how should your office handle snow days?

With much of the east coast dealing with a major blizzard, you might be wondering how to handle work when you’re snowed in. Should you get paid even if your office closes? What if your boss is pressuring you to come to work despite the road conditions? Do you have to use PTO for a snow day?

Here are the answers to these and other frequently asked questions about how to handle work during major snowstorms.

Can your employer require you to come into work even if the roads are hazardous?

Yes, your employer can require you to come to work despite severe weather. That said, a reasonable employer – and even employers that aren’t generally reasonable in other situations – will make allowances for employees who cannot safely make it in.

But if your employer is requiring to you to get to work and you don’t believe you can safely travel, or if authorities are telling people in your community to stay inside and off the roads, you should push back and point out the safety hazards. Try saying something like, “The roads I’d need to travel on are not safe for driving right now, and I don’t think I can safely make it in. Authorities are asking people not to drive unless it’s an emergency.”

What if your company says you should use your own judgment when deciding whether to come in during severe weather? Will you look bad if you stay home?

If you can’t safely drive to work, take your employer’s guidance at face value and stay off the roads.

If the roads aren’t hazardous enough to pose a safety issue but you’d rather not drive on them, this is case of “know your manager.” Is your boss a generally reasonable person who means it when she tells you to use your judgment? Or is she someone who gives lip service to concepts like telecommuting but really means she wants you in the office?

If you’re unsure, try asking your boss directly: “Is it really fine to stay home during the storm if I’m concerned about the roads?” Pay attention to how she answers. “Yes, please do stay home” can probably be taken at face value. On the other hand, “Well, I don’t want you to feel unsafe, but we could really use you here” probably means that she wants you to try.

If your office shuts down for a snow day, must you still be paid?

The answer to this depends on whether your job is classified as exempt or nonexempt.

If you’re a nonexempt employee (someone who is required to be paid overtime when you work more than 40 hours in a given week) and your office closes because of the storm so you don’t work on those days, your employer is not required to pay you for those days. Some employers will pay you anyway, but the law doesn’t require it; it will depend on your employer’s policy.

If you’re an exempt employee (salaried and not required to be paid overtime) and if you work any portion of the week, your employer must pay you your full salary for the week, even if your office closes because of the weather.

If your employer shuts down for a snow day, can it require you to use a vacation day for the time even though it wasn’t your choice to stay home?

Yes. Employers can indeed require employees to use a vacation day when the office closes for weather, even though it’s often frustrating to workers who don’t like to see their time off “wasted” on snow days. However, many employers choose to cover the day off for everyone rather than forcing people to use their vacation time.

What if you work from home on a snow day? Do you have still need to use a vacation day in that case?

If you’re working a full day from home, that’s a work day, and you shouldn’t need to use a vacation day for it. If you’re working sporadically from home, between shoveling, drinking hot chocolate and lounging on your couch, it will depend on how much of the day you’re really working – and on your employer’s internal policy for this kind of thing.

If you’re already on vacation and your company shuts down for snow while you’re away, do you still have to use a vacation day for that time, even though your company was closed?

This is up to your employer. Some companies won’t require you to use the vacation time since you wouldn’t have been at work anyway, but others will – figuring that you benefited by being able to plan on the certainty of the day off, whereas your co-workers had to rely on the whims of the weather.

If you’re not sure how your employer handles this, it’s reasonable to simply ask.

Say something like, “I’m uncertain how my planned leave works with the snow day. Should I still count the day we closed as a vacation day?”

This column was originally published at U.S. News & World Report.


{ 123 comments… read them below }

  1. Brett*

    It feels like there should be some discussion of travel bans, but since every state and sometimes every county is handles those differently, I can see why it is not in the article.

    If you are under a travel ban, such a ban can affect employers as well as employees. As an example, under New Jersey’s travel ban, and an employer who required an employee to drive during a travel ban could be charged with petty disorderly conduct (same crime the employee would be charged with for driving), which carries up to a $1k fine and up to 6 months in jail.

    An employer who wants to require employees to report to work during a travel ban had better be aware of the laws involved (especially any aiding and abetting clauses) and understand careful how their state certifies “essential employee” exemptions. If you run into this situation, be sure to check out AAM’s advice on what to do when your employer is breaking the law or wants you to break the law.

    1. Lisa*

      Mass is doing a $500 ban for those caught driving without being essential. If I got one, I would give it to my boss.

      1. HR Manager*

        Yes, I think if the company is asking the employee to violate that ban, then they must shoulder the responsibility of any fine or problems associated with that.

        1. Helka*


          During the 2010 blizzard, I was working retail, and our regional manager handed down the policy that we could only leave after there had been no customers for an hour. That meant we didn’t leave until well after travel bans started being announced over the radio — I didn’t get pulled over on the way home, but we were all furious when he wouldn’t relent after the announcements went out!

          1. Ed*

            I tend to be a worst case scenario kind of person but the very first image that enters my head is me saying you have to stay, you dying in a clearly weather-related car accident on the way home and then all of my employees telling the newspapers that I made you stay (I know, I’m a real optimist). Would the massive loss of business as a result of the bad publicity (if not going out of business) be worth the very small amount of sales lost that night? Aside from simply being the right thing to do and the law, it’s a bad business decision.

            1. Helka*

              Yeah, that was what we were all kind of seeing. Our store manager compromised by sending home basically everyone but me and her (I lived very close by in town, and she stayed because one person couldn’t mind the store alone) and making sure all our coworkers who lived out in the mountains could get home before the worst of the snow started.

        2. The_poster_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Usually – when a boss wants his employees to perform an illegal act – the order to do so – is usually never given in writing.

    2. The_poster_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Since we are allowed to “work at home” – and my employer is concerned about our personal safety –
      Managers should know — at least here in Massachusetts…

      1) Ordering employees to break the law not only jeopardizes their safety — but is immoral. The employee must use his/her judgement as to whether to comply.

      2) If an employee is fired over this – the employer most definitely will be on the hook for the unemployment claim. If he wishes to defend himself – he would have to admit that he asked the employee to commit a crime. DUH. Although – some would have the, uh, fortitude to say that. Note that very few bosses will give such an order in writing…

      Also – to employees – if you are pulled over , and ticketed, and FINED — a defense of “I’m just following orders” is not a valid defense. Has never worked in any platform.

      1. probably former WFM employee*

        We had a travel ban until 2pm today and the (very non-essential!) grocery store where I work opened at noon and expected me to come to work! I don’t even drive and would have put someone else at risk of getting a fat ticket for taking me there! There wasn’t even any busses or mail delivery today! The worst part is everyone thinks it’s a great place to work and we get paid well–LIES!

    3. Mike C.*

      I hope any employees involved report their employers to local authorities and media. I can’t say if it’s actually a crime, but I’m willing to bet a phone call from the police or a little name and shame on the TV news would take care of this issue.

        1. Mike C.*

          Maybe employers shouldn’t be forcing their employees to break the law.

          Why did you immediately jump to how to punish the employee instead of the life and death situations that lead to travel bans?

          1. mt*

            You try to shame your employer in public, for things that are not illegal there could be repercussions

            1. nicolefromqueens*

              Violating a travel ban is illegal. In NYC this morning it was a $300 fine and/or a misdemeanor.

            2. Formerly Bee*

              Violating a travel ban is illegal, and if simply publicizing something would be “shaming,” employers shouldn’t do it in the first place.

              And you can always report it anonymously.

  2. BRR*

    I want to take this moment to spread some positivity. I live in an area that was supposed to be hit hard (and was thankfully spared). My boss let us go home at lunch yesterday and telecommute the rest of the day (telecommuting is frowned upon). My employer then let everybody out early and let us know at 9:30 that the office would be closed the next day. While they usually don’t call a snow day the night before, and I admit it’s not always possible, I highly appreciate it and now get the day to do with as I please. I hope everybody else is safe out there. I just wanted to spread good news since we so often only read the bad.

  3. A Reader*

    My typical commute is about 20 minutes to work on fairly busy roads and when it snows it can easily change to be 2+ hours. I find it to be a waste of my time to spend 4 hours (usually) in traffic when there are client needs I could be attending. Lucky for me my employer has a use your best judgement policy for working from home.

    For the most part it works quite well. I don’t end up working from home very often and even when I do I still try to drive in first because sometimes those road reports are way off from actual conditions. But we do have some cronic abusers of the policy and everyone knows who they are. It’s true that MOST of them are hard workers and still get their work done that day, but there are some that really shouldn’t be allowed to work from home, but that’s the manager’s problem to handle.

    One of the employees was so bad about his abuse that he would email the night before and never attempt the next day at all even though the weather blew over without a trace of impact. We started asking each other where s/he was on days they were out and the replys were “It must have snowed in Russia today” (we are in the central US).

  4. A*

    I’m in the thick of it and my company closed for the day for only the second time in 30 years of business. We are being forced to use a vacation day. So cheap.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That infuriates me. THEY close and you have to use a vacation day… it makes no sense to me. These things are a rare cost of doing business, in my opinion.

    2. Allison*

      My first company was stingy about closing the office due to weather, and I hated that, but at least they issued a paid day off for everyone in the office when they did it.

    3. A.J.*

      that’s awful. my employer (bank) gives us holiday pay in the rare circumstances that they close. (we are in the far upper midwest, and it has to be really truly awful for us to close. they’ve closed once since I’ve been here, and that was after being open until 2pm. we shouldn’t have opened in the first place.)

  5. MT*

    The biggest issue I have with snow on the ground is that 90% of my workforce need to be at work to do work. The 10% are also required to show up, mostly becuase the majority of the workforce has to. Being in the midwest, snow is not a rare occurrence. Unless the county declares an extreme emergency, then I need my workers to show up. You wont get an attendance point for being an hour late, but you will if you don’t show up at all.

    I also hear a lot of, if the roads are bad enough for schools to be closed, then we need to be closed.

    For those who say its unsafe to drive in the snow, unless a level 3 snow emergency which is where they close the raods. I think its time for you to move to a warmer climate.

    1. fposte*

      “I also hear a lot of, if the roads are bad enough for schools to be closed, then we need to be closed.”

      I think that comes out of a misunderstanding, at least in my part of the Midwest; schools don’t close so much because of roads being impassable as the desire not to make kids hang out in the cold and wait for the bus, or to deal with a zillion dropoff cars before the street is well cleared. It’s not a general referendum on travel that means nobody should go to any regular activity.

      That being said, schools being closed does throw a monkey wrench into work arrangements because it means a ton of workers now need to find child care at short notice if they’re going to go to work. That’s where I think it really hits the office.

      1. MT*

        I think the real reason a lot of people want off that day is due to their kids being out of school, but they use the roads as the excuse. Also I do have a decent number of 18 and 19 year olds that are used to having snow days.

        1. fposte*

          I think this is true too, and it probably deserves a discussion in its own right, since it’s a real problem for parents who are stuck in that situation. Unless we’re talking high-schoolers, it’s not like they’re choosing to stay home to enjoy cocoa with the kids–the kids can’t be left unsupervised, and most workplaces don’t want the kids at work either.

      2. Helka*

        It does depend heavily on where you are — when I was in high school, our city schools closed far less frequently than the surrounding county schools because the county districts’ bus routes included going up into the mountains, which got hazardous a lot faster than regular city driving. So their major determining factor was “can the buses navigate narrow, winding and sometimes steep mountain roads?”

        1. MaryMary*

          I went to college in a rural, hilly area. We used to ask why the college didn’t close when the local schools did, and they told us the same thing about school buses and narrow, winding, unslated and unplowed country roads. Whereas 95% of the college kids lived within walking distance of campus.

          1. De Minimis*

            The colleges here usually close along with all the other schools, but I think just about all of them have a significant commuter student population.

            1. MT*

              I think it has really changed on collages closing. When I was a sophomore, 12 years ago, the university had their first snow closing day in 30+ years. Now they have had one day every year since.

              1. De Minimis*

                I think we used to close at least one day a year when I was in college [even longer ago.] I commuted a fair distance to school so I generally would just stay home if the weather got bad.

              2. Scott M*

                At my university years ago, they had snow days because of the professors, not the students.

                Most of the professors lived in the nearby metropolitan area, not in the college town. And they couldn’t get to the campus when weather was bad.

          2. Noah*

            My college NEVER had a snow day. However, we would usually get an email from professors saying their particular class was cancelled because they were not driving into work. I guess the end result is the same though.

            1. Hlyssande*

              Same for me too.

              My alma mater is on top of a hill in Iowa. In the winter there are days when everything is a sheet of ice and it’s incredibly dangerous just to walk across campus. They still didn’t close, but I did have classes canceled because the profs didn’t want to risk it themselves.

      3. Sparrow*

        My mom is a teacher and many of the kids in her district walk to school. They will close schools because the side streets and sidewalks may not be safe for walking. She said they would rather cancel than have a student fall and be hurt while walking in unsafe conditions. My neighborhood side streets aren’t in great shape, but all the main roads are fine.

        1. De Minimis*

          This is exactly why the schools close so frequently here….not only for students walking to school, but a lot of rural districts have bus routes where the kids have to wait by the side of the road for quite a while.

          We had an unusually severe cold snap in November, and some of the rural schools closed due to the low temperatures [mainly wind chill related.] The ones in the cities I believe stayed open.

        2. Lizzie*

          Same. My district cancelled school Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, but the city we serve doesn’t have a great track record for snow removal in residential areas, so we may well get Thursday off too. It’s all about student safety.

      4. LCL*

        The schools here close if there is a hint of snow in the forecast. We are not really in snow country, so when the occasional storm hits traffic stops and the city is paralyzed. The last time the schools stayed open during a predicted midday storm the school buses were running hours late, and the kids parents’ understandably were mad and worried, and went out in their cars adding to the chaos.

        Speaking as someone who works for a public agency who has to get workers on site, I am grateful whenever the schools close because that reduces traffic so helps our crews. If I had small children I wouldn’t be so happy with school closures.

        1. cuppa*

          I was under the impression that this is also why schools close – to keep buses and some traffic off the roads so the plows can clear faster.

    2. MJH*

      I really blame the 24-hour news cycle, FB and all the media hype around snow. Like, no matter how much snow we get, reporters are out talking about the roads, the conditions, being careful, etc., and most of the time the roads are FINE, or at least very passable. The days leading up to even a few inches of snow, there are posts being shared on FB, usually exaggerating the actual amount of snow we’re going to get, wild speculation, etc.

      It’s fun to talk about, but it feeds the mentality that no one should go anywhere if it’s snowing, whereas I can count on one hand the number of actual times I have encountered truly bad roads (and those were usually on days when no one was expecting snow or to have to stay home!)

      1. The IT Manager*

        It has not been as bad this winter, but last winter I cannot tell you how tired I was of hearing the winter weather being the lead national news story. I don’t think the fact that it snows during winter in the northern US is actually news to the degree it gets covered.

          1. De Minimis*

            For us it was a pretty major thing, it definitely was the top local news story while it was going on.

        1. Mimmy*

          It does irk me a little that weather is often a top news story. Umm….snow and cold is pretty much the main definition of WINTER!! lol.

          The blizzard was a big bust here in New Jersey, but the storm did clobber areas north of NYC. A cousin of my husband lives where they had to evacuate people due to flooding. Hoping she’s okay.

      2. AMG*

        Yes, I would rather hear more relevant news regarding what’s going on in the world. 9 Feet of snow in Albany is something, but 2 feet on the East Coast just doesn’t seem like such a big deal. We get that frequently enough where I live and it never makes the news.

        1. Mike C.*

          Try international news then. BBC, Al Jazeera, Voice of America, even CNNi are great sources of international news that tend to stay away from some of the dumber things you see on tv.

      3. cuppa*

        Granted, I was not affected by this blizzard, and I realize that there is information that needs to get out there, but the Weather Channel coverage was cracking me up. Check in with Boston? It’s snowing. Check in with New York? It’s snowing here, too. Check the radar? Still snowing. Probably will for a while. I think dramatizing that for hour after hour is hilarious.

      4. Mike C.*

        I don’t think it’s fair to ignore the issues that these weather conditions can cause just because local news agencies are full of idiots.

        Storms of any kind are difficult to predict, can have a high risk of damage or death and regardless of what NOAA and the NWS say, they’re screwed. If they come in a little cautious, then folks scream, “OMG FALSE ALARM!”. If not, then the same folks scream, “OMG YOU MISSED THIS!”. There’s no way they’ll come in exactly right because of the multitude of ever changing factors that go into weather prediction.

        1. Mimmy*

          It’s called “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. I actually feel kinda bad for those guys. I still blame the media. The NYC mayor made it sound like we were getting another Superstorm Sandy, but this time with snow. Sure, better safe than sorry, and I’m grateful we were spared the worst. All for ratings, unfortunately.

      5. soitgoes*

        On the east coast we’re gotten very neurotic regarding the weather conditions around this time of year. We had Irene, then Sandy, then last year it wasn’t so much that the snow was so bad, just that the temperature dropped low enough that the ice and snow never melted. Four years ago we had a huge, huge blizzard. I’m not sure if it’s global warming or what, but the fall/winter weather is noticeably worse than it used to be 5 years ago, and the infrastructure and population haven’t adjusted yet. Unless someone’s interested in trying to invent a better alternative to the New Jersey Parkway, winter driving is always going to be dangerous for us.

        1. Marnie*

          “I’m not sure if it’s global warming or what…”

          To quote Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, “It’s just God hugging us closer.” ;)

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      For those who say its unsafe to drive in the snow, unless a level 3 snow emergency which is where they close the raods. I think its time for you to move to a warmer climate.

      I wouldn’t put it the same way, but I agree with the sentiment.

      I can’t let employee’s personal situations affect their job responsibilities. A lot of folks have real difficulties – a truly hellish commute, crappy tires, inability to drive in snow, lack of childcare options during school closures, etc. But at some point, I need these people to reliably come to work. I don’t even want to be in a place where I’m trying to reassign responsibilities based on who has it the worst. I want to be sympathetic, but it’s not fair to ask the childless, nearby, 4-wheel drive owning employees to always pick up the slack.

  6. Enjay*

    I’m a fed and we have unscheduled leave or telework options whenever it snows significantly. Basically, if you are approved to telework (ever) you may choose to do so on a snow day or if you aren’t you can either come in to work or take the day off.

    Our boss gets irritated because there are a few employees who choose the telework option every time regardless of their work load or whether the roads are bad. We got 2″ of snow from this current storm (spread out over 48 hours) and one of our employees has spent the past 2 days working at home. Every other employee came in to work.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I love telework and its many perks, but the loss of the occassional weather day makes me sad. I don’t live somewhere where we get snow days (although if it ever did snow here there would be a total shutdown), but since I have the capability to telework I must telework on weather days or take leave.

      If I were actually fleeing a hurricane or if I were out of power/internet post-hurricane., I am not sure of the policy as that hasn’t come up yet in this job fortunately. That’s not quite the same as a snow day,

      1. The_poster_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I was once docked for a day because I refused to come into work for Hurricane Bob.

        I’m not making this up – I know, this is an “Onion” type of story — they had the employees come into work, and when the hurricane struck they sent the employees out into the storm to fend for themselves.


    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      So? I’m not being ornery, I’m really wondering, so what? I essentially did the same thing today because shoveling my walk, brushing the snow off of my car, then shoveling my driveway, all would have added a lot of time and discomfort to my morning commute (if you count “commute” from the time I literally exit my home). Instead I was working 20 minutes before my usual start time, and actually wound up working a little later because I didn’t have to drive home, either.

      So what is wrong with teleworking whenever it’s permitted? It’s not abusing a privilege when OPM says unscheduled telework is allowed, unless the employee really can’t do everything at home that they can at work.

      1. AnotherFed*

        I think the problem is that some of the people with situational/unscheduled telework milk the policy. First, situational teleworkers are usually only working with a laptop and limited remote access to anything except email, so it really is only for emergencies – they can’t do their normal day job from home. It’s even worse for some federal employees who have to handle sensitive information that cannot be brought home – they pretty much get to catch up on mandatory training and not much else.

        Also, teleworkers are not allowed to be primary caregivers for dependents while they are teleworking (unless it’s a child old enough they wouldn’t need a babysitter), but every office has at least one person who seems to have spent their telework day posting snowman-making videos of them and their kids. Sure, that might have been in the hour they went off the clock for lunch, but it’s still not the best way to look productive if everyone else is in the office.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          That’s really more of a reason not to let specific employees telework or to put an employee on a PIP for underperforming (specifically when they’re teleworking) than it is to not like people teleworking when it’s allowed. If I only had access to limited parts of my job I would probably not be allowed to telework as a regular part of my schedule.

          I admit there are some who normally don’t and shouldn’t telework, who use the liberal leave day to do laundry and answer an occasional email, but ideally we could just revoke their remote access and disallow teleworking for them if they can’t (or won’t) do enough of their job to make it worthwhile for their employer.
          Also, I have a laptop with an encrypted hard drive and VPN access, so I can log in offsite, even to access sensitive systems, so that's not necessarily always a barrier.

  7. Sparrow*

    I’m so glad my company has a liberal work from home policy. I have a laptop and VPN connection and can easily get my work done from home whenever I want. However my husband has to physically be at work for his job so he just has to get up early and plan for extra time on the commute. We usually carpool, so sometimes I’ll just go in with him when he drives. He’s much better than me with driving in snowy conditions.

    1. Joline*

      At my old job we all had laptops and VPN connections. When there were more than flurries forecast the Partner would send out an e-mail reminding everyone to please take their laptops and some work home that night so that if the next day they felt unsafe driving they would still be able to get some work done (and to just check in to let reception/managers know they weren’t going to be in-office).

  8. LittleMouse*

    For my company, snow days are considered “personal days”, and you only get 2 of those a year. After that, you have to prove that it’s not safe to travel (highways are closed, etc). Unless, of course, you take transit to work. If the busses are running, you’re expected to go to work, even if people who drive are calling in stuck.

    Oh, the joys of commuting in Canada…

    1. cuppa*

      How do you prove that it is unsafe to travel? Do you have to send a photo of you being stuck or in an accident? (I’m only half-kidding)

  9. Ezri*

    Oh man. When I first saw the title of this post, I wondered ‘why is Alison posting about snow when it’s not even winter?’. I don’t think I’m used to living in the south yet, because I have no idea what season it is. 0_0

    I hope everyone in the blizzard area stays safe and warm!

  10. Winnie*

    When I managed my retail coffee shop (in Greater Boston), we had to wait until our corporate overseers (in California) OK’d closing early or not opening. Tooks hours to get answers. If public transportation and the roads allowed, we opened. I remember during a blizzard 2 years ago (major storm, no public transportation for 2 days) my district manager chided me for my lack of “enthusiasm” because another store manager (who lived around the corner from his store) managed to open up. I was expected to walk 3 miles in a blizzard to sell coffee to no one. Still makes my blood boil.

    I did not get any credit for opening up in the afternoon after Hurricane Irene blew over and I was the only shop, let alone coffee shop, open in Harvard Square. Thanks, corporate! So glad I don’t work there any more.

  11. Observer*

    The one thing your post didn’t address is whether an employer can penalize someone (other than making them take PTO or not paying a non-exempt worker for the day) for not coming into work when transit is shut down and there are travel bans?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In most states, yes. Here’s one example, from North Carolina: “As one example that’s pretty typical, see the North Carolina labor department on this issue: “It does not matter if state officials have declared a state of emergency and are advising people to stay off of the roads. The decision to stay open or to close, for its employees to remain at work or leave early, or for its employees to report to work or not during adverse weather conditions, is entirely up to each individual employer to make on its own.”

      It’s possible there’s a state where that’s illegal to do though.

      1. Observer*

        I’m not talking about a situation where the government is advising people to stay off the roads. In NY and Mass, these are full out BANS. Anyone considered “non-essential” driving is committing a a crime. (The ban is over, of course.)

      2. Lisa*

        Mass had a state wide travel ban for most of today, shut down the T, and announced on the news that $500 tickets would be issued to those driving during the travel ban. My friend works at a dealership, she was expected to come in until they announced the $500 tickets and her boss had a change of heart. Who is buying a car in this weather? I don’t get people. Forward any calls to a cell phone, but close up if you are really not essential (medical staff, plumbers, HVAC, power companies, etc.).

        I am proud of the governor for actually closing the T AND do a travel ban. If the T was open, lots of businesses would have said come in even with a travel ban. Seen it before. Closing the T made it impossible to ignore common sense, and people were definitely saved from being stranded on the road and from risking their lives in such a bad storm.

      3. Mike C.*

        That’s batshit crazy.

        If the authorities are telling you to stay off the roads, they’re telling you this so that you don’t become a danger to yourself and a hindrance to emergency crews. Why in the heck would a state give the assistant manager of a Hot Topic more power over who is allowed or required to travel than police and emergency crews? That just blows my mind.

      4. doreen*

        Advising people to stay off the roads and use mass transit ( which happens all the time in NYC) is very different from issuing an order banning driving as part of declaring a state of emergency. When the mayor of NYC advises staying off the road and using mass transit, there is no penalty for driving. Violating an emergency order can result in a $500 fine and up to three months in jail. Firing someone for refusing to violate the travel ban is no different than firing someone for refusing to commit any other illegal act- which in at least some places would constitute wrongful termination (as it’s contrary to public policy) and might violate laws other than labor laws.

  12. INTP*

    I have a question about general perceptions on this topic rather tan policies.

    What do you think of people working from home in smaller amounts of snow, where most people would be okay with driving, because of personal discomfort? I’m permitted to work from home electively without prior permission. I try to minimize that because the company does maintain a computer and cube for me in our crowded office, and I can work more efficiently on my office computer setup. I’m in an area with snowy winters, but I moved recently after living all my life in areas with none, and don’t really feel comfortable driving in slush. Will it annoy people if I do happen to work remotely on days snow is projected or hasn’t been plowed before my commute? I wouldn’t even worry about it except that I’ve heard so many people complain about people who won’t drive in the snow and how ridiculous it is. (I can take a bus if necessary but it actually costs me a lot more than driving and takes forever.)

    1. Sparrow*

      I think this is a know your office situation. People work from home all the time in my office regardless of the weather, so no one gets annoyed. I’m like you though, and I don’t feel comfortable driving in snowy weather. I can do it if needed, but if I have the option to work from home I will.

      I would say if you’ve specifically heard people complain about people not driving in snow, you may want to try and make it in. Also, if you are still new to the position, it may be best to stick with the office culture until you get established.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      My comment above sort of addresses this.

      Basically, I think the answer depends on your workplace, your job responsibilities, and how the absences are affecting your own performance and your co-workers obligations. If your absence adversely affects the company or co-workers, I’m going to have a negative perception of you opting to work from home due to small amounts of snow. However, if you can do 100% of your job from home without any negative consequence, I’m not going to care why you’re choosing to stay home on some days.

      1. INTP*

        The worst negative consequence for someone else might be that I take a little longer to do my work so I finish right at the deadline instead of an hour before, or I get paid for 6 hours for the work I might otherwise do in 5 hours (but then I wouldn’t be in the office, drinking the tea and bottled water, using electricity, etc). We use Skype to talk to each other even in the office, the majority of people with my job title are 100% remote, and I would be allowed to be 100% remote too if I wanted. So it really shouldn’t affect anyone – if anyone were bothered, it would almost certainly be specifically because they noticed the correlation between my work from home days and the weather and got weird about it.

        1. AnotherFed*

          Then unless any of your coworkers would be expecting to see you in person for meetings or something hands-on that would have to be rescheduled, you are probably just fine. It’s only if you aren’t very productive, can’t really do your full job (causing other people delays or extra work), or are missing in-person events that reasonable people get irritated.

    3. The IT Manager*

      It’s totally a know your office culture thing because co-workers and I will from home for any number of reasons, but there’s zero impact even negative perceptions (becuase we work on virtual teams so from home or the office we’re still just a voice on a Lync call or email away).

      I have worked from home some days because of bad rain storms during the mornng commute because I know the bridge will be terrible and I will end up logging in later if I go into the office than if I worked from home.

      I think you’ve got to consider if working from home is considered a huge perk and if teleworkers are percieved to be slacking. One way to tell would be to drive in for the first few days you’d love to stay home and see how many other people chose to work from home that day.

    4. Clever Name*

      If you live in a snowy climate, you really need to learn to drive in the snow. Or at a bare minimum find ways to get to work without driving, even if it may be inconvenient for you. My company is in the Denver area, and we had an employee from Arizona who apparently was uncomfortable driving in the snow, because he worked from home on a day when we had like a half inch of slush. The rest of us rolled our eyes, and I’m sure he got a talking to by his manager. Unfortunately, he was a field guy, so he didn’t always have a ton of office-type work, so that didn’t help his perception. He also lived about a mile from the office a straight shot down a major road. ….and he wasn’t a stellar performer either.

      At least in my company, there is a continuum of who typically makes it in on snow days. I live 20 mins from the office, and unless I cannot physically get out of my driveway in my Prius (it’s only happened once) due to the depth of unplowed snow on the streets, I make my way into work. My coworker who lives a mile from the office and typically walks or bikes, always makes it in. A couple of other coworkers who lived an hour and a half away would stay home when it would snow 6 inches or so because their commute would be ridiculously long. Unless you are a really high performer and have the career stature to work out an arrangement to work from home on slushy days, I would buck it up and learn to drive in inclement weather.

      1. CheeryO*


        Here in Buffalo, you’d get insane side-eye from just about everyone if you weren’t at least trying to learn how to drive in the snow. It’s just what we do here, and you’d be seriously limiting yourself for 4+ months of the year if you elected not to learn how.

      2. Michele*

        I was just going to post the same thing. I grew up in a place with very harsh winters, but my husband is from Louisiana. When we relocated to a place that got snow, I made him drive. I wouldn’t accept him being afraid to leave the house. He is a college professor, and now he tells his students to grow up and learn to drive in the snow.
        As far as the office goes, coworkers probably won’t say anything directly to you, but it could be worthwhile to have a conversation with your boss to make sure that you aren’t being perceived as abusing the work from home priveleges.

      3. INTP*

        I’m moving soon, and unless something drastic happens this is my last winter here. It’s also the first winter where I haven’t commuted by bus or foot every day, so the first time I’ve needed to drive on a snowy day. I’d try to learn if I planned to stay for years and years, but at this point I’d rather just take the bus a few times a month or work from home.

      4. Ellie H.*

        What techniques are associated with “learning to drive in snow”? I have only been driving for about 5 years and wouldn’t describe myself as ” knowing how to drive in snow,” but I’m perfectly comfortable driving when it is snowing, snow on the ground etc. unless it is particularly hazardous conditions (by New England standards, where I live). Are there special techniques besides being extre careful and going a lot more slowly, giving a lot more room between you and other cars, and trying not to come to a complete stop whenever possible? I guess what I’m saying is is it more of a comfort thing or are there special abilities you can learn?

        1. Clever Name*

          Sounds like you’ve got the gist of it. I would add don’t do anything suddenly. No sudden stops, no sudden turns, no sudden accelerations. Drive like a granny. Accelerate slowly, decelerate slowly, turn slowly. A huge part of it really is comfort. I grew up in a snowy place, and I’ve been driving for over 20 years.

        2. MJH*

          Yeah, I didn’t drive in snow until I was in my early 20s (I grew up in a warm climate where we didn’t deal with it) and that’s just what I figured I should do. Go slow, brake slow, leave big distances between cars. There’s not really any special tricks, just being cautious and smart.

          (Now I have AWD, which is so great. I don’t go nuts, but it makes me more comfortable.)

      5. Iro*

        It’s not “you” who’s the problem driver, it’s everyone else.

        Too often people who “think” they know how to drive in the snow are like. Man I live in a snowy climate. I know how to drive. So I can go 70 mph on the barely plowed highway ’cause I got me some snow tires! Then someone driving safely to work get’s rear ended and seriously injured when they could have easily worked from home or used a PTO day that’s only going to expire at the end of the year.

        1. ikomrad*

          Finally, someone gets it! Also, working from home when you are sick is not to protect you from getting sick, you are already sick! It’s to protect everyone else from getting sick and dropping the entire office’s productivity as a result.

  13. Anonforthis*

    My last job was a government job in a courthouse. If it snowed too hard they would close the entire courthouse building and all state employees who worked in the courthouse would have off. Those of us who worked for the county would have to come in. Attorneys and paralegals were allowed to work from home instead and those of us who couldn’t had to trek in, even though our entire job was dealing with the public. We did some filing (though we were paperless) and some backlogged paperwork but after 5 closures last year we did nothing but hope the power would go off so we could go home. It wasn’t productive for anyone. I would have taken PTO but I was saving up and most of my department had beaten me to it.

    I suppose I’m bitter because there was a state of emergency called once and they wouldn’t send us home. I made it all 32 of my 32.5 miles home and then had to pull off the road to avoid someone spinning out, leaving me in a ditch. Add to that the fact that I’d fallen on my way to my car because the snow shoveling team was sent home so the rest of us had to fend for ourselves. It was a bad day.

  14. Azalea*

    I have to take PTO, and my boss can refuse to allow it.

    Last year, during the snowstorm that dumped over 8 inches of snow during the day followed by ice at night, one of the night shift employees tried to call out. Boss refused to let him take off. Said employee quit a few weeks later.

    Back in February 2010, with the back-to-back blizzards, I was required to use PTO when my facility was closed. My supervisor at the time also barked at me for taking off because HE made it in – with his four wheel drive vehicle and his all-highway commute – while I couldn’t make it with a commute that was entirely unplowed back roads. And 2+ feet of snow. I should also mention that the job I had at the point involved checking trucks in and out – and we had no trucks come in because their employers had pulled them off the roads.

  15. Tinker*

    This is something that I need to get better at, actually. I can pretty much get to and from work eventually under almost all circumstances; it’s about a 40-minute walk from my house, and my snow bike can handle most of the conditions that are likely to arise (although extensive ice is a bit sketchy).

    The trick is, my job is such that I can do it for short periods seamlessly from anywhere with an Internet connection, so it is quite often not worth it for me to show up physically in the office, trailing snow, water, and clothing items, having just had a Snowpocalypse Adventure when I could have spent that time sitting in my warm foam chair and doing work. This is especially so when one considers that the largest of the non-equivalent functions is talking to my boss in person, and he lives on land in the mountains and has something like an hour and a half (ideal conditions) car/bus commute. So pretty much, if the weather is bad, I end up moving the place I’m sitting at to no purpose.

    Yet, fully realizing these facts on any given morning when I look out the window to see terrible whiteness… not very good at that.

  16. Darcy*

    I always feel bad for the hospital, nursing home, fire, police, and other emergency workers who absolutely MUST get to work no matter the weather. My mother is a director of nursing and used to make my dad get in his 4×4 and pick people up to get them into work so that someone was there to take care of patients. I just wish more offices realized that their employees aren’t dealing with life and death situations and that it’s probably better to let them work at home or just take the day so that the people who need to be out can deal with less traffic. But unfortunately there are still lots of senior managers who only believe in face-to-face interactions.

    1. Annie*

      This… I worked for a medical association and the go to explanation for when we should/shouldn’t come in to work was “Nothing we do is a life and death decision- don’t make one to attempt to get here” (which I think came from my colleagues having spent so much time in hospitals where they HAD to make it in).

      They shut the office down twice when I was there – once for snow (which was a telework situation) and once following Hurricane Sandy(though that was over the fact that there was no power one day and no internet another- the third day (I think we went back on Thursday of that week) the ‘essential’ personnel had to go in- which meant IT, accounting, & the group that took care of donations to make sure everything was up & running and processed before we came in. During Sandy we were supposed to ‘telework as we could’ mainly they understood that everyone in the region was dealing with power and internet outages- if we had to take off they gave us the day- no PTO (even if you had already taken it- which I had… made it back to DC from Charlotte on the 2nd to last flight out) as long as you made a reasonable effort to work (which really is the best way to handle the situation).

  17. De Minimis*

    I live in a region where it can and does snow each year, but it’s not really known for winter weather and you usually will see some kind of impact on schools and businesses any time there’s snow accumulation because people just aren’t accustomed to it. Last winter was pretty bad by our standards, and I think almost all of the schools ran out of their allotted snow days and had to figure out ways to make up for it. Many days they were closed due to cold temperatures and icy streets and not so much due to snow.

    When we close, everyone just gets a free vacation day, there’s a leave category called administrative leave that covers it. But closures are rare. I think we closed maybe 2 days last winter and opened late maybe a few other days. I live a lot further away than a lot of my co-workers, so I ended up burning some of my own vacation time on days when it looked like I might be taking a chance by coming in.

  18. CheeryO*

    Ha, I had four snow days in a row in November when Buffalo got nearly seven feet of snow over a couple days. We had to take one day unpaid (or use a vacation day), which I thought was pretty generous. Of course, the entire region was under travel bans, so there was no making it in, period. Even emergency workers were stuck at home, although some of them ended up being picked up via snowmobile!

  19. Allison*

    So my office was closed today and everyone’s working from home. But there’s a little uncertainty about whether the roads will be safe tomorrow, and I’m thinking I might want to work from home tomorrow as well. But I’ve worked from home today and Monday, and I’m working with a new manager so I’m afraid how it’ll look if I ask for another WFH day this week. Should I bring up the idea with her today, or wait until tomorrow and make the call then?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe there is someone you can call or who will call you tomorrow morning before you go in, and let you know how the roads are?

      Some areas have road reports, perhaps yours does?

      1. De Minimis*

        I think many states have websites ran by their public safety departments that show maps and road conditions.
        Some also have road condition hotlines.

  20. SBL*

    Our location will close in bad conditions. You are expected and given the resources to work from home (since it is a job that can easily be done that way).

  21. justine*

    I’m in the blizzard ban and we’ve been getting snow since yesterday afternoon. Luckily, we get paid for any time we were scheduled to work but can’t because the complex closed.

    Does anyone want to give me their opinion of the following snow situation?:

    I’m scheduled to start work 6 hours after everyone else. When I started work yesterday was the same time everyone else was sent home due to the snow and the manager left at the same time due to the snow, all at about 2 hours early for the workers and the manager. The complex our business is on was shutting down two hours after I got there- so what that means is everyone had to have their cars out of the lot by then. I asked the manager if I should go and he said no, you’re working until the complex closes.

    Was it ridiculous that I wasn’t told to just stay home or sent home as soon as I got there? There wasn’t anything only I could do or that couldn’t wait until after the storm and they rescheduled all the afternoon clients to a later day so no one was coming to the office. I asked a manager I worked with at a different branch and she said that was ridiculous, safety of everyone should come first and everyone should have been sent home at early or told to stay home. Thoughts? Was this a time I should have spoken up and been like “Hey, I’m not a snowman. I’d also like to not drive in a blizzard.”

    1. Erin*

      Yes, you should have spoken up! Your manager is a dumbass! If the office had to stay open until the complex closed then he should have stayed himself. Telling everyone else to go home because of the storm but for you to come in for two hours sounds crazy to me! I’m sorry but my first thought was that he didn’t value you and didn’t care if you died driving home or not. Don’t respect people who don’t respect you.

  22. sam*

    Our affected offices activated our BCP plans. They “strongly recommended” that all employees remain home. Employees who have work-from-home capabilities were required to work from home, and there were special instructions for employees handling “business critical” operations. Further, employees who did not have work-from-home capabilities would NOT have to take a PTO day and would still be paid for the day.

    In addition, for the people who did go to the office (basically, essential services and the BCP team, as well as some folks in from out of town who were staying in nearby hotels and could easily walk over), they let people wear jeans (this is a big deal for us!), and warned everyone that the cafeteria would be closed.

    Seemed pretty reasonable and safety conscious to me. My biggest issue was that I had to make my own espresso this morning. That, and my cat has basically been staring at me all day wondering why I’m still here.

  23. Jessa*

    Another issue is companies that have people from many areas. I worked for one place that was over an hour away by highway. Trying to get them to understand that our Sheriff closed the roads while theirs didn’t, was a real pain in the keester.

    1. De Minimis*

      I run into that sometimes. Not so much that the sheriff closes the roads, but that there can be a wide variation in weather and road conditions between where I live and where I work, due to the distance and the high variability in weather here in general.

  24. Allura*

    My last 3 employers would cheerfully dock me if I didn’t have a vacation day to use… All 3 have done so. The current one will even send the policy out stating this. Twice, once from the local office and once from corporate. But yet I’m salaried exempt. I could fight it, but I need a job. So I behave as an hourly employee and don’t work a second more than I have to.

  25. Nervous Accountant*

    I have to admit, I think my office handled it well. Working from home is not unheard of, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be eligible to do so (seasonal). We were allowed to go home early yesterday, and told we can owrk from home as if it were a regular day (minus the sweatpants!) It awas my first time telecommuting and I actually kinda hate it, but I’m super appreciative of having the opportunity to do so!

  26. Anonasaurus Rex*

    Late to the party, but I have a question about the exempt thing. I’m exempt. But any day of work that I miss I have to use a PTO day to “make up” the hours. The implication is that if I don’t, they will dock my pay for that day, which I assume is illegal?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s legal to make you use PTO for the time. Since you’re exempt, it wouldn’t be legal to dock your pay if you don’t have any PTO to cover it. Have they said outright that they’d dock your pay?

      1. LBK*

        I thought you actually could dock an exempt employee’s pay if they’ve exhausted their PTO? Although it doesn’t sound like that’s the case in this situation (it’s available, the employee just doesn’t want to use it).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Only if the absence is for personal reasons, not if it’s because the office is closed — since the law requires that you pay exempt employees their full salary during any week in which they perform any work and/or in which they are “ready, willing and able” to work. In this case, they’re ready, willing, and able, but you’re making it impossible by closing the office.

          1. Anonasaurus Rex*

            So if I want a day off, but I only have 4 hours of PTO, I can be docked the remaining 4 hours?

            But if the “day off” is because of a closing due to weather or a holiday, I can’t be docked?

      2. Anonasaurus Rex*

        The way our system works if you run out of PTO, the remaining hours roll over to an unpaid status, so you effectively are being docked. This happens on any day including holidays. Also the PTO policy states we (exempt staff) are supposed to take PTO in whole day (8 hours or 10 hours depending on your schedule) or half day increments. We’re in Illinois, if it helps, but I don’t see any weird IL laws on the subject. We do have to be paid out PTO upon termination in IL because it’s accrued.

        My assumption, based on what I’ve learned on this site, is that we don’t have to take half days of PTO. If we work any hours, we get paid the whole day, period. And if we run out of PTO, we should still get paid.

  27. AnotherHRPro*

    I am very fortunate. While our offices never actually “close” due to weather, we allow employees to use judgment when determining if the driving conditions are too poor for them to come to work. Generally our employees are reasonable. If they can work from home they are expected to, but it is understood that not all jobs allow for that and you will be paid. If someone abuses this, it is generally addressed as a performance issue. We will on rare occasion have someone who abuses this and will claim the weather is too bad to come to work for multiple days when everyone else is able to make it in. But the reality is we treat our employees like the adults they are and trust that they will make the right decision.

  28. Richard*

    An employer of mine many years ago didn’t allow us to leave the office early during a snowstorm. This was a tech support position, and granted we needed people on the phones, but we had the option to work from home (usually reserved for standby shifts), but was denied.

    As a result, the 20 minute commute home took me over 5 hours to complete in adverse conditions, as traffic was at a standstill.

    This was one of the major factors that went into me deciding to find a new job: Any employer that would rather keep employees at the office even when they have the option to go home early with minimal negative impact on the workload wasn’t worth working for.

    And if you treat your employees poorly, don’t be surprised if they decide to leave.

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