes are just evil for this kind of weather. I used to wear my coveralls at Exjob when it was super cold. I was at the front desk and sat by the doors, and every time someone opened them, I would freeze. I figured if they didn’t like me sitting there in Carhartts, they could just let me stay home and answer the phone from their warm offices! But they didn’t care, yay.

  17. OP2*

    I’m the writer of #2 letter. I spoke a bit with my supervisor, and it seems that the boss was trying to make a point to *his* boss. Our institution wasn’t closed, but there was an order for only “essential” employees to come in. Our office should be considered nonessential, but the big boss deemed us all essential. I’m not quite sure what the point was, but I’ll post again when I find out.

    1. AnonK*

      Always fun to be a pawn in office politics. Hope he makes his point and it works out best for you and your team.

  18. Chuchundra*

    I work in operations, so even when the rest of the facility closes for a snow day, we still come in and keep things running. It’s not so bad, really. While everyone else is home in their fuzzy slippers drinking cocoa, we’re doing science and making extra money.

    Last February, during the Snowpocolypse that we had here in the Northeast, I got snowed in here. I reported for my Friday 9:00 AM shift and couldn’t leave until 7:00 PM on Sunday. Nobody could get in or out.

    So we ran all through the weekend. The experimenters who were stuck here with us and anyone who could do their work remotely were able to work uninterrupted.

    The only downside was the grounds crew who didn’t think to prioritize plowing out the buildings that still had people in them. We didn’t get plowed out until almost 5:00 PM on Sunday. After that, my crew and I pitched in and helped dig out everyone’s cars. Then I drove home and slept for 24 hours straight.

  19. A Teacher*

    -40 windchill predicted for tomorrow and its already snowed 10″ with 8-10 more expected and super deep snowdrifts. We have teachers institute and the kids come back Tuesday. The last snow storm, the heat went out in a hallway…our superintendent told us to suck it up, we were adults. This is the same lady that keeps kids in unairconditioned buildings with extra heat generated by computers and electronics and its 100+ in the building. I’m taking a blanket and heating pad for tomorrow and hoping for the best!

  20. AnonK*

    Completely off topic – but for those of you snowed in, please tip your pizza delivery boy well today. This is often a busy time for them. Unlike retail stores that should be closed because nobody is in them, lots of people are going to order in food.

    When I was in high school, my boyfriend delivered pizzas. When we got hit with a massive snow fall, I decided to go with him so if he got stranded, he wouldn’t be alone (I know…. teenager logic). But it was an important life lesson for me – he was putting his life on the line to deliver food to people who couldn’t/wouldn’t get out, and wasn’t really tipped well enough to make it worth his risk.

    If I order a pizza today, the delivery boy is getting 100% for the tip.

    1. MR*

      If it’s ‘too dangerous’ for you to be out and about, why would you put someone else in that situation?

      1. Clever Name*

        Exactly. I don’t order takeout on days when I myself wouldn’t be on the roads. It just seems really selfish.

        1. Tris Prior*

          oh man, I would feel like a gigantic a-hole if I made someone deliver my food in this weather!!

      2. AnonK*

        Very true, but most people aren’t thinking like that in these situations.

        The Jimmy John’s guy just came to my neighbors.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t want the pizza guy/gal to get hurt bringing me a pizza in this weather. Sub-zero wind chills, and six inches of snow on my street? No way. I’ll make my own dinner. I still have electricity. They shouldn’t have to do that.

      1. Chinook*

        My thought too – no craving, no laziness is worth asking a delivery guy to risk life and limb delivering food. They are not an essential service. I would eat cold soup out of a can in the dark before it would cross my mind to call for food (which is also why I don’t own an electric can opener).

  21. MR*

    I grew up in the snow belts of Lake Erie in Northwestern Pennsylvania and the concept of a ‘snow day’ is foreign to me. Two feet of snow fell overnight? My brother and I went to school and both of my parents went to work that morning.

    I moved to St. Louis after college and three inches of snow was enough to make everyone go bananas. Even though three inches of snow would fall several times each winter and the cities in the area had the equipment to handle the snow. It’s amazing how people forget something that happens each and every year.

    When there is a situation where a snow day may be in question, it’s likely in a place where snow is a regular enough of an occurrence and it should not be a surprise when it happens. Have your policies in place and like everything else, enforce them consistently.

    1. Anonymous*

      When I was a kid in Minnesota we did too, but then, Minnesota was ready for snow with armies of snowplows and people familiar with snow driving. In other parts of the country where deep snow (or any snow) is rare, tiny or non-existent road crews can’t clear roads and poor drivers max out the emergency services.
      That said, I’m with Garrison Keillor in this week’s Prairie Home Companion: it’s great that the Minnesota governor is letting kids stay home in the bitter cold, but where was he when we were in school? Girls had to stand in -30 weather in knee length dresses waiting for the bus if the roads were clear.

      1. kelly*

        I lived in southern Minnesota until the mid 90s and remember the governor shutting down all the schools multiple times. This time was the first time in quite some time that it happened again.

        Most universities in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio are shut down tomorrow along with Michigan State. I think the main reason is the snow plus the cold is making it impossible for roads to be salted. Wisconsin and Minnesota only shut down the public schools – most universities are still open, but on winter break so no classes. I think it would be different if class were in session and there would be more people on the roads and buses – then they’d have shut down campus.

    2. AnonK*

      I moved from Chicago to Dallas for a year and was shocked at what I saw. I understand that 2-3 inches will cripple that city since snow removal equipment isn’t a high priority. But wow, I saw people shut down at the sign if a flurry as if it was the apocalypse.

      Was so glad to return to the north where snow is accepted as a fact of life.

      1. Collarbone High*

        Ha, I feel the opposite — I moved to Dallas this year after growing up in South Dakota, and I LOVE that Dallas can’t cope with winter weather. We had an ice storm earlier this year, and I got my first snow day in about 30 years. Such a treat to stay home in my PJs, cuddling with my cats …

    3. LadyTL*

      St. Louis and the surrounding area is unique in how the approach to snow goes (St. Louis city native here). The counties have the funds to make sure all their streets are clear because it such a small area that each has to cover. The city though flat out does not. Also it’s not really the three inches of snow that they freak over, it’s the three inches plus the up to a quarter inch of ice underneath which is legitimately dangerous.

      Take today’s storm (which is so far the worst one this year, half the city shut down). They couldn’t really pre-salt for it because it stalled out to the north and then came down as mist first so under all this snow is going to be a thin sheet of ice. Add in only the biggest main streets get cleared and in a few days almost all the side streets are going to be sheets of ice from the snow being packed down by cars. Many people are going to be telecommuting for a while again but many won’t be since there was an ice storm only a couple weeks ago that left the streets an ice sheet as well.

      Unfortunately since I’m in retail and on the bus I have to go into work tomorrow since everything will be back up and running, no matter how dangerous the blocks I have to walk to get to the bus stop are. Almost all the pedestrians I saw today are walking in the streets and tomorrow isn’t likely to be much different.

      1. Stephanie*

        I will never understand why St. Louis County has eleventy-billion tiny municipalities (my grandmother lives in Northwoods). I’m sure there is some historical reason…

    4. KellyK*

      Yeah, I know what you mean. I grew up in Northwest PA too (McKean County, so not *right* in the snowbelt like Erie or Corry, but close). While we did have snow days if there was a *ton* of snow, they were rare, maybe one a year. (Two hour delays were much more common–gives the plows a chance to catch up and lets the bus drivers at least make the trip in daylight.) We did have one crazy winter when I was teaching where we had *four* snow days, but we also had a blizzard right before Easter, and a flake or two in *May.* Not normal weather, even for NW PA.

      And the only day I remember school being canceled in advance was for a ridiculous predicted windchill (-30, if I recall correctly). Since there was no bus service for kids who lived in town (within a mile or so of the school), it makes sense that was considered a pretty major safety issue.

  22. Houston*

    Haven’t dealt with snow closures in awhile since I moved from the Pac NW, but here in Houston we do have hurricanes of course so closures result from that. Hurricane Ike was awful in 2008, closed my office for three weeks. I was a contract worker so that sucked, no pay for that time. Also caused long lines at gas stations and, believe it or not, places like doughnut stores because they were open early and sold milk and bread, which we couldn’t get at regular stores since the highways had been torn up so trucks couldn’t get through.

    Fun times. I sympathize with all of you dealing with the difficulties due to weather.

    1. Stephanie*

      Oh man. I was in Houston in 2005 when Rita (almost) hit. I was one of the idiots who tried to evacuate. I left way too late (mostly because my university didn’t know whether it was going to cancel classes or not until late). It took me 24 hours to get to Dallas.

      1. Houston*

        I live in a suburb of Houston and didn’t bother to try to evacuate when Rita showed up. Had I lived closer to downtown, I might have been concerned, but I knew that evacuation was basically going to mean sitting on I-45 for 20+ hours. I figured we could weather it (pardon the pun) in the burbs. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law did try to evacuate and it was a huge nightmare so I feel for everyone that made that effort.

        1. Anonymous*

          Downtown was fine! We’re actually a “shelter-in-place” area. That as the problem with Rita. I think more folks figured that out with Ike.

          But there is an interesting question. Most folks don’t evacuate – there are always warnings, and often times they turn. (Thanks Rita!) (Sorry Beaumont!) So how do evacuation days get covered? We’re talking snow days here – verifiable, it is happening events. Hurricanes we get plenty of notice for, and for many folks evacuating in time would mean a day or two out. Can any company cover that, when there could be several “unnecessary” evacuations a year? It’s a tough limbo to live in – but hey SIP is the way to go!

          Just buy twice as much booze as you think you’ll need….

      2. TL*

        :( I’m so glad I grew up on the southern coast of TX, where Padre Island makes anything but a category 5 weatherable by the time it lands.

        Even in normal weather, I’ve seen I-1o going into Houston backed up for more than 20 miles. (Sooo glad I was heading the opposite direction.) Can’t imagine evacuating!

        1. Stephanie*

          I remember I inadvertently grabbed a loaf of bread and some peanut butter, because I figured it’d take maybe an extra hour or two to get up I-45.That stuff was a lifesaver. I made a lot of sandwiches while crawling in traffic. I also remember I fell asleep once or twice while waiting in traffic (we were literally going a mile an hour–I calculated).

          Low point was probably when I got out my car to pee on the shoulder. I hid behind my car as much as a could.

          So if that happened again…I would probably just stay put save for being in some really low-lying coastal area. NOT WORTH IT.

          1. fposte*

            Huh. I’ve been putting together emergency stuff for the car and house this year, and that makes me realize nobody mentions anything about peeing equipment. I might toss some non-food-grade containers in the trunk box. So maybe you didn’t go in vain if you’ve served as a warning!

            1. Stephanie*

              HA. To be fair, I think the Rita evacuation was a particularly egregious case. I hope your hurricane evacuation would go a bit smoother!

              TxDOT wasn’t prepared for the volume (and opened contraflow lanes way too late). Katrina had just happened three weeks prior and people had visions of getting stranded on top of their houses. And just way, way too many people left who didn’t need to (myself included) or ignored their designated evacuation time, which in a metro area as large as Houston can be problematic.

              1. TL*

                Yeah, I remember all the uproar about Rita. They thought she was going to hit us at first, so everything was cancelled Fri/Sat. I was really glad (between marching band and XC I was looking at about 4 hrs of sleep) – but I think the whole coastline was freaking out because she kept on changing course.

                1. Oh, hurricanes*


                  My friend and I lived in a mandatory evac zone (Galveston), and we left last minute due to my boss. I was going with her to her home because at the time, Rita was SUPPOSED to break the other way.

                  The area we went to go hit so hard we had National Guard out doing food and road assistance! And when I got to a working phone, my retail boss STILL expected me to go back to work. Even after I told him the Guard had shut down roads in our area.

                  He did threaten to fire me but never mentioned it when I got back to town.

                  Of course, he also tried to write me up for missing a shift when I was out of state for a funeral soooo…

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I keep an empty coffee can and a roll of TP in the trunk in case I have to pee and can’t get out of the car. (I’d rather not use it; I’ll take a bush any day.) My back seat will lay down so I can also get into it without getting out, if I have to. Or if I get carjacked and they throw me in the trunk, I can crawl out and knock them in the head with my tire iron!

              1. Chinook*

                Here is tip for that roll of TP in your car. Take the cardboard roll out of the centre and pull the tp from inside the roll (instead of unrolling it). Then flatten it and put it in a ziploc, waterproof bag – presto – your always have dry and clean TP! (Yes, I have gone backpacking in the middle of nowhere and had to dig my own toilet. Why do you ask?)

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I’m sure you weren’t the only one peeing behind a car! That sounds awful.

            I need to make a new emergency kit. I don’t want to have to try and stay here in this cold weather if something happens, but if it’s warmer, I might have to.

          3. Anonymous*

            Saw a friend do something that had never occurred to me: pull off the road, preferably with trees/brush alongside the shoulder, open front & back passenger side doors to squat between them. Definitely remembering that one!

  23. Suz*

    I have to brag. I work for the best company ever. Whenever the local schools are closed due to weather, our office is closed too. On Fri, the governor declared all MN schools will be closed on Mon because it’s supposed to be -30 here. So at noon on Fri, our office announced we will be closed too.

    Everyone gets a paid day off and we don’t have to use PTO. Last year we went all winter without any weather closures, so they give us a “snow day” in July.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Company that cares about its employees AND announces the closure with a couple days lead time?? I want to work there, got any openings? :) Geeze, that is awesome and it’s sad that this kind of behavior is noteworthy, but it is.

  24. Wren*

    When my region had widespread weather related power outages 2 weeks ago, the hospital my spouse works for was on generators for a few days, and all non-essential staff were told to stay home. The days were coded as “weather or pandemic,” and were paid. You got paid whether your deadlines necessitated working from home or not, and it didn’t come out of ones PTO. If you were already on scheduled vacation using PTO, it remained PTO, which we did not think unfair.

    I know this doesn’t help anyone whose employer doesn’t have such a policy, but I just wanted to put it out there that such policies exist.

  25. Steve G*

    I’m in NYC and didn’t go to work Friday. Even though we have good subways, I was soaked by the time I got home Thursday because the snow blew sidways on me the whole walk home (Even though I had an umbrella). The sidways still have huge piles of snow, and most crosswalks are still not cleared, some are 2 feet deep or have huge puddles now. There is nowhere for all of the snow/water to go.

    On a positive note, my office finally realized that what we do is not life-or-death and it was much more relaxed this storm….no one killed themselves getting to work just to be seen in the office.

  26. JJ*

    many of us in several office locations came in late last friday because of the snow storm- and all we got was an email from our regional VP later that day saying that for hourly employees, it wasn’t up to him, and that we may or not be paid for the time until HR in another office says so. exempt employees didn’t have to worry about it- even if they didn’t show up at all. nice, huh?

    1. Observer*

      He’s right – it’s not up to him. Nor is it up to HR – the time MUST be paid for all hourly workers.

  27. Anonymous*

    “If she says that’s not possible, then say, “How would you like me to handle this then? I have work that I need to do today, but obviously I can’t spend a PTO day on it. Should we change the deadline and have me use PTO today, or do we need to keep the deadline and have this be a regular, non-PTO work day for me?””

    This paragraph reminds me (in a good way) of how my parents dealt with my unreasonable attitudes as a toddler. “[Anonymous], would you rather take your bath now or would you like to take it in 5 minutes?” Either way, I was getting the bath, but I felt like it was a conversation, not a demand. Ergo, unreasonable bosses should always be coddled like toddlers, to forgo the temper tantrums. ;)

  28. RegularWhoWorksInEmergencyManagement*

    So, my shift is done. We took a lot of calls today from people who were stuck at work. We are basically the last resort after people have already called 211 and other resources. Call-a-ride filled up for the -day- at around noon. Cabs were backlogged over 2 hours at noon and counting.

    That pretty much means that anyone who was at work at 3pm is going to be spending the night at work with no way to get home.

    I wonder how many work places that make their employees come in before/during snow storms have policies and preparations to deal their employees being unable to return home for 24 hours.

  29. Simonthegrey*

    I work for a community college. In general, if the local school district closes, we close, because so many students have children. Not always, but that’s usually the case. I’m also teaching a class this semester in a satellite center about 45 minutes away from where I live, with a population of students still in High School. In addition to the usual “if the college closes this class doesn’t meet” I also explain that if I can’t make it due to roadways, the class doesn’t meet, that if their schools close we won’t meet, and that if they personally don’t feel they can make it in (we are out in the country and the plows don’t always go through, and these are young drivers) that they won’t be penalized for texting me and telling me they aren’t coming. The last thing I want is for a student to get in a serious accident trying to drive in to class at six in the morning, and luckily I do have a fair amount of leniency in that regard.

  30. Katie the Fed*

    #3 – FWIW, for the Federal government, when there’s a snow day usually you don’t get to take the Admin leave if you were previously scheduled for another kind of leave. So when I was in Puerto Rico last year as a snow storm cancelled work here, I didn’t get credited back a day of leave.

    I’m sorry for your loss and hope you get the time you need to recover.

  31. VictoriaHR*

    My company is situated on a community college campus, although not directly affiliated with the school, so if the school closes due to weather, we might close also. If we are open but people want to work from home due to weather, we’re required to use a vacation day. If we’re closed, we’re expected to at least monitor emails and such from home. Sucks for me because I’m the only one on my team who wasn’t issued a laptop, but that’s another peeve.

  32. Ann O'Nemity*

    My company has the same problem as #1. Our policies require that employees use PTO for weather-related absences. Our policies also discourage telecommuting. Therefore, if you can’t get to work AND are facing an imminent deadline, you end up using PTO to work from home. I’ve also had this happen to me when I had the stomach flu recently but needed to finish a report. (That’s the trifecta of horribleness: debilitating illness, trying to work through it, and knowing it’s costing me a PTO day.)

  33. ThursdaysGeek*

    After reading all these, I’m glad I live in a place where the weather is mostly boring: no hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes. We get some ice and snow, but eastern Washington is desert and fairly flat, and with an annual average precipitation of about 6-8″, ice and snow are rare too. I do work for a utility now, so if the weather is bad, we need to be at work. Boring weather is great!

  34. anonymous1*

    I live in NC. I work in VA. I’m an hour away from work. I feel the roads are too dangerous to travel after this snow storm..the news are continuously reporting to not travel if you don’t have to. My job wants me to come in I wrong for refusing to do so?

  35. Pat*

    My company is a lab. it closed for the night staff and they get paid, but the day staff needed to come in. is that fair?

  36. Phil*

    I took 2 days off to make an extended weekend vacation in Cabo San Lucas.

    The heaviest hurricane to ever hit there did, on the day before I was to fly home. I was stuck for 4 days and eventually the government was forced to evacuate us out. I returned to work, but my manager took 6 days of PTO away from me.

    Do I have any argument? Obviously I’d love to have been anywhere other than mexico, fearing for my life.

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