employee doesn’t want to work when it snows, interview expense shenanigans, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My employee doesn’t want to work when it snows

I’m a manager in a medium-size nonprofit where I oversee a staff of twelve. Last year one of my employees had attendance problems related to various stressors involving family members, a personal loss, illness, car trouble, winter weather, etc. Some of these stressors were quite significant; others were the sort of thing most of us would power through and handle after our workday was over. Because the employee was stressed overall though, I was supportive and allowed the time off. However, as the year went on it became a real problem. His frequent, last-minute absences or sudden departures halfway through the workday began to have a negative impact on the clientele we help. And since I usually ended up covering for this employee with little or no notice, his absences would keep me from my own work. Using AAM tips, I had a meeting where I advised that we valued him as an employee, but his ongoing pattern of being absent/unavailable to work was affecting the functioning of the organization. I told him going forward he would have to be at work consistently or we would initiate progressive discipline. His attendance improved immediately and hasn’t been a problem — until now.

Today, my employee emailed me that he might not make it to work tomorrow because of a possible snowfall in the forecast. A number of this employee’s absences last year were snow-related, for reasons such as “can’t get out of the driveway” and “the snow is too bad to drive in.” Other employees who live in the same town came to work on those days though, which makes me wonder if my employee is unusually hesitant to drive in snowy weather.

We all know snow is part of life here and we all plan for it. We get up early, shovel ourselves out, brush off our vehicles, leave plenty of extra time to drive in at a safe speed and then … WE GO TO WORK. I don’t expect anyone to drive in crazy-dangerous whiteout conditions by any means, but in routine snowy weather everyone else managed to get here last year except this employee. My question is: can I tell my employee that he should be making some sort of contingency plan for himself so he can get to work in the winter, whether it means getting up early to shovel out, hiring a plow service, putting on snow tires, or whatever makes getting to work possible? I know his finances are tight and some of those solutions might be hard to afford, but it seems to me that getting to work in routine winter weather is a reasonable expectation. Do you have any suggestions about how to handle this problem?

Yes, all of that is reasonable. And it sounds like his own judgment is not well calibrated for figuring out what’s absence-worthy, so you’ve got to be explicit that you don’t consider routine snow a reason to stay home.

It’s very reasonable to say, “I need you to make plans to be able to get to work during routine snowy weather. Certainly in a very rare case of unusually bad weather, driving might not be safe, but in general, most of the time when it snows here, my expectation is that you’ll still come in, like the rest of us do. Is there something going on that is getting in the way of that?” And depending on his answer, you can indeed talk to him about what other people do in order to get to work in the snow — plow services, snow tires, etc.

2. Employer wants a letter from my current job before they’ll reimburse my interview travel expenses

I went on a job interview in December out of town, and the prospective employer will not reimburse my travel expenses without a letter from my current employer stating I was not on company time. Is this a common request? If I ask this from my current HR, they are going to know I went on an interview and this is not something they would take well at all.

No, that is not normal at all. And it’s very weird — are they trying to ensure that you weren’t on a company-paid business trip when you came to their town to interview with them? The chances of that happening are fairly low, and it’s a particularly odd thing for them to be hung up on.

You should be able to say to them, “My current employer doesn’t know I’m interviewing and telling them that before I’m ready to leave could jeopardize my job, which obviously isn’t a risk I can take. When I flew out to interview with you, it was with the understanding that you’d be covering my travel expenses and I certainly hope you’ll follow through on that agreement.”

3. Recruiter contacts me over and over again for the same job, then ignores me

A few years ago, I worked a temporary clerical position that paid better than any other in my area. I did well there and received good feedback from my managers.

The company contracts clerks for the same position at least twice a year through the same staffing agency. The first time I was hired, a family friend recommended me to the recruiter and I did a 10-minute phone interview that only asked about my availability before I was told when to show up for training. The recruiter had the final say in who was hired.

Since my contract with the company ended, the same recruiter has contacted me at least six times via text message to ask if I wanted to work that job again. Each time I’ve responded within an hour that I would and emailed the her my resume. Each time she has gone completely silent and never responded to my follow-up emails or texts, only to contact me and begin the cycle again the next time the company is hiring for the position.

I’m hesitant to ask her to stop this in case I do get the job at some point, but this behavior seems very strange to me. Is there a polite way to ask why she keeps contacting me if she has no intention of hiring me? I’d like to know if I’m doing something wrong.

I suspect that when she has a position to fill, she’s emailing a bunch of people to see if they’re interested. She then does her 10-minute phone interview with the first couple of people she hears from, hires one of them, and ignores everyone else who responded. This is a rude way to operate, but it’s not uncommon. People who do it are doing it because it’s more efficient for them to put out a whole bunch of feelers all at once rather than contacting people one at a time … but she should be getting back to you to let you know the role is no longer available and it’s rude that she’s not. But it’s also really, really common for some recruiters.

4. Rejecting good early-stage candidates when we’ve just filled the position

I’m hiring for a marketing role that has taken 3+ months to fill. We’re very close to closing on Jane, a promising candidate, but I’ve continued to review applications and phone screen in the meantime. You never know what’s going to happen!

There are several recent applicants who have passed the phone screen. If we close on Jane, I’ll need to tell these other candidates that we’re not moving forward with them. They’re good candidates and if the timing were different (or I had more roles open right now), I’d move them forward. How exactly do I word that email?

You don’t have to explain all of that, but if you want to, you could say it this way: “Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me about our llama groomer position. I thought you were a strong candidate and was excited to continue talking with you, but the timing ended up not being ideal — we just offered the position to someone who’s accepted it. But I’d love to keep you in mind if we have similar openings in the future, and I’ll plan to contact you if that happens.” If you’re unlikely to have similar openings any time soon, you could replace that last sentence with, “I really appreciate your interest in our work, and I hope our paths might cross again in the future.”

5. Can our pay be docked if we don’t turn in our time sheets?

I’m an exempt employee working for a midsize company in Dallas, TX, and within the department I work for, we’re required to submit a weekly time sheet. I’m pretty good about doing this, but some of my coworkers are not. That recently prompted our boss to send out an email threatening to deny PTO to anyone who was behind on their time sheets, and in some cases, to dock their pay. He indicated in his email that he had spoken to HR about this, but docking people’s pay sounds fishy to me — especially since his boss was not included on the email he sent us. Everyone on our team is exempt, and I was under the impression that exempt employees could not have their pay docked except for very specific reasons.

Is my boss threatening us with something illegal, and if so, is there something I should do about it?

Yep. He can’t dock anyone’s pay — whether they’re exempt or non-exempt — for not submitting time sheets. Exempt employees can’t have their pay docked except in a small number of very specific circumstances (and this isn’t one of them), and non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked, time sheet or no time sheet.

You could respond to him by saying, “We’re actually not allowed to dock exempt employees’ pay except in the circumstances described here and could get into a lot of trouble if we do — we could lose our exemption for anyone whose pay is docked and end up owing them overtime, as well as fines.” You could also just go straight to HR about this, framing it as “I’m concerned there’s been a misunderstanding here and that we’d be running afoul of the law.”

{ 760 comments… read them below }

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yup. This might even be worth an in-person convo with an email follow up. The idea that he thinks he can dock pay is ridiculous and is going to open the employer up to liability.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Totally agree. But even him threatening to do it can cause trouble if any other labor violations occur or if someone complains because they think he’s serious.

        2. Mike C.*

          I remember watching the first episode of “Undercover Boss”. The business featured was docking pay and no one noticed or thought it was bad until later when a lawyer said something.

          Sometimes bosses just believe they can do whatever they want just because they’re the boss.

          1. TootsNYC*

            They also think they’re parents of minor children, who DO have the right to withhold allowance if their kid doesn’t do his chores.

          2. Specialk9*

            I find Undercover Boss deeply unsettling. It is meant to be a kind of fairy godmother story, but usually reveals how unfair worker treatment is, and how cheap the bosses are with their “awards”. (You can be on a special committee that reports to execs! Woohoo! Nope, no money, but hey it’s exposure.)

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              I’m fascinated by that show for the same reasons that I’m fascinated by the stories here. Although UB is definitely more scripted and heavily edited to get a certain result, so to me it’s a lot more boring and fake, but I find my interest in both is similar.

              And I can’t think of UB now without thinking of the SNL sketch “Star Wars Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaOSCASqLsE

            2. pope suburban*

              That’s exactly why I was really bummed that my former employer declined to participate in the show. That place was a hive of dysfunction, and I really wanted it to get held to the light. I feel generally that exposing these practices and calling them out for what they are- illegal, immoral, exploitative- is the only way to begin to improve them. Most people simply don’t know how much these things happen, and making them aware is an important first step IMO.

            3. Nikki T*

              I did enjoy the Sonic episode. I don’t remember the ending, but he ended up realizing the workers at that location had been poorly trained, including the manager and decided to shut it down until another crew could take over.
              He revealed himself to the crew, said it was his fault (as CEO or whatever) that they didn’t have the support they needed to run the operation correctly and he also said up front that nobody was in trouble and they were all getting paid.

            4. LBK*

              Yeah, I don’t like the “special rewards for the 3 people who happened to be featured on the show!” format. It really grosses me out, especially since the follow up always focuses on those people and not as much on what the company as a whole is doing. It’s really unscientific but it’s presented as though every episode is supposed to be this heartwarming Scrooge story.

            5. Koala dreams*

              I notice that the different editions have a slightly different focus. The US edition is very heavy on the fairytale aspect: reward the good employees and punish the bad. The UK edition is more about company practises. The “reward” for good employees is to get listened to or that the boss acknowledges that they were right all along. Can’t speak for the Canada edition since I only seen one episode.

          3. Tuxedo Cat*

            That’s why I’m grateful for this blog. I’ve had some great bosses but I’ve also had ones who either had poor understanding of laws/good practices or knew they could push things without resistance. Alison and the commenters really help clarify things.

    2. Rachel01*

      I believe all PTO requests can denied until their time sheets are caught up. Hard t leave if you are unsure of their balance.

      The manager is frustrated and is striking out. Though going about it in a way he should know better.

    3. Esme Squalor*

      I would be reeeally hesitant to stick my neck out in a workplace this dysfunctional. If I were the letter writer, I’d quietly spread the word that this threat isn’t legal among my colleagues, and then if the company followed through, support whoever was targeted in fighting it.

      Maybe I’m just a coward, but at the toxic workplaces I’ve been in, correcting a bad boss and CCing their boss on said correction would have tanked my future there. (And while I obviously didn’t want a future at those companies, those early awful jobs have enabled me to be in a job I love now, and burning bridges there would have meant I didn’t end up here.)

      1. Observer*

        I hear. That’s why I said “you may want” rather than “You should”. A LOT depends on the workplace.

      2. Koko*

        Yeah, CCing a person’s boss on an email carries an implicit, “I don’t trust you to handle this correctly without someone else watching you,” and often, “I want to make sure your boss disciplines you for this mistake.”

        If anything, I would include boss and grandboss both in the To: field and address the email to both of them. It comes off less “I’m trying to get you in trouble” and more “This concern seemed like someone on grandboss’s level should be part of the discussion” than a CC.

      3. Ego Chamber*

        Right. The only time in my life I got fired, it was for bcc’ing someone’s boss on an email where they told me to break the law to cover a mistake they made and they used a lot of profanity to say it. Next day, I got sent to HR, where they told me I was being fired for misconduct—I thought they thought I’d done the illegal thing I was told to do, but no, they said refusing to do what my supervisor told me to do was insubordination and tattling to their boss raised it up to misconduct-level insubordination (whatever that’s supposed to mean).

        I’m in that one state that isn’t at-will, I was well past the probationary period, and I was denied unemployment because insubordination = misconduct = fired for cause, apparently (even if the insubordination is re: something illegal).

        Tl;dr: Be careful with bcc’ing. Always know how your employer reacts to that sort of thing before you do it.

        1. Observer*

          There are whistle-blower protections in place for this. So, yes, the OP could get fired because some companies are stupid and sleazy. But, if they actually tell them that they are getting fired for kicking something like this up the chain, the company WILL lose their case.

    4. Greg*

      Obligatory reminder though: just because they can’t dock your pay if you don’t fill out the timesheets in a timely fashion, it doesn’t mean that they can’t fire you for it instead. Often times it’s best to pick your battles.

  1. Bea*

    I wouldn’t respond to his threats, #5. I would just keep in mind if they try to follow through, you have a case with the department of industries and labor. It sounds like he’s trying to scare people who don’t know better with an idle threat to me.

    1. Candi*

      I’ve become convinced over the years that bad employers/managers depend on people not knowing what the law actually says, especially young people new to the work force, whether it’s retail, food service, or entry-level office. (Or anything else.) It’s not necessarily a conscious dependence, but it’s there at some level.

          1. essEss*

            I have fantasized about a mandatory “Decent Behavior” class in late middle school/early high school with basic etiquette and manners included such as phone usage in public, how to let people OFF an elevator/train/bus before barging on, how to walk on the right side of a crowded sidewalk, how not to stand at the end of a moving escalator, etc…

            1. Beanie*

              After my end of course exams (which are a solid month before the end of the course) and we have finished the curriculum I do a few days of ‘senior survival skills’ for my 17/18-year-olds. Including how to read an analog clock, how to call (not text) someone on the phone, a whole crap-ton about credit cards and banks, and now thanks to AAM, a lot more about their legal rights. It’s amazing how many of them think they’re working for a generous employer simply b/c the employer is TELLING them they’re being generous. While depriving them of overtime, working them beyond legal limits, and docking pay like this. Just realized I also need to add the elevator thing :)

              1. Natalie*

                That’s so cool, you sound like a great teacher!

                The one I always thought civics class should do is taxes. But I have a pet peeve about tax prep places taking advantage of poor people, most of whom can use the simple forms and get free help if they need it. A little experience with where to get the forms and where to get help could go such a long way to saving some people real money that they need.

                1. Evan Þ*

                  For anyone who’s wondering: The IRS does sponsor a free tax prep program for low-income people (defined as <$54,000 income); here’s a link to find a site near you! If you qualify, there’s no need to go to any paid service.

                  And if you want to learn about tax law, you can sign up to volunteer there too.

          2. pope suburban*

            My high school actually had this class! They called it Living On Your Own, and it covered all those topics. Some of our projects included creating a budget that involved looking up local apartment prices, learning to correctly parse product reviews/use Consumer Reports, learning basic cooking skills, and analyzing our favorite media to see if the featured love/relationships was healthy. It was a long time ago, and this is just off the top of my head, but it was a really good idea. The teacher was a perfect fit for the class. She was a sensible, earthy lady who could not be embarrassed, and she made a point of always leaving her door open so kids could ask her questions that they may not have felt comfortable asking in class. She really ended up being the parent for any kid who did not have a parent they could talk to about sex/health/jobs/life plans.

            1. hwbswd*

              Oh hello, I must have gone to the same high school (panthers?)
              Yeah, that class was great–it also included the basics of health insurance, a comparison of different contraceptive methods, and the pay grades of different careers. Man, I had almost forgotten how cool that was.

        1. accidental manager*

          Around here, a workers’ rights organization has funding to go to high schools and junior high schools. Young professional actors perform a short entertaining play about various challenges of a workplace, and then moderate a discussion of what to watch out for and what to do about it. Everything from learning to read a pay stub to declining unsafe work and reporting sexual harrassment. I wish more young people could have that kind of resource.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        A lot of the time these bad employers/managers don’t know the law themselves – possibly because they heard things like “I’ll dock your pay” from their own managers.

        Many years ago a coworker was talking about his previous “tough but fair” employers – a married couple who owned a fast food business. He adored and respected them, and had only left their business because he went away to college. As an example of their “tough but fair” management style, he said that he’d made a math error when closing that made it look like the registers were short over $100. His employers were going to take it out of his check, as was their policy, since he was managing that night. They later did a recount, or checked the math, or something, and found the mistake; all the money was there all along. They told him they were going to dock his pay anyway, so he would learn the importance of closing the registers correctly. He appreciated this. It showed what good managers they were. He’s probably out there, right now, managing a fast food restaurant and using those same good “tough but fair” management principles he learned from them.

        1. Bea*

          There’s also a generational issue still at play. What flew 15-20 years ago even is no longer generally accepted. So garbage practices are still handed down like that until someone gets the labor board up their butts. Only to turn around and cry about their ignorance.

          There are HR workshops all over the place. I can’t believe how many companies just gloss over how easy being up to date on the legal factors is. Ick!!

        2. Just Jess*

          I hate so much about this example, but it gives me some insight into why managers/employers do jerk stuff. It’s another tool that helps me stop assuming malice.

          It may have been done already, but I want to loop this story back in with the LW who wanted to know if people who walk off on their first day of training/work still need to be paid for their time. Now I’m thinking that messing with people’s pay in this way is another (illegal) manifestation of “tough, but fair” rather than “petty.”

        3. LBK*

          Exactly what I came to say – a lot of my incorrect beliefs about labor laws were imprinted on me by former managers who I just assumed knew what they were talking about. If I hadn’t started reading AAM I’d probably never have had a reason to be disabused of those beliefs and could easily have passed them on to others.

        4. Candi*

          It’s the age of the internet. Bad training or no training stopped being an excuse about ten years ago. And yes, I believe in questioning what has been taught as “normal”, whether it be for work or anything else.

          Aside from the fact that “normal” changes, what (general) you are taught as normal often isn’t actually so, or is actively harmful even if it’s the accepted norm. Five days ago we had a holiday in the US dedicated to someone who worked hard to change the accepted norm of his day, because it was actively harmful.

          Education is vitally important, and never, even ends.

      2. Anna*

        I work in employment development and just reworked some of my curriculum to include FLSA a bit more in-depth. Our students were leaving with pretty good interview skills, good job skills, but almost no understanding of their rights as employees. Time to change that.

      3. AKchic*

        Very much so. Most fast food and retail workers get orientation as videos for the required by law training, and most new employees zone out for it. They are told if they want to learn anything else, here’s a manual (see 6 inch thick binder with small legalese that most won’t understand, especially if they have barely passed high school) and you can read it on *your own time but it can’t leave the back area of the building*.

        Anyone who openly displays knowledge of the laws (that benefit the employees) generally don’t last long. Everyone is told “you are replaceable”.

        There are so many reasons why I stopped working retail and fast food before I turned 20. I wish I could get my husband to get out of retail. He’s in his 30s and still believes that retail can work for him. Then something happens and I have to be the one to walk him through all of the illegalities of what he’s been told, or what happened, and what should be done, what reporting needs to happen, etc.
        He generally doesn’t because he wants to keep his job and he knows if he reports, he’ll find himself unemployed. Retail always finds a reason to let you go and make it seem plausible.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I did a six-week temporary gig at a [themajor retailer for the holidays, and the “orientation” was mostly anti-union propaganda.

          1. AKchic*

            Ah yes… the navy blue polo that is always sold at it’s very store; how convenient.
            Husband worked there for a while too. Still sings its praises even though they fired him for his own medical issues. Their propaganda is why he’s semi-anti union. Which is ironic because I am union and it’s what gives him such great insurance and affords us a great house. Not to mention the employment rights he currently has that he generally doesn’t realize he has.

            I’m sure he’ll work retail forever.

            1. Anna*

              Just talked to some of my clients about this the other day. We talked about the nursing union and how most of the rights we enjoy were brought on because of union efforts. I work for a government program and I’m doing my own part to be subversive. :)

        2. MeanieNini*

          I did an 8-month stint as a HR rep for a large fast-food franchisee. all of the district managers were required to work 60 hours a week for their not great salaries, and yet my boss actually approached me about docking 1 hour of pay from a district manager due o him having to leave early to pick up a sick kid from school. I politely told her the law – she told me I was wrong. BTW, I’m a lawyer who has worked in employment law prior to HR. I went and printed off 15 pages of fact sheets on the FLSA for her. She never brought it up again, but would routinely take this kind of thing to payroll and hope I wouldn’t find out. That was my first clue it was time to leave.

      4. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yep. And even if employees DO know the law, good luck enforcing it as a low-wage employee. They’re well aware no one is likely to sue and government agencies will barely slap their wrists (if anything).

    2. SpaceySteph*

      If I am reading the fact sheet linked in the answer correctly, employers cannot be punished for past violations if they claim ignorance of the policy, only for violations performed after they have been told it’s illegal.
      So if that’s the case then LW1 really should say something before they can follow through, and do it with a paper trail.

      1. Samiratou*

        Really? I haven’t read it, but since when has ignorance ever been an adequate defense for breaking the law?

        Oh, right, when you’re a corporation. Got it.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          Well, it does say they have to pay the withheld wages so they don’t get off totally scott free.

          1. JessaB*

            My understanding is they can’t be hit by punitive fines, but any back pay and possibly interest on same they have to pay. They do not get away with not paying the wages though.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        No, that’s not what the fact sheet says. Employers can and do get in trouble for violating the law out of ignorance. Is it the “willfully” part you were picking that up from, in the safe harbor portion? If so, that means something a lot different in legal terms than simply not knowing.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          It says “, the employer will not lose the exemption for any employees unless the employer willfully violates the policy by continuing the improper deductions after receiving employee complaints.”

          Any way I read the above, it seems that telling her boss it’s illegal would put the employees in better standing than sitting on that information until they do something wrong.

          1. Anna*

            “Willfully” is wibbly-wobbly, though. If you have an HR department with trained HR professionals, there is no way you can claim you didn’t know. And even if you’re a small business without a dedicated HR person, the onus is on you to make sure you’re familiar with the law. I’d guess it’s used as a one get-out-of-jail-free card. So you might get a warning the first time, but after that if you violate it, you’re doing it “willfully” and will lose that status.

            1. Koko*

              The rest of the clause spells it out, though: “willfully violates policy” = “by continuing the improper deductions after receiving employee complaints.”

          2. Bea*

            They won’t lose exemption status but they do have to give the employee their owed wages. At best it means you won’t get slapped with interest like when people are denied owed OT.

          3. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Right, my point is that “willfully” is a term of art. In the legal sense, it means far more than knowing. It means more than mere lack of ignorance.

            I agree with you that it is better to complain about an illegal practice and get it fixed than not to. :-) I am saying that the sentence you quote does not mean what you think it means, because of the legal meaning of the word “willfully” is all. The corporation does not avoid punishment by claiming ignorance of the law. (Also, that’s part of the “safe harbor” aspect of enforcement, which is a little different thing).

            1. SpaceySteph*

              That’s totally fair. I am certainly not a lawyer. I definitely think saying something now (with proof in the form of a dated email) could benefit the LW and her colleagues if the boss actually does follow through with his threat and they need to file a formal complaint.

          4. Observer*

            Yes. But that’s for a situation where this is NOT a practice or policy to dock pay. If there is a policy in place, then this doesn’t apply.

            Which is why, whatever else the OP does, they should make a copy of this email (and any other emails regarding this), as this takes it from an ad hoc occurrence if it happens to a policy.

      3. Observer*

        I don’t see how you get that. There is a safe harbor provision, but not for ignorance of the law.

    3. Natalie*

      I get the impulse, but given how loathe people are to talk about their paychecks I’d be concerned that fellow employees would have their pay docked and never mention it to anyone else or realize it was illegal. I suppose you could circulate the information among your colleagues if you really didn’t want to confront him.

  2. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 Who communicated this officious, stupid and wrong-headed request? I’m curious about whether it’s someone senior or a junior HR assistant or what?

    I’m guessing you’re required to submit receipts for the reimbursement? If you were on company time you’d be submitting those to your employer or they would have booked your travel.

    These people are jerks and I would be very wary of accepting an offer from them.

    1. Broad paintbrush*

      Before you jump to conclusions that “these people are jerks,” wouldn’t you at least want to know what is going on? An overly officious junior HR assistant does not meant the entire organization is full of jerks.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Yep – that’s why I asked who communicated the request as a company isn’t just one entity. I was a bit strong in my second para – thanks for picking that up!

      2. kittymommy*

        Yeah, I’m wondering if this is a standard request that clerks are trained to ask and they didn’t think that this particular case would be an exception. I would ask for clarification and depending on how they handle that, make a decision.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Not that the request is reasonable, but it’s very possible to submit receipts multiple times. I’ve been submitting electronic images of my receipts for years now, but before that I was submitting photocopies and keeping the originals. Although I guess with your own employer there’s (usually) a higher level of trust than if it’s someone with whom you’ve never worked before.

      Definitely a huge red flag, that they’re only informing the OP of this important and troublesome requirement after the fact. Run away, OP! Run away like you’re being chased by the Rabbit of Caerbannog!

      1. Bacon Pancakes*

        Wow, my employer will only accept original receipts. And WOE TO S/HE whose receipts are lost! They lost my entire uniform reimbursement packet with receipts one year and I had to resubmit with photocopies. My boss had to email them and tell them the photocopies WOULD be acceptable because until he did they were refusing to process the claim.

        1. Bea*

          That’s over the top. Travel is mostly booked on line, how do they handle reimbursement for tickets issued electronically??

            1. RML*

              my old company required the boarding pass to “prove” you really went on the business trip. like my meal and taxi receipts for a city 2000 miles away from the office weren’t enough to prove i was there, lol.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Also, every time I’ve asked for a receipt in a taxi, they just hand me a blank form. If an employer doesn’t trust an employee, they should just fire them, because if an employee really wants to defraud their employer, the nature of most jobs mean that there *will* be a chance to steal. Heck, the public can steal from retailers, although IIRC studies show that most retail shrinkage is actually due to employee theft.

            2. Naruto*

              “Original receipts” is pretty meaningless. If I buy a plane ticket, my receipt is an email from Delta.com. In addition, my boarding pass is an expiring scannable code on my smartphone. I mean, I could screenshot it? But this doesn’t solve any of the issues that are supposed to exist, here.

        2. ZK*

          What do you do when your “original” receipt is digital? More and more companies are going to emailed receipts. I mean, I shop at one warehouse store and scan everything with my phone. It goes on the company membership, but I pay right there in the app. I can email a copy of the receipt, but I don’t get a paper copy.

          1. Stan*

            My previous employer wouldn’t accept digital receipts from brick and mortar retailers, only online orders. They also accepted original receipts only which had to be taped to copy paper and mailed to the home office where they were scanned and then shredded. x.x

            1. Bacon Pancakes*

              Same. If I order pants online from Dickies, the digital receipt is fine. If I order an embroidered shirt from Joe’s Emboidery downtown, it best be original.

        3. Lora*

          Wait a second. Some cash registers only print out receipts on this thermal print paper that fades within a year. If you don’t make a photocopy onto regular paper, you’ll have nothing but a yellowy strip of blank paper to refer to. So…does your company never do audits of these old receipts?

          1. Bacon Pancakes*

            If they do it is their problem not mine lol If they have the receipts and I was reimbursed, that is where my involvement ends.

        4. Koko*

          That’s crazy! I don’t even have to provide documentation for expenses under $50 (although I always do anyway), and for things that do require documentation, a credit card statement with the relevant charges highlighted (and anything redacted that you don’t want to share) is acceptable in lieu of a receipt.

          1. Koko*

            And our expense reimbursement system is entirely online so nothing is original. We have offices around the world and we’re an environmental group so all the paper and postage and carbon footprint involved in mailing original documents around the world is a giant no-no!

        5. zora*

          Our company’s travel/entertainment policy still says that you have to submit original receipts, but we have offices all over the country, and they don’t really want to be paying for postage for us all to mail our receipts to them, so we scan and send PDF versions with our reports. So, I send lots of digital receipts, and I could easily submit the same receipt more than once if I wanted to.

          However, I just recently found out that the AP folks then PRINT OUT every receipt to put in a paper file…………..which…………… I just can’t even with that.

      2. lost academic*

        I’ve learned to ask places like gas stations for multiple copies of the same receipt because those suckers are tiny and easily lost or damaged if I might be in an original receipt situation! Or god help you, toll receipts.

        1. nonegiven*

          They’re going to get rid of all our manned toll booths and send bills to people without the electronic gizmo. What could go wrong?

    3. Penny Lane*

      There are such things as copiers! No organization I’ve ever worked for has ever cared whether the receipt attached to the expense report was an original or whether it was a copy (and the expense reports get copied, anyway, so the distinction is moot).

      So it is certainly feasible someone could be on a work trip and submit receipts both to his company and to the company he’s interviewing with.

      Of course, the request for a letter from the person’s company saying he’s not on company time is absurd and ridiculous – and it says they don’t deal in good faith.

      1. fieldpoppy*

        Also, there is no such thing as an “original” receipt with any online purchase of a plane ticket – it’s all digital and the first printout is not distinct from the 100th.

        1. Meagain*

          Eh. Worked for a unit that had paperwork done by the state of NY. I brought in a speaker and they wanted original everything- parking, food, whatever. They also wouldn’t reimburse for the airfare, we had to book it. It was a little ridiculous.

      2. Antilles*

        So it is certainly feasible someone could be on a work trip and submit receipts both to his company and to the company he’s interviewing with.
        Technically, it’s possible, but it’s not really a reasonable scenario. You need to be taking a work trip to the exact same city on the exact same days…BUT it also needs to be a work trip with enough spare time that you can take several hours in the middle of the day to go to the interview. Oh, and interview requests like this are typically done on fairly short notice, so that makes it even more difficult to have the timing work out perfectly.
        The only exceptions I could think of would be if (a) you visit that city almost every single week anyways or (b) there’s a major industry-wide conference that same weekend where it’s reasonable to think that you might have been there for that.

        1. nonymous*

          My experience with the latter case has been that I was listed on the roster of conference attendees. So, it would be pretty easy for a suspicious interviewer to see if my affiliation at the event is with current company or not (my coworker attends conferences for fun and he’s not allowed to put down org name in that situation).

        2. esra*

          Even though it’s technically feasible, do you want to work somewhere where their first instinct is to treat you like a low-level office criminal?

        3. Penny Lane*

          Oh, I agree it’s a hugely jerky move on the second company’s part!

          I’m just pointing out that technically someone *could* be on a work trip and expense to both their company and the company they are interviewing with, that’s all. I agree it’s highly unlikely that your company sends you to a conference and you are able to magically disappear in the middle of the day to attend an interview.

      3. Natalie*

        And with the increase of online expense reporting, every single receipt is a “copy” in the sense that it’s scanned in.

      4. Artemesia*

        My organization required ‘original’ receipts; this was a joke for things like airlines, but for meals or hotels, no copies or on line type receipts were accepted. You had to have the receipt.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          We have to requests originals quite often. It is mostly due to people taking picture of receipts that are blurry because the phone focused on the steering wheel or pants or what have you. I really wish people would take a minute to make sure everything is legible before hitting send.

          1. JessaB*

            Especially since it’s free and quick to take a picture with your phone and all you have to do is click on it to VIEW the thing before you send it.

            I had to photo and send something for Mr B and I looked at it and didn’t like the quality so oh noes it took me five more seconds to take another picture and send it. I then deleted both pictures as I didn’t need them any more. So hard. NOT.

            Even with a photocopier, you look at the copy before you pass it on. I’ve seen copies with toner streaks, or half light because the toner just this second gave out.

            Heck I’ll go out there for all us old fogeys – you checked your carbons before you sent out the copies of a letter back in the day because well sometimes they just didn’t come out right. Especially after carbonless chemical forms, sometimes the paper wasn’t kept right (got too cold or hot,) and the 3d page didn’t come out at ALL.

            1. nonegiven*

              I think I had to match up 3rd or 4th page order forms to deposit slips, once, back when the bank sent the actual deposit slip with front and back.

      5. JeanB in NC*

        When I did travel reimbursements, I (or the company) always requested original receipts. If you use copies, how do we know that you didn’t already get reimbursed using the originals? In a small company you could check, but you’re not going to want to do that for people that are constantly traveling.

        1. Koko*

          If you use copies, how do we know that you didn’t already get reimbursed using the originals?

          My company has around 750 employees worldwide, many of whom travel frequently. Your immediate supervisor reviews your expense reports before forwarding them to finance to verify that all of the expenses are legit and permissible. Your supervisor is generally well-aware of your travel schedule and will notice if you submit receipts from the same trip twice. Our system is entirely digital on our company’s intranet, so they can easily pull up your past reports to see what you’ve submitted before.

          1. zora*

            Also, even if your supervisor somehow misses it, our expenses are randomly audited a couple of times a year, so there’s a good chance of you getting caught. No one in our company has been caught trying to defraud the company through reimbursements, so there are ways to handle it without requiring “original” receipts, which is just not reasonable in the digital age.

  3. Observer*

    #2 The company’s request seems bizarre to me. I think it would make me seriously reconsider accepting an offer, even if they make one. Either they are trying to wiggle out of a commitment, or they operate on an assumption that everyone is constantly coming up with ingenious ways of cheating them, and it’s on staff to prove otherwise. I realize that it is POSSIBLE that there may some other explanation, but none that I can come up that are even remotely likely make for a good workplace.

    1. JamieS*

      The only possible somewhat reasonable explanation I could think of is if there were a conference/convention in OP’s industry being held at the same time so the likelihood OP is attending the conference and the OP’s employer paid for the trip is relatively high. Although even then I’d just assume the current employer didn’t foot the bill if the candidate doesn’t tell me they did. Maybe I’m too trusting but I don’t think a candidate would risk burning the bridge by trying to scam me out of what is probably not a huge sum.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        And you’d also risk discouraging the best candidates, which any decent employer would not want to do.

        1. Specialk9*

          I encourage OP to pass on this company if you can. This is like a flashing sign made up of red flags.

          1. Ice and Indigo*

            Yeah, if they’re this mistrustful of you now, there’s no reason to assume that they won’t be equally mistrustful if they hire you. And working under an employer who thinks your every move needs to be monitored is bad for your health.

      2. Mookie*

        They could have brought this up and verified the LW would not already be attending that event, then, when arranging travel for the visit. They’d know about this in advance, unless the employers work in an entirely different industry, which seems unlikely.

      3. Rachel01*

        The question shouldn’t have been asked. I recommend calling the interviewer and inquire about the request. They may not be aware it’s being asked, and push back. Their response might explain the situation &how they handle /respond will tell you more about them.
        Wouldn’t a copy of time card take care of suspicion?

        1. Zombeyonce*

          Plenty of people don’t get time cards. As an exempt employee, I don’t. I submit my leave requests on an online system and it shows up on my paystub just as time taken, not when specifically it was taken so even that (which I would definitely never provide) wouldn’t prove anything.

          I agree that contacting the interviewer should be the first step.

          1. ChocolatePower*

            Exactly. I don’t even have to document my time off so there’s virtually no proof of it, except for an occasional skype message.

      4. JessaB*

        On the other hand I’m not all in for companies that I do not know or work for wanting to reimburse me BEHIND my going to interview. I don’t know these people. They need to send me a ticket. They need to book me a hotel (if needed.) I’m not going to be out cash for a company I don’t even work for yet.

        Heck I won’t be out cash for a company I DO work for. This is a business expense.

        If you want to see the boarding pass from the ticket you sent me, fine. But I’m not paying for it and if you want me to, you’re not getting me there to interview. This is part of the expense of finding a person to work for you. If you don’t want me enough to pay this, you don’t want to talk to me at all.

        Why would you think I’d trust you to reimburse me after? I don’t know you.

        1. Anna*

          I see what you’re saying, but it’s not like this is completely unheard of. We’ve seen letters from people before who have said they were being reimbursed for the trip rather than having the trip paid for ahead of time.

          1. JessaB*

            Yes but that’s mostly people in jobs. I think it’s asking a lot of a job SEEKER to pay in advance to see a company that may not want them or that they might not like AND how do they know they’re honest and are actually going to reimburse. I’ve had friends do this and the company didn’t pay.

            1. Callie*

              It’s super common in academic interviews for the interviewee to foot the entire cost of the trip up front and then ask to be reimbursed. As slowly as some universities move, especially state ones, it can take months.

    2. MilkMoon (UK)*

      Yes it smacks of suspicious minds to me, I’d be out already if I was LW2. I have had an awful lot of experience with crappy employers though so I am out of patience or giving the benefit of the doubt to things like this.

    3. Mrs Kate*

      Honestly….if it’s a big company, I wouldn’t let this sway my decision. Some analyst in finance might be getting overzealous but that has nothing to do with your boss/department.

      If the request came from the *hiring manager,* that’s a whole different kettle of fish. I’d direct the inquiry to the hiring manager and see what they say.

      My old company had miles of red tape and tons of did things that were super annoying, like use an offshore, unaffiliated company to review expense reports. We’d always get them rejected for the dumbest reasons- as a VP, I’d have to call up a finance director and be like “dude, I am not calling AT&T to get them to create a separate invoice for my cell bill each month that has line item XYz broken out…I’ve worked here for 7 years and submitted the same exact invoice. What gives?” And whaddya know, my expenses were approved.

      1. sssssssssss*

        OMG…that reminds me of a job where I had to call the airlines to get a complete breakdown of the air flight costs faxed to me so that I could find the tiny amount of GST embedded in the cost for accounting. Ugh…

      2. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

        Exactly. Remember the rogue “guacamole is extra” auditor from a few months ago?

        If it’s a large company, it could be a quirk of their reimbursements system. Definitely worth checking on, though maybe not a flashing red flag.

        In a smaller company, I’d be worried about bad management/ unprofessional HR/ nonexistent HR. Maybe I’m getting crotchety in my old age of 30, but I’ve reached a point where I won’t rent properties without a professional full time management staff and where I won’t consider jobs without a robust HR department.

          1. I am Fergus*

            Yea Guacamole Bob is now the person authorizing the LW’s travel expenses. If it’s not him maybe his brother. RUN FAST

        1. Teal Green*

          That story was why I took a screenshot of an ad I saw here one day. It was for Geico and had a picture of an avocado with the caption “Save money today… Extra Guac Tomorrow.” Cracks me up every time I look at it.

        2. myswtghst*

          Agreed with all of this, but I would add to also look at who the request came from. If it was a random finance person, and it’s a big company, it’s a little bitty barely red flag. If the hiring manager is the one asking, with no apology or hint of embarrassment, I’d be more concerned, as it might indicate my future boss won’t advocate for me in the way I’d like them to against stupid policies.

      3. AP No Noir*

        I am required to get a detailed cell phone bill for anyone claiming reimbursement, if monthly device charges or equipment insurance are included and get reimbursed they have to be flagged as compensation for tax purposes. I don’t like or want to see the detail but I need to.

        1. I am Fergus*

          Yea but this guy wants a letter from LW’s current employer before reimbursement. That should have been made known before the plane ticket was purchased. Sounds like a big fire engine just pulled up.

      4. neverjaunty*

        It could be a rogue employee. It could also be a rogue employee who’s tolerated because of crappy management, or a sign that the company has annoying policies that you’ll have to deal with on a regular basis if you work for them. If the OP truly wants the job a lot and other indications about the company look great, it may be worth pushing back. But absent that, why rationalize?

        1. Luna*

          I worked in a place like that until recently- one new & low level finance employee was put in charge of crafting a new reimbursement policy, and it was a mess. Management didn’t really care because it didn’t impact them, but it became a huge nuisance for me and a problem for the people needing reimbursement, as they were students & postdocs (so don’t have much money) and it would take months for them to get their reimbursements. Finance Guy seemed to enjoy his power of nitpicking and sometimes even rejecting reimbursements over really non-important reasons. Definitely a sign of either bad management or bad policies (or both), and in the long run it can cause a lot of unnecessary stress.

      5. miss_chevious*

        I agree — it really depends on where the request is coming from. When I was interviewing for my current job, where I couldn’t be happier with the people and environment, the recruiter I was dealing with was a mess (issues included forgetting to arrange for transportation for me from the airport, forgetting me in a conference room for two hours and being unavailable by phone or email during that time, contradicting the hiring manager about the salary while we were both on the phone with him (he was right), and calling me by the wrong name throughout the process including in the initial version of the offer letter). But it’s a very large organization, I wasn’t interviewing with a job with her, and the actual hiring manager was very helpful as were all the other people I met during the process, so I didn’t read too much into her failures. It turns out, she was a contractor and was let go shortly after I was hired.

    4. Nita*

      I’ve never had a company reimburse me for interview travel expenses, even for interviews out of town. I don’t think this is always an expectation, it depends on the specific circumstances (is it just a long drive, is there a plane flight involved, do you need to stay in a hotel, etc.) More importantly, the letter doesn’t say whether the company committed in advance to paying these expenses, or whether there was any discussion about what expenses would be incurred. Was this, in fact, discussed and agreed on before the interview?

      I also wonder if the request has anything to do with IRS regulations? I’m not an expert in these, but they do have a lot to say about which travel expenses are reimbursable, and how.

      1. Natalie*

        Employers can deduct reimbursed interview expenses as a business expense, but I can’t think of any reason the paperwork requirements would be more onerous than any other business expense. If it was a routine paperwork requirement, this would be a much more common request, which it isn’t.

        1. Nita*

          Ah, that makes sense! So if the interviewing company can deduct this as a business expense, would their ability to do that be invalidated (in the eyes of the IRS) if the OP is also in town on their old company’s business, and not travelling strictly for the interview? Although in that case, I would think this would be a common request.

          In any case, maybe the OP can just show them an email indicating that they requested time off for the interview, and it was approved… requiring a letter from the current employer is just such a crazy thing and could end up with the OP having no job at all!

          1. Bea*

            The IRS probably wouldn’t dig that deep into the reimbursement. However I know many companies are brutally meticulous about things so they aren’t red flagged in an audit scenario.

            If they regularly pay for people to travel to interview for them, that’s not uncommon expense. Companies sometimes do vet employees from other areas to invest in stronger workforce depending on their needs.

          2. Natalie*

            So if the interviewing company can deduct this as a business expense, would their ability to do that be invalidated (in the eyes of the IRS) if the OP is also in town on their old company’s business, and not travelling strictly for the interview?

            I don’t know that it would be invalidated solely because the OP was in town on their current company’s business. But it is the case that you can’t have two companies deducting the exact same expenses, which I think is what you mean but I just want to be super clear. In practice, I’m not sure how this would get worked out between the two companies, or even discovered for that matter. (Maybe in a deliberate fraud/tax evasion investigation where you are dealing with multiple related companies that are double dipping, but that’s obviously a different scenario). All of that said, this is the kind of thing that the IRS would consider a good faith error on the company’s part, so they wouldn’t be fined or anything. They would just need to pay the taxes due on the disallowed deduction.

            1. Penny Lane*

              It wouldn’t get “worked out” between the two companies because it wouldn’t ever be discovered. Honestly, how would the IRS even ever find out that John Smith, based in Chicago, traveled to Louisville for a conference and his employer appropriately paid for his flight/hotel/rental car, and meanwhile a company based in Louisville happened to fly in John Smith for an interview and deducted the payment for his flight/hotel/rental car as a business expense? I cannot imagine the IRS would even link these two things together, unless we were talking some kind of egregious situation.

              1. Taxi*

                Surely the IRS would go after the candidate. If they get a business expense refunded twice then one of the payments is income.

    5. Angelinha*

      I think their reasoning is probably “Someone who interviewed with us on work time isn’t a loyal employee. If we hire them, they’ll eventually leave us and interview somewhere else while on the clock with us!” I’ve worked with managers and HR reps who definitely think this way. It’s crazy (what else is someone supposed to do, take a sick/vacation day for every interview?) but unfortunately not an uncommon thought process. It’s the same philosophy that caused the ED at my old nonprofit job to implement an agency-wide policy prohibiting any of us from giving references to staff. The reasoning was “if you give them a good reference, you’ll help them leave and that is bad for us.” They were way too short-sighted to see the disastrous effect this had on morale and the sneakiness it basically required of anyone who was planning to leave and otherwise might have told their reasonable manager with whom they had a good relationship.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I have no advice, just commiseration.

    I’m grouchy enough about having to wake up at 5 am to shovel my car out and get to work by 8/9ish. If I then had to worry about covering a last minute no-show due to weather (assuming a person is able-bodied, could dig out, or could arrange a carpool, etc.), I would be saltier than the roads. You sound way more patient and understanding than I.

    1. Beatrice*

      Me too. I might be a little late, but I’m going to work unless it’s SO bad that my employer has decided not to open (happens once every 5 years or so).

      Is there any possibility that he doesn’t understand that he’s the *only* person who does not make it in? And that other people from his town and possibly further out are making it in? When I first moved to the Midwest and had to deal with snow, I called out once or twice when I really shouldn’t have. I was raised in a tropical climate and had no personal experience to draw on, and my social circle consisted of a bunch of indulgent, well-meaning people with *very* lenient jobs who told me it was totally fine to just call in with a few inches of snow on the ground. I still remember a coworker asking me where I lived, one day after I didn’t make it in, and the answer was within 2 miles of work, and he laughed and said he had a 50-mile drive and had made it in, and I’d probably better figure out a way to make it next time. (The shame still burns.)

      1. On Fire*

        My first thought was that the employee grew up in a region like mine: where an inch of snow legitimately shuts down *everything,* because it happens so rarely that we don’t have the equipment/infrastructure to deal. Most people here have *no* idea how to drive on snow, and it’s not just one’s driveway that will be covered – major roadways may not be cleared for a day, because again, lack of equipment. (And here, the snow has melted by Day 2.)

        If this is the case for #1’s employee, he may just need to know that yes, people do regularly drive in this weather, and he may even need some training in how to drive in snow. (Which is not the OP’s responsibility.)

        1. Kalamet*

          Yep. I’m writing this from a southern city where we’ve been shut down for two days due to one inch of snowfall. My first year after moving here (from the midwest), there was snow in the weather forecast and I was the ONLY person who showed up to work. Calling in for snow is totally normal here.

          1. Snark*

            When I lived in San Antonio, we got some freezing rain once. I just hopped in the Subaru, turned on the heated seats, and puttered on down to work…and was genuinely confused to find the doors locked and lights off. And then I was like, ohhhhh…..Texas. The roads were slick in spots, but I’d lived 30 years in Colorado before that, and it didn’t occur to me for a second that work might be closed.

            1. Kat Em*

              This totally happened to me when I moved from Cleveland to a more southern city. Got in the car, drove to work for my 7am shift … and nobody was there. So I did some donuts in the parking lot for fun, then went out for coffee. ;)

              I think it’s reasonable to check for school closures in your area before thinking about calling off. If the neighborhood Kindergarteners are going in for the day, it’s safe to assume you should be too.

              1. Michaela T*

                School closure is my test for calling off as well. I live in the midwest and I CAN drive in snow/ice but I really don’t like it.

                1. ExceptionToTheRule*

                  Eh – a lot of times school closures are about not having kids standing at bus stops vs. actually can’t drive in. I might use it as contributing factor, but not the deciding one. We had a bunch of school closings for extremely cold weather last week with no snow for example.

                2. LAI*

                  Hmm, I think Alison has answered another similar question about driving to work in snowy conditions and specifically said that you can’t rely on school closures as a test. I live in California so I can’t speak from personal experience about snow. However, I will say that some of the local schools here closed for several days due to poor air conditions when the wildfires were going on and the air was filled with smoke, but adults were still expected to go to work – it was more about not having kids outside for recess in the smoke-filled air, but employees inside a building were fine.

                3. Kathleen A.*

                  Yes, you really can’t go by school closures, at least not around here. Schools might be closed because the roads are impassable, but they might be closed because they just don’t want kids standing around waiting for the bus in the snow and dark, or because the buses can’t cope with the snow. But just because a bus loaded with small children (none of whom are in seat belts) can’t make it, that doesn’t mean a car can’t.

                  The general rule here (Indiana) is that we’re open unless the state police start saying “Emergency travel only.” We might have a late start if that isn’t the case, but we won’t close.

                  Which (in case I haven’t made that clear) sounds perfectly reasonable to me. If you can get to work in reasonable safety, you should get to work. My only major problem with my organization’s snow policy is that it doesn’t always take into account that while County A (where the organization is headquartered) may not have a snow emergency, that doesn’t mean nearby County B (where I happen to live) doesn’t.

                4. Mona Lisa*

                  I definitely wouldn’t use school closures as a litmus test in the midwest. I grew up there, and we had several closures when I was young because the buses had to be able to access ALL roads in order for school to open. That included the gravel farm roads, which were frequently impassable even when town roads were fine. If I lived in the city and only needed to drive around there, there’s no reason I couldn’t go out.

              2. TheBeetsMotel*

                While I don’t disagree, my local school district just closed schools he day BEFORE snow happened. And then when we did get it, it was 1 inch.

                I went to work, and kids absolutely could have gone to school, as, you know, there was literally NO snow on the ground.

            2. paul*

              Try living in the Texas panhandle; You wouldn’t believe the amount of snarky comments we make about Houston and Dallas shutting down for an inch while we’re driving to work in 3-4″.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              I’d rather drive in eighteen inches of snow (and have) than deal with even a little bit of ice. I HATE ice. Freezing rain is the worst. It once took me two hours to make a fifteen-minute drive in freezing rain and sleet because the bosses wouldn’t let us leave early even though everyone else in the industrial park let their employees go.

              1. Snark*

                One October in Colorado, I worked in Denver and lived in another small city 30 minutes away. It was about 40 degrees and started snowing, and it melted as soon as it hit….then a ferocious cold front slammed through and dropped to around 15, snowing furiously. Instant ice rink. I left as soon as I realized what was going on, and it was bananas on the roads – cars gracefully twirling into guard rails, and even my AWD Subaru Outback with snow/ice rated all seasons was super squirrelly. I finally made it safely to an auto parts store, bought a set of chains for all four wheels, and spent the next hour and a half creeping home on a deserted highway, giving people rides from their smashed cars along the way. One of the worst drives I can remember.

                1. Ann Furthermore*

                  I live in the southern Denver metro area. On Sunday night, I forgot to put my car in the garage. Then it rained, and the temperature dropped, and my windshield was covered with one of those thick layers of ice that WILL NOT come off unless you scrape at it for about 10 minutes. On Monday, my boss told us all to work from home because the roads were very icy. So I waited all day thinking it would warm up, and that the sun would melt the ice on my windshield, or at least soften it up a little bit. Nope. At 8:00 Monday night I was sitting in my car in the driveway with the defroster on for about 15 minutes, so I could pull into the garage. I knew I wouldn’t want to deal with that BS on Tuesday morning.

              2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                We got ice this week and it was the first time I’ve ever called out due to weather in 20+ years of working. I’ve gone in 12+ inches of snow, but I live about 35 miles from work and I just wasn’t doing the ice that far. I’ve driven on it plenty of times when I’ve worked close to home but they weren’t pretreating the roads for reasons(?) and that’s what PTO is for.

              3. Kelly*

                I’m another person who would rather get dumped with snow that have to deal with ice. I use public transit and don’t have to walk too far to my bus stop. So far this winter, we’ve had one major snow storm and no ice. At this point last year, we had a couple days with ice and I slipped and fell several times on the way to bus stop.

            4. lost academic*

              When I moved up to the Midwest from the South, one of the things I noticed immediately was the enormous prevalence of 4WD and AWD vehicles (like Subarus). Those are much less common down south because why would we need that? So driving in a few inches of snow is no big deal now, but in Atlanta, it was a nightmare with the immediate ice component and no salting, plus minimal clearing. When nothing about your commute, town, or city is designed to handle winter weather, it’s a different effort.

              Side note – the ~2″ of snow without the obsessive salting and plowing normal to my new city we got this week created the same kind of accidents and traffic we’d have seen in the south under those conditions so I am not on board with the idea that people here magically are better snow and ice drivers as they love to claim.

              1. Samiratou*

                Agreed. MN drivers should be way better about it than they are, but some people are just idiots and go too fast and somehow think that because they’re “used to it” that the laws of physics suddenly don’t apply to them. Or that somehow their 4WD will magically help them stop as though the roads are dry.

                That said, I plan to work from home on Monday, if we get the forecast snowfall. But that is actually working from home, not calling out. I’d rather put in a full workday without the extra white-knuckle drive time hoping some texting moron doesn’t shove me off the road.

                1. Cercis*

                  People in Texas regularly forget that 4WD doesn’t mean 4W STOP. I used to know how to drive in snow, but I refused to do so in Texas because the idiots going 80 on the highway (because their SUV had 4WD). Now, I recognize that my reflexes are too slow to deal with ice. I hope I never have to move north, I LIKE that my city shuts down for small amounts of ice on the road (and to be fair, all of our highways are elevated, so they do become ice rinks quickly).

            5. Kath*

              I live in Alberta, and I was reading it and was kind of confused, because I can’t think of a time where snow’s been bad enough that I couldn’t get to work. I’ve turned around from going non-work places before due to white-outs, and in one of those cases I would probably have texted my boss to see if working from home was OK if it had been a time I needed to go to work. But also it’s so dry here that there’s often not a lot of snow, even if it’s really cold, so that could make the difference.

              We had several days over the holidays when I was working a lot that were Extreme Cold Warnings, and I went in to work, and was kind of surprised when guests also showed up. And even came back inside after a fire alarm caused by ventilation problems due to the cold weather.

              A few years ago we had a big flood, and I had booked the day that ended in evacuation notices off, and then the next day my office was inaccessible and my parents were evacuated and at my house, and after that we mostly worked from home as best we could, dealing with flood fall-out. Where I work now wasn’t in the flooded area and I think they were only closed for the actual main flooding day. I had planned to give my notice to switch jobs on the flood-day, but I ended up … not doing that.

          2. Purplesaurus*

            Yep. My area got hit last Friday with at least an inch of sleet/freezing rain and then a couple inches of snowfall. If the roads were treated, I don’t know that they weren’t, it wouldn’t have done much good as it had been raining the previous day. We received more snow Tuesday, and schools have been shut down for an entire week.

          3. Specialk9*

            I know of several people who broke bones, fell and got concussions, etc from the recent morning ice in MD, that didn’t get a cancelled day. Not having snow infrastructure is really a thing.

            1. Alton*

              Yep. My city has been surprisingly good this year, but any time the snow freezes, there are stretches of sidewalk that are really precarious. Also, my city is incapable of doing anything about the mounds of snow at crosswalks after a plow goes by. One year, I had to climb over a mountain of snow to cross the street for days.

          4. Clorinda*

            I’m a teacher on my third day off due to two inches of snow in South Carolina. A student who grows up in this district, attends a nearby college, and then gets a job in Milwaukee is in for a major shock in late fall! I think this person needs to have it laid out very clearly, ONCE, that when the office is open, everyone has to be there. If they don’t get it, then it’s time to take action.

            1. Alton*

              I think the problem with demanding that everyone be present is that in some cities, people’s circumstances can differ a lot. For example, someone who lives in a well-populated area that gets salted and plowed is probably going to have an easier time going to work than someone who lives at the bottom of a hill in a semi-rural area. Where I live, both situations coexist within a few miles of each other.

              I think this is definitely a legitimate issue that the OP needs to bring up, especially if snow is common enough that these absences are more than a rare thing. But I think it can be complicated.

              1. Bea W*

                I live in the city off a road that is always well plowed, but sometimes they just seem to forget about the short portion that circles the park, and everyone back there becomes trapped. We once shoveled out of a 2 foot snow fall by hand on the 3rd day of waiting. People needed to go to work!

                Snowfall amounts can also vary drastically from town to town. I remember being shocked one morning to find work was open when I had more than a foot of fresh snow outside. Turned out work and most other areas got about 4 inches, not cancel worthy. I just happened to live in the narrow jackpot zone. This kind of thing happens all the time.

                1. JessaB*

                  I live in a city that has pretty much announced that due to costs, residential streets will not be ploughed if the snowfall is less than 3 inches. Yes 3 inches, in Ohio or your home street is stuck. This is insanity. But then I grew up in New York, and learnt to drive in the ice and snow from a father who thought better to teach her in winter, she’ll be fine in summer.

              2. Fact & Fiction*

                Yep. I live st the bottom of an extremely steep hill—only way in or out—that when it ices or snows/freezes forget it! We live in the suburbs of a huge metro area but most of our particular county is rural and relatively poor so the plows aren’t as swift or numerous as in the city/neighboring county. Plus I now work way in the north of the metro area while living way in the south. So it’s possible for many folks to get to work just fine when nope, I just can’t grt up this treacherous hill. It’s fortunately rare. Although the worst I’ve storm I remember happened last year and it was basically graveyards of cars parked at the top of hills so people could slide home downhill without crashing their cars.

                But this particular case seems different.

              3. myswtghst*

                Very much agreed with your last paragraph. I think the only way the OP can know what’s really going on is to have the conversation with the employee, and determine what is reasonable from there. Setting an expectation of reasonable attendance is a good start, but it’s also a good idea to understand where the employee is coming from and make accommodations, if possible.

            2. Lindsay J*

              I lived in New Jersey for most of my life and moved to Texas 5 years ago.

              A couple years ago I got hired for a new job, and had to attend orientation a little outside of Detroit.

              I got off the plane, got into my rental car, and started driving to the hotel in a strong snow storm, where there were a couple inches already on the ground. In that moment I was thankful I wasn’t a native Texan. I still found it a bit harrowing even with somewhat extensive experience driving in winter weather. If I had never done it before, I think I would have probably either seen if they would reimburse cab fare the entire trip, or just turned around and gone home.

          5. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I know — I’m in the south, and if it snowed and I had to go to work (instead of being at home with a cup of hot cocoa like we do here), I’m afraid I’d have to burn the building down.

        2. Miss Betty*

          Yes, that was my first thought as well. When I lived in Texas for a few years, I had days off work due to snowfall that I wouldn’t have worn boots for up here. This week I got pictures of my niece and nephew down south having their first snow day ever (they’re kindergarten age). You could see the grass through the snow cover. I told them that up here we call that April.
          If the employee is from the south, I have some sympathy for him because driving in snow and ice is probably quite scary for him. But if he intends to stay in a location where that’s normal, he needs to learn or to make other arrangements to get to work.

      2. Engineer Woman*

        This could be the case. I’m currently in the Southern part of the US and couldn’t believe it a few days back that companies and schools closed for a day due to a bit of freezing rain and snow. I used to live “up North” where I’ve had to dig cars out of 4 inches of snow (granted this might then then be a snow day) and if this little melt-as-soon-as-it-hits ground snow would cause such shutdown, schools might as well have a 2 month winter holiday vs a summer holiday.

        OP, you might want to add how all other employees make it to work in snowy weather and it’s the norm where you are.

        1. Merci Dee*

          It’s great that you lived in an area that prepared you for dealing with and driving in winter weather, but many people that live down here in the south don’t have the benefit of that experience. Most cities and towns in central Alabama, where I live, shut down Wednesday and half of Thursday because wide-spread ice made driving unsafe. My street is on a slight incline and was visibly iced over all day Wednesday – that didn’t stop people who were unprepared for the conditions from getting out there and spinning out while they slid along like they were on an ice rink. I, too, have experience driving in snowy and icy conditions — I stayed inside for 2 days because most people around here don’t.

          1. Violet Fox*

            It also isn’t exactly common for folks in the Southern US to have things like winter tires. Could very well be that the person not wanting to come in when it is snowy, if they are a transplant, also doesn’t know about things like having two sets of tires and when folks typically get them switched.

        2. Mookie*

          Regarding your observation about your current location, infrastructure adapted to specific climates, soils, topography and geography, et al, do sometimes make travel demonstrably unsafe in conditions that, elsewhere, would be unremarkable.

          1. Teacher*

            Agreed. Transportation departments may not have snow plows and salt trucks. Cars may not have the right kind of tires, drivers do not have snow driving experience, and people may not have the appropriate snow gear, especially kids whose parents are probably not going to buy them a heavy coat that they will most likely outgrow before they ever get a chance to use it.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I live in New England but am in Texas this week. They don’t salt the roads, so this week has been like a master class in “Bridges and overpasses freeze before roadway–like, they’re going to be encased in white ice, and the plan is to wait until it melts.”

              1. MechanicalPencil*

                The stairs outside my door freeze also. I didn’t even think to salt because…I’m a moron. I safely got down the stairs to go to work then promptly bit it in the parking lot. That was the deciding factor. I’m working from home where I can sit under a blanket in shame. The roads were probably totally fine, honestly.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  There’s an incline at the end of my street, where it intersects with the nearest street, that makes it difficult to turn when it’s slick because you’re sort of pointed up and angled. One day, I nearly slid into the pole trying to do it.

                  Now if it’s icy, I walk up to the end of the block and salt that dude myself. Where I live, they don’t do any plowing or treatment of side streets–we’re on our own. So be it then. You’re welcome.

                  As far as shoveling the driveway, I don’t bother unless it’s at least five or six inches. And luckily, right now I have spanking new tires.

                2. Snark*

                  My parents live at 8000 feet and they’re in their late 60s, and when they redid their house with in-floor radiant heating, they ran a circuit through their front steps. Genius move.

            2. Kelly*

              My sister when she lived out in Maryland liked to comment that the state of Maryland must have less than a dozen snow plow and salt trucks. She was used to how prepared most states and cities were in the Midwest for a potential snowstorm.

          2. MrsCHX*

            THIS. I get so annoyed when this topic starts. My parents are native Chicagoans and then spent another 20 years in Minneapolis and are now in GA. They are accustomed to snow and ice (though driving on ice is unsafe period) but guess what? Nearly everyone else isn’t! They said there were something like 150 accidents the other day just in the morning! Not to mention that the infrastructure here (I’m in Mpls) accounts for the conditions and we have sand (ugh) and occasionally salt trucks making it a little better.

            1. Anony*

              I grew up near Buffalo. I now live in the south and I will not drive when it snows. I know I can manage, but I do not trust the other cars on the road.

              1. blackcat*

                +1

                Once, when teaching in the south, I decided to ignore our snow delay and head in early and enjoy the piece and quiet to get some paperwork and grading done.

                *I* was driving fine. Some asshole nearly ran me off the road when I was going 30 in a 40 zone (on an unplowed road). He ended up sliding off the road, narrowly missing me.

                I’m in New England now, and it’s much easier to deal with snow than the south/mid atlantic. Roads are properly treated, which they weren’t even in the Philly area when I lived there briefly. That’s what my taxes pay for. I also bought proper snow tires, so the few times when it’s snowing hard enough to actually build up in between runs of the plow, I’m still okay. No way would I have bought snow tires when I was living places where it rarely snows more than 4in.

              2. Bea W*

                Driving to Richmond VA in a light snow accumulating to 4 inches was the most harrowing white knuckle experience ever. No equipment on I95 and cars littered the shoulder before it even started sticking. People were all over the road. I had no trouble driving in it, but I was terrified someone else would take me out!

                Richmond itself was 4 pristine inches of unplowed beauty. No one was on the road. It was a little tough driving it in a mid-size sedan, but totally doable with care and patience to keep from sliding on the turns.

                I live in the Northeast and have driven in blizzard conditions. I even lost a wiper in one storm, and it was not near as awful as that one drive in VA with their gently falling 4 inches.

                1. Bea W*

                  Oh and after all of that, 13.5 hours of driving with the last 3 of them fearing for life and limb, none of coworkers made it. The Richmond airport was freaking CLOSED! I’ve flown in way worse than that multiple times. That probably would not have even caused delays back home, but Richmond just can’t handle it.

                2. DDJ*

                  It’s so funny when you start talking about “normal” conditions in different places. This past December, we had a day of 35cm snowfall (not quite 15 inches), and I still got my butt to work that day. Although I did take public transit. And I had to get my tall winter boots out.

                3. Rana*

                  You know you live in a place with serious winter weather when you have a wardrobe of boots for different conditions…

              3. A Person.*

                Native northerner in the south as well. These southerners were so proud of themselves for slip sliding to work while all the schools and even the freeway/highways were closed – I waited for it to thaw before coming in. People in my city drive like lunatics in the rain; there’s no way I’m risking my life playing bumper cars with them swerving and slamming their brakes on ice.

            2. lawyer*

              Ha, I wonder if they live in my building. There’s a lovely couple from Chicago that spends summers in MN and the rest of the year here in ATL. Our dogs are friends.

              I’ve personally witnessed one crash and multiple stuck cars in the last few days. They managed to keep the freeways clear, but there was a ton of ice on the roads.

            3. myswtghst*

              I was down in Texas (right on the Mexico border) for work a few years back when there was ice and freezing rain, and the highway was shut down completely while everyone was advised not to go out. Initially, as a Midwesterner, I was all “what’s the big deal?”, but very quickly realized they did not have the infrastructure to salt the roads and that no one knew how to drive in it, and was grateful I made it back to my hotel safely.

              It’s easy to fall into the trap of “snow isn’t a big deal” when you’re used to having the infrastructure and experience to deal with it, but given how poorly even people in the Midwest drive in the inevitable snow every year, it shouldn’t be so shocking that different places will deal with inclement weather differently.

              1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                I lived in the border for a while, and the first time it snowed and got a tiny dusting I was really confused at how much everyone freaked out. Then I realized that nobody knew how to drive in it.

                I have also found this in England. We had quite a bit of snow this week and I’ve helped someone get up a slippery hill by telling them to put their foot mats under their tires and helped someone walk down the street on the ice because I was wearing hiking shoes with grip and they were wearing smooth bottomed flats. It does snow here but not every year, so I guess people just never learn how to cope. Certainly sidewalks are never cleared.

              2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                This. I live in Iowa, and I used to teach in a city half an hour from where I live at 7am. There were a few times where school had not cancelled and the snow itself didn’t look bad, but once I got out of town on the highway the wind PLUS the snow was enough that I would pull over and cancel my classes by calling the secretary and then messaging students. Most of my students lived out in the country and the roads were not well plowed, and I knew if I was having problems, I didn’t want a bunch of high school kids potentially getting killed driving in that mess.

          3. nonymous*

            I live in an area that’s quite hilly and fairly temperate, so the issue isn’t so much snow (which does not tend to stick) but whether the right-around-freezing-temps will cause significant amounts of black ice. In addition to the lack of infrastructure for salt/snow. We’re talking 200 -300 ft elevation gain in < 1/4 mile. When I lived in a flat midwestern area, it was such a novel experience to drive on bumpy textured packed snow/ice.

      3. neverjauntyorni*

        Except that he has a history of absenteeism that suddenly and immediately cleared up when the OP told him it was going to have consequences. This sounds a lot less like “OMG snow” than his latest reason to slack off.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Yes, I noticed that, too. This may be the kind of performance problem that clears up for a while after the manager says something, then gradually resurfaces.

        2. Menacia*

          Agreed! I’ve seen this happen time and time again with two coworkers. You can’t change bad habits with one scolding, there need to be consequences, which it seems my company has not figured out yet.

        3. myswtghst*

          Yeah, based on this employee’s history it might be worth getting out ahead of it, so to speak, by reminding him that he is expected to meet whatever the attendance expectations are as long as the roads / office are open. Maybe it will truly just be an occasional thing, or the employee has a real issue he hasn’t shared, but it’s better if the manager is really clear about this being viewed as a recurrence of the previous disciplinary issue if it does happen.

      4. Sam*

        I live in the Midwest, so life typically goes on as normal even if it’s unusually snowy. There have been a few instances of more extreme weather where colleagues have decided to use PTO instead of coming in, and the irritating thing is that it’s almost always the ones who live in the neighborhood and could’ve walked to the office if they needed to. When the office is full of people who had 45+ minute commutes from other parts of the city, it’s not a good look for the locals who didn’t show…

      5. ellen*

        I work for a hospital, in the food and nutrition office. I go to work when the state has shut down, I go to work when the Interstate has shut down. I go to work when the PLOWS have stopped running. I do, however, have the option of staying the night at work, sleeping in day surgery. If I worked for a place that paid more money, I’d reserve a hotel room nearby. I know our residents (doctors in training) do that, sharing rooms as many as they can cram in at a time.
        Personally, I’m terrified of driving in the snow. A while ago, as I was driving home from a different job (this one was a 50 mile trip, 25 of it on twisty back woods roads) I got stuck in a snowbank 5 times. Each time, I dug myself out and continued on my way. I did have mild hypothermia by the time I got home , and ended up getting therapy because it was the last straw in a series of stressors for me. I quit my job and have now improved my mental health considerably. I live in Northern New England, so significant snow here is a “could happen as often as twice a week, for four months in a row” situation. The closest I have come in the past three years to missing work due to weather was being very late after slipping on ice during an ice storm and ending up under my car, unable to pull myself out.

        1. Kalamet*

          I’m sorry you went through that – snow-related stress is one of the reasons I prefer to live in the south. Once, my husband and I got caught in a March snowstorm and spun off the road. Fortunately the car behind us stood guard while we dug out and we were able to limp back to a hotel, but it was really scary.

            1. ExceptionToTheRule*

              Oh amen. I live where the air hurts my face so that I don’t have to deal with hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, traffic, etc….

      6. INTP*

        I grew up in warm climates too, and had no idea that people even drove in snow EVER until I was 20 and college friends informed me (and thought I was an idiot, I’m sure). We were always told that the reason our cities shut down while waiting for snow to melt was that we didnt have snow plows, so I assumed everyone in colder areas waited for the snow to fall and get plowed away, and then they could drive. The ignorance about snowy weather can be profound!

        Anyways, even after years of living in the Midwest and northeast I’m still super skittish about driving in snow and personally choose not to. However, I always saw this as my issue and my responsibility to make sure that I work in places I can reach by public transportation if needed. It might be that he legitimately feels unsafe driving in even a little snow, but it’s not unreasonable of you to expect him to get to work in routine weather, however he is able to arrange that.

        1. LAI*

          Haha yeah, I’ve lived in California my entire life. In my late 20s, I found out that people in other states have to actually get shovels and clear snow off of their own driveways in order to leave the house. I had no idea that was a thing.

      7. AKchic*

        We get transplants to Alaska all the time from southern regions (we’re a military town). You can tell pretty easily who is new based on their plates. I also work on the base, and the speed limits are really low, so its easier for them *on base*, so they can learn to drive in the snow and on ice a little better. Once they get onto city and highway roads – then they have more trouble.
        Some take to it better than others. I was born and raised up here, and I have a big, heavy-duty vehicle so I don’t really have issues with the weather. However, even when I drove a small car, I didn’t have too many issues (other than a huge hill that I lived on at the time, and a really steep driveway – emergency kitty litter and sand bags are your best friends).

        1. Stone Cold Bitch*

          Kitty litter is the best. My grandma lives in the countryside and she swears by it, always has a big bag and a shovel in her trunk.

      8. Basia, also a Fed*

        I grew up in the Midwest, where life goes on as usual pretty much no matter how much snow you get. We moved to a Mid-Atlantic state when I was in high school, and I remember standing out waiting for the school bus one morning. There were a few inches of snow on the ground. A car stopped and a woman shouted out “school is cancelled!” And I said “why?” She spoke to me as though I were the dumbest person she had ever met and said “It’s snowing.” I was incredulous. Also, it was one of the happiest days of my life.

    2. Mrs Kate*

      I’m in Boston.

      At a bare minimum, if the schools aren’t cancelled, you should be at work. If the *school busses* can make it work, you can too.

      Sure, there might be issues with getting in on time. Maybe for some snow you WFH through rush hour, give the driveway a pass with the snowblower then head in.

      But 2” and no nasty ice? Be in your seat on time. That’s not even something you have to shovel to get your car out, and the roads will be well treated.

      1. eplawyer*

        Good rule. If the schools/local government are open, then people need to be at work, unless otherwise notified.

        Fun fact, my courthouse hardly ever closes. I have had to drive in for a hearing when everything else was closed and the roads were not plowed. Took me 2 hours for what is normally a 20 minute drive. We were the only courthouse open in the state that day.

        1. WellRed*

          However, this risks people thinking if schools are closed they should stay home, when in actuality, schools have a lower bar to closing. If the state shuts down, then yeah, stay home.

          1. CityMouse*

            Although schools being closed may mean any employee who is a parent will have to miss. I would definitely be understanding and forgiving of an absence then.

            1. Judy (since 2010)*

              There are ways around that, too. The place my kids went to before and after school care offered drop in care on snow days, call in starting at 6 for a spot. Our YMCA also offers snow day care, which is what we used later on, since I pass by on my way to work now. (Bring your lunch and swimsuit, get plenty of gym time and time in the youth center. )

              1. Broadcastlady*

                My son’s daycare closes for Weather when the local school district closes. I’m in Texas, and work in news, so I had to go in during our two snow days this week, but my husband took off and stayed home with our son.

              2. plot device*

                Our YMCA cancels the after care when the schools are closed, and offers no “snow day” care. If it’s not safe for the school buses to get the kids to school, it’s not safe to get them to the Y.

                That said, coming from the upper midwest, I am sort of surprised at how much lower the threshold is for school closures here in Connecticut. Apparently, it’s to do with the challenges of navigating geography and old roads that weren’t originally built for cars with that thin layer of ice on top.

          2. paul*

            That’s in our OPPM; if the school closes we close. Our schools aren’t prone to closing, and a lot of us are parents so we’d be dealing with tons of people unable to make it in anyway.

      2. blackcat*

        My (southern) husband was shocked the first time I pulled out of the driveway without dealing with 3 or 4in of snow on the driveway (I did brush off the car). That was even before I bought snow tires.

        But there was no ice (just nice, fluffy stuff) and the driveway was flat. You can drive over that!

      3. Elizabeth H.*

        I worked from home the Friday after our Thursday snow day a couple weeks ago. I felt like a huge baby (I’ll be honest – I was mostly motivated by laziness and desire to work from home with the cat, and not have to deal with digging my car out of my landlord’s driveway, which is about 2″ wider than my car on either side so the snow piles up to surround it), but I was actually glad I hadn’t gone in when I tried to drive to yoga after work and slid to within about a foot of hitting the car in front of me at a red light. Put on the snow tires last week.

        The lesson is that this varies 100% by location (and local culture, which may also vary in correlation).

      4. Erica B*

        I’m in Western Ma and have a 30 minute commute to work. Snow is no stranger in our region, but where I live vs where I work OFTEN have very different weather, especially in terms of snowfall. There was one day where I called in late to work because even though they only had 2″ of snow at my work, I had about 6″ and my road hadn’t yet been plowed. I mean I tried… I couldn’t fully back out of my driveway enough to turn to drive the 30 ft to the stop sign to the street that WAS plowed. 45 minutes later my street was plowed and I was able to go into work. Thankfully it’s not a huge deal for me. That said, the OP shouldn’t have a blanket “other people from your town” rule, b/c there are so many other factors. I would, though, talk to the employee and inquire about their hesitation to come in winter weather. Perhaps the person got in a nasty car accident once and is now scarred for life. Who knows. I am curious into more specifics about the snow storms they are called out on though.

      5. Elmyra Duff*

        You can’t guarantee the roads are going to be well treated, though. I live in a suburb of Pittsburgh, and we had a bit of snow and extreme cold over the weekend into Monday. The road outside of my apartment was still an absolute mess this morning. (Luckily, we’ve got a big heatwave of temps above freezing coming up this weekend!)

    3. copy run start*

      See I don’t have that grouchy streak… so I pay extra to live in an apartment complex with carports. They usually have the snow taken care of by 8/9 a.m. and due to the carport, I never really have to scrap ice or snow off my car in the morning.

      Unless this guy is living in a cabin on the side of a mountain, he should be able to get to work on typical snow days.

      In all my years, only once I did not make it to work on account of snow. We’d gotten 2 feet of snow overnight and I could not get my sedan through the drifts and out of the parking lot to the main roads. The plow crew didn’t make it in to our building until that evening. Even with snow tires, I just didn’t have the clearance or power to make it happen. I think only half our office made it in, and it eventually closed anyway.

      1. Wolfram alpha*

        You have been privileged with snow issues being taken care of for you. Many people have no car port and live on roads that are not plowed until late in the day. Typically poor people as well not only don’t have the privilege of a car port and timely plowing but frequently can’t afford to live near work as well. Compassion goes a long way I these scenarios. Let them wfh.

        1. Anna*

          So you can’t go to work after 6am because…? Does the building disappear?

          Even if they don’t plow until 8 or 9am, a person could still do a partial day.

          1. Perse's Mom*

            That’s a bit condescending. Unless you know Mike’s job better than he does, perhaps you should refrain from telling him how his workplace functions.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That was my situation, too, Mike. Even when we paid fo plowing or I had my car in a garage with plowing services, if I have to be at work at 8, an 8/9 plow is not much help.

    4. Phoenix Programmer*

      I use to live in Maine and am firmly on team employee on this one.

      1) “reasonable” snow conditions are no indicator of how slippery the roads are. Light snow @1″ accumulated was actually when I was in my car accident. The roads were slippery and everyone was driving like “this no big thang” when I reality it was much more dangerous then the 8″ we had last week.

      2) employee safety should be a top priority.

      3) my best managers let me work from and didn’t care I was not a snow driver.

      When I was in Maine after my debilitating g car accident on a “reasonable” snow day I called in every time it snowed and offered to work from home or take PTO. The wrost manager I ever had in my life took issue with this, the other managers did not.

      1. Bookgal*

        I totally agree. I live up on a hill that is only 5 minutes away from all of the main roads that are typically cleared when it snows. We are the plow’s very last priority, as there are only 6 houses on my street. We also get more snow because of the altitude. When I have called out or in late due to the snow, I could hear the disdain in my manager’s voice and the implication that “everyone else made it in”. I get it, but I also value my life and safety over the “customers” who are waiting for us to open so they can sit around & read magazines in our store’s cafe because they have a snow day. (Or drop their kids off as if we’re a day care service so they can go to work…but that’s a story for a different time!)

      2. MrsCHX*

        I hear you. I am not a “no matter what” person and don’t expect my employees to be. I trust their judgment. I had a coworker make a somewhat snide remark to me about it “not being that bad out” one day. My facial expression and tone told him to *bleep off*…my words were, “Yeah, your Jeep may handle a little better than my Focus.” He looked a little silly.

        1. Doe-Eyed*

          It’s a really glorious thing here in the South when the Northern folks come down and scoff at us for not driving in the snow and then pretty much immediately wreck their cars. Sorry folks, we don’t drive in the snow because we own few plows, almost never salt the roads, and everything freezes into a solid sheet of ice. One year the snow plows couldn’t stay on the road to plow.

          1. Lora*

            I recently learned that you guys also use a different grade of concrete than we do for roads. I didn’t know that was a thing, but it seems our Northern roads are mostly asphalt not necessarily because MassDOT is cheap, but because it is sort of porous and provides better traction, whereas concrete roads are very slick with just rain on them, nevermind snow. When they have to do concrete roads here for bridges and whatnot, they mix other stuff into it to give it a little bit better traction – recycled glass chips is a favorite, which is heck on your tires. Plus, asphalt can be patched in Pothole Season and concrete just cracks into a giant mess.

            1. Natalie*

              Asphalt can also be repaired when it’s extremely cold (with appropriately named “cold patch”) which is not true with concrete.

              It shouldn’t surprise anyone that different areas have different infrastructure to deal with whatever the local condition are, and that same area won’t be as well prepared for some kind of freak occurrence. Here in Minnesota, I don’t have earthquake bolts running through my house for what I’m sure are obvious reasons. So if we did have an earthquake, no one should be shocked if my house falls down!

              1. Lora*

                I guess I figured that since concrete had been working since ancient Rome, why mess with a good thing. I honestly never gave it much thought.

            2. fposte*

              It’s not just grade with concrete–there’s a lot of chemical variation in the stuff. We’ve got a local problem with a recently concreted road that turned out to react in cold temperatures because of too high an alkali content. Whee.

        2. myswtghst*

          “I trust their judgment.”

          As a general rule, I agree with you. However, I feel like OP#1 made it clear this employee has exhibited less-than-stellar judgment in the past related to unplanned absences, which has had a negative effect on the business and their clients, so I could see why the OP wouldn’t explicitly trust the employee’s judgment without a little more information in this case.

      3. myswtghst*

        So, I see where you’re coming from, and I definitely agree on #2, but I also think asking an employee to try to find a way to be at work if the office is open and the roads are reasonably safe doesn’t have to mean asking them to compromise their safety. As Alison and the commentariot have mentioned, it could mean the employee takes a winter driving course, or invests in snow tires, or looks into carpooling or public transit, not just that they suck it up and drive in no matter what.

        Also, if the employee truly has a situation where they cannot make it in safely (based on location, ability, etc…) they need to have a conversation with their manager about it and determine how to move forward (especially given that attendance has been an ongoing issue for this employee). The letter doesn’t mention WFH being an option, but does make it clear that the employee’s repeated unplanned absences have impacted clients, coworkers, and the OP negatively in the past, so this doesn’t sound like something the OP can reasonably accommodate as is, no matter how empathetic they might be.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Totally agree on this. We had a coworker who was in a bad snow-related accident in her 20s and simply was not comfortable driving in snow or even in freezing rain. She was always at work and on time. If the employee is the only one calling out, either his risk assessment is simply wrong, or he needs to find a way, or he needs to communicate why it’s insurmountable. Randomly and unexpectedly calling out is not a reasonable solution in light of his prior history.

      4. Aeryn Sun*

        I broke my ankle on a warmer day, too – it was just warm enough that the ice I was walking on was extra slippery. I have pretty bad anxiety about walking outside during similar conditions (the ankle break was BAD) so if I had a commute where I had to walk outside I would 100% check in on staying at home.

      5. Earthwalker*

        Me too! I live in a valley that’s almost flat. My house is maybe 50 feet of altitude above the office and 20 miles away. It snowed four inches at work and the plows dug out the main roads by morning except where we were. A very unusual wind picked up the snow on a neighboring field and dropped three feet in our lane (the most we’d ever seen before was 6 inches.) Nary a plow in sight, but two days later a kind farmer brought a scoop and took enough out that we could hand dig the rest and drag the commuter car to the main road with the four wheel drive. The next day the rest of the storm hit with four foot drifts. I skied to my car for two weeks before we could get the four wheel drive out of the garage again. But the snow was all but gone at work two days after it fell and the boss thought I was making it all up.

    5. paul*

      We had some similar issues with a new person that had literally never seen snow (IIRC they were from Aransas Pass and went to school in some southern Texas school), but it only happened their first year.

      Yeah, we’re understanding about being a bit late of roads are snowy, but we’re not Houston; we don’t shut down for a dusting of snow and people have to learn to adapt at some point.

      1. TL -*

        Yup, I am from…further south in TX than Aransas Pass and went to school in SA and I did not drive my first winter in Boston because I was too busy learning how to function in cold and snow and subways. But my second winter, I was not so stressed and I learned.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I feel like this was me. I’m from the Bay Area and never interacted with snow as a driver. I moved to New England and figured it out. I just googled a bunch and asked lots of questions and read my driver’s manual. It can be done!

    6. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I will never forget when we moved from Indiana to Tennessee and my husband’s employees called out for “snow”. It was more like a heavy frost that completely melted by 9am. My husband actually ended up picking up a couple of people and driving them to work- in our camaro -when they all had big 4-wheel drive pick-ups. Just for the record, he didn’t tell anyone that they had to come in, just made the offer to pick them up. We just got a chuckle out of it since it was an exceptionally minor event.

    7. Lindsay*

      One the one hand, it’s true that in most snow-intensive cities, including mine, the norm is that everyone trundles into work (late) and then often leaves early due to the need to avoid rush hour in poor driving conditions. So if the employee in #1 isn’t doing that, it’ll stand out for sure. But, I’d like to make a plug for the idea that in offices where people *can* work from home without disrupting patient care, customer service, etc., managers should strongly encourage those employees to work from home during very bad weather! The cultural norm of driving to work during a major snowstorm in order to do tasks you could do from your home computer is just BONKERS. It’s needless risk, PLUS working from home eliminates the work time lost to lengthy, slow snow commutes. Be the change you want to see in the world!! =)

      1. Luna*

        THANK YOU! It is so crazy to me when people have this snide attitude of “grown ups go to work in the snow.” The world will not end if a bunch of office workers respond to emails from home instead of the office for one day.
        There are some people who really do have to be out in the snow- nurses, doctors, police, plow drovers, etc. The more people out who don’t actually need to be out makes it more difficult and dangerous for those who have no choice.

      2. Becky*

        I have zero issues driving in snow and ice, but what drives me crazy is when the snow and ice turns my 30-minute commute into 2-3 hours. (Think my longest was 4 hours … when an ice storm hit while we were at work.) Obviously, there are a lot of jobs where working from home isn’t feasible but yes, it’s crazy to me to spend 4 hours on the road to sit on the same computer, doing the same work, just in a different place. I once worked for a company where the owner said he’d never close the office as long as he was able to get to work. Only problem was – he lived just down the street from office, while the rest of us employees lived 15-45 miles away.

    8. LiveAndLetDie*

      I’m in the south. We got hit with 1-2″ snow this week that definitely came with a big side of ice–which is what shuts us down, not the snow. My husband told me one of his direct reports was texting him panicking that she’d been skidding on the roads in her neighborhood on the way home the night the snow started falling… before it had even begun. The panic is real down here.

    9. Slippity-Doo-Dah*

      Since an injury years ago, I’m mobility impaired and have a high risk for falling. Some years after the injury I took a job in a northern US state that gets a lot of snow. It was stupid but I was desperate for work.

      The next winter the office parking lot was never sufficiently plowed and salted, including the handicapped spaces. On the worst days I would ask to work from home, as others with the same duties were allowed to. I was told no, because I didn’t live far enough away for the request to be valid.

      Despite falling twice in the un-plowed, un-salted handicapped area of the parking lot, I was still not allowed to work from home on extra awful days.

      And, yes, I did report the falls to HR, did have the post-fall exams and paperwork filled out by the required doctors, and did have my personal doctor send them a letter saying “These falls will keep happening on un-treated parking lots and sidewalks.” I don’t know if this contributed to my losing that job, but in some ways it was a relief to stop having to put myself in situations where I was going to fall.

    10. JS*

      I think its ridiculous anyone would expect having to plan an extra 3-4 hours to get to work just to shovel out snow something feasible and maintainable.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        You may feel that way, but if everyone else does it, and if the employee manages to get to work once his attention is drawn to the fact that he’s calling out, then I don’t think it’s unreasonable. Either live somewhere without snow, or figure out how to get to work when it’s not going to pose an unreasonable safety or health risk (which in states that are used to snow is going to be most of the time). There are options that don’t require the employee to shovel or even drive himself.

        Also, shoveling doesn’t take 3 hours (usually). The extra time is to accommodate for the longer commute from everyone driving slowly.

        1. JS*

          It’s one thing if its a bit of inclement weather but if the snow is so bad where you have to actually take a shovel and shovel out your car or your driveway or drive super slow on slick roads its too big of a risk. It doesn’t matter how “used to it” someone is, if its dangerous that doesn’t mean the danger goes away. I agree into looking into carpool or commuter options but if someone doesn’t feel safe they don’t feel safe. Unless job is going to accept liability they shouldn’t force him to come. There could be so many health or safety issues we dont know at play which makes his coworkers commute or ability to handle snow easier than his. If he has the time to take PTO, or can work from home on those days, it should be an option for any reasonable employer. Saying “dont live in a certain area” reeks of privilege.

          1. El*

            That doesn’t change the fact that this employee has had attendance problems (and that doesn’t include his calling out before it snows). If the employee can’t find a way to get to work, then he should probably look for a job which does allow telecommuting. LW updated to say that the employees position is client-facing, so he can’t work from home.

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 Well you could indeed talk to him about snow, but it might not just be about that – and either way it’s worth taking the opportunity to check in with him about how things are going. Perhaps you could say that last year during a period of stress he was absent a lot, and as he’s mentioned being absent in a situation where you’d expect him to come to work, you’d like to take the opportunity to check in how things are going at work. You could skip the explanation, but I think it’s fine to be transparent and include it – otherwise it could seem passive aggressive to suddenly ask him. But others may disagree.

    I would check in with him about his work – is there any managerial support he needs, is his workload okay and, should it become unmanageable, are you aligned about what he should do eg talk to you about priorities. If his usual way of dealing with stress has been to stay off work, then being approachable and supportive could be a way of heading that off.

    1. ClearlyRox*

      OP #1 here – thank you so much for the suggestion, I sincerely agree that checking in about how things are going is important and worth doing. Listening and offering support is an integral part of my management style. I work hard at giving employees openings to ask for and talk about whatever they need to do their jobs well. I appreciate the comments below about how anxiety may play a role here. It’s something I’ve wondered about, too. I do plan to have a thoughtful, caring discussion and I’ll certainly be open to hearing about anything the employee feels comfortable sharing with me, whether it’s related to snow, anxiety, workload, whatever. The bottom line is that I ‘m happy to help this employee do his job any way I can, but there are limits to what that can be – ultimately, I need someone who can actually be here and do the work. Some comments to my post have suggested working from home and other sorts of arrangements. Unfortunately, the organization we work for provides healthcare and this employee’s work can only be done in person, face-to-face with our clientele. Other comments on my post have asked if driving in snow is new to this employee. It is not – he’s lived in this very snowy region all his life. Your comment is helpful, Ramona Flowers – I really like the wording you’ve suggested for starting the conversation. Thanks again.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I’m glad it was helpful and I wish you luck with this – you sound like a really thoughtful manager.

  6. MilkMoon (UK)*

    LW1: I am aware we’re not supposed to ‘armchair diagnose’ here, but I’m wondering if your employee might have Anxiety (or similar – and he may or may not know it). It’s the part where you detail that you feel some of his stressors are the kind of thing most people would power through then deal with after work. I do have Anxiety and so that struck me. Although I am actually a very punctual and reliable employee, when something is worrying me I can’t put off that worrying until later, so I might be at work but my brain isn’t necessarily – and *I* have a very good handle on my Anxiety after over a decade of managing it (let’s not talk about the years of not being able to manage it!). My mother has anxiety & depression and she is utterly resistant to ‘powering through’ in any way whatsoever, so she’s one who doesn’t make it to work, like your employee.

    This might not help you much (sorry!), and your employee could, as Alison says, just be unaware of what constitutes a normal thing to be absent from work for (is he very young? Being absent from school is not treated the same way as being absent from work, for example), but I think it’s worth bearing in mind (hah) that something like that could be going on, which would require a more compassionate, long-term approach, whatever that looks like.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      “It’s the part where you detail that you feel some of his stressors are the kind of thing most people would power through then deal with after work.”

      If he did have a diagnosis of anxiety then this would be a really inappropriate thing to say. In any case it’s the kind of thing that might make someone feel alienated or unsupported – it would be better to say that you’ve noticed he seems to find these things more difficult (which is a different thing to saying other people wouldn’t find it difficult).

      1. Mookie*

        I might be mistaken but I don’t think, in that sentence you quoted, that MilkMoon is giving the LW a script. When MilkMoon writes “the part where you detail,” they are speaking about a hypothetical future where the LW confronts her employee, but is referencing the section of the LW’s letter that describes some of her employee’s behavior.

        But, yes, informing the employee that they obviously must have anxiety would be wildly inappropriate. I don’t think that’s what MilkMoon is getting at, though, judging by their recommendation that the LW adopt a “compassionate, long-term approach” to this problem.

        1. Mookie*

          “the part where you detail,” they are speaking about a hypothetical future

          Sorry, they are not speaking about a hypothetical future. Now I’ve gone and made this more confusing, haven’t I? D’oh!

    2. Dram Llama*

      Whether absence is genuine or not is irrelevant.

      The company needs their employees to come to work reliably, on time, except for rare and extreme circumstances. Yeah, there are times when people fall ill or have personal problems and they need extra support and understanding. But after a certain point you have to have a difficult conversation about the effect their absence is having on the rest of the team and how to manage going forward.

      It’s unrealistic and unfair to accommodate one person’s frequent absences, regardless of reason. If someone misses work frequently due to anxiety, I would still take the same action as someone who’s simply lazy or too hungover to come to work reliably. Of course I would have greater sympathy for the former. But the outcome would still be the same.

      1. Julia*

        I have anxiety myself, that manifests differently, and I wouldn’t be happy with someone making my anxiety worse through stress because theirs “trumps” mine.

      2. Snark*

        That’s the thing. This is a performance and coverage issue. As a manager, there’s reasons that can elicit more sympathy and others less. But it’s an issue that needs to be raised with the employee to make expectations and needs clear, and then what they do to meet that expectation is basically on them.

        1. JessaB*

          Exactly. IF there is a reason that requires accommodation then that needs to be A: discussed and B: a determination made if it’s reasonable. And since OP says this job is a face to face healthcare job, then unless the accommodation is for someone to pick up the person and get them to work, or maybe get them some kind of Uber or Lyft ride, this is not going to be reasonable. If you’re doing face to face you need a certain amount of direct contact hours per employee to get the work done. At some point a lack of hours becomes unworkable. It’s not the employee’s fault per se, but if they need to be there face to face and can’t be there, this might not be the particular job for them.

          If it’s not, then it’s still an attendance issue. The why might elicit sympathy but it still cannot be allowed to screw with business requirements.

    3. Wintermute*

      I have severe anxiety on a number of levels, but especially around driving in snow, after a fairly bad accident (it took two tow trucks to get my car off of the guard rail it was literally on top of, all four wheels off the ground). Even if you do have anxiety it’s on you to management. Even the ADA isn’t likely to avail me much because “showing up” is the very definition of a core job duty, intermittent leave isn’t likely to cover all the times it snows in Chicago!

      So when it’s snowing bad enough I can’t just white-knuckle my way to work and deal with my physical symptoms when I get there, I take an Uber. If I couldn’t afford an Uber, I’d move to someplace it didn’t snow. You’re responsible for managing your life so that you can take care of the necessities.

      1. DrPeteLoomis*

        I’m glad to see some discussion around snow driving-related anxiety. I also am severely anxious about driving in the snow, and even sometimes being a passenger in a car while it’s snowing. And I live in Minnesota. You’re right, though, that it is on each individual to manage this anxiety. I’m lucky enough to have access to reliable public transit, so that’s how I manage it. I wonder what options there are for the guy in letter #1.

      2. Ada M Key*

        I have extreme anxiety about driving in snow, so I don’t unless I have to. I live near the train and won’t take a job that requires me to drive. Understood that not everyone has this option, but I try to manage my life so I don’t have to worry about getting to work if it snows.

      3. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

        Hello fellow Chicagoan! Im sorry about your accident, LSD can be particularly scary this time of year. Let us hope that the snow gods continue to be relatively merciful!

      4. Sarah*

        Yep, I do not drive in snow/ice, period. I just don’t have the experience and don’t feel safe about it. But I don’t just skip work — I take transit (which is a pain where I live, but do-able) or get a Lyft or have my husband drop me off, depending on what makes the most sense on a particular day. The employee may not have these specific options, but ultimately it’s on them to figure out a plan whether that’s carpooling or taking a class on driving in icy weather or whatever is possible.

        1. small jar of fireflies*

          I was kind of wondering if they might have a condition they didn’t want to mention. Being surrounded by snow on a sunny day is a different experience than just daylight, especially with light sensitivity issues, and driving in falling snow with mild cataracts seems… Hm. Concerning.

          I learned how to drive in a series of exceptionally bad snow years, and nth that more people drive in snow than know how to drive in snow. If the employee isn’t confident in snow, suggesting carpooling or uber might help.

          1. Wintermute*

            As an aside this is one reason I stick with my cokebottle glasses as opposed to getting Lasik surgery, I know it’s a rare complication but living in the midwest it would be debilitating.

      5. Elizabeth H.*

        The weird thing is that despite having tendencies toward worry I actually really appreciate and don’t fear driving in snow/ice because it makes me concentrate 100% on driving and is almost a zen-like experience. I tend to being distractible (I get the “flow state” thing all the time while driving) and snow driving gives me something to focus on and feel competent at.

      6. JessaB*

        This. And yes it’s possible that in a very large company or one who can afford it, getting you a Lyft, Uber or Taxi might be a reasonable accommodation. But like you said, in some jobs “showing up,” is the epitome of work requirement.

        On the other hand, in jobs where showing up isn’t the number one requirement I get kinda annoyed that they balk at work at home just because they do.

    4. Bun*

      Yeah, it could definitely be anxiety. I had a co-worker a few years back who was terrified of driving in the snow, even the lightest dusting, after a car accident they were in years ago that was the result of bad road conditions due to a snow storm. They’d avoid driving in snow as much as possible – by leaving work early, working from home, etc.

      And heck, I’ve been dealing with some snow driving anxiety myself lately – I’m a relatively new driver, and my first snow driving experience was not a good one, so if the roads are particularly rough, I work from home.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I have some too, mostly because I can’t afford to fix or replace my car if it’s damaged. I get round it in bad winter weather by sticking to main roads and driving EXTREMELY slowly. Like, blind-old-lady slow. Our main streets are five lanes and people can go around me if they want to.

        Exjob is the only one I’ve had where I could work from home if there was ice in the forecast. I can deal with snow but not ice.

      2. Just Peachy*

        I had a similar experience to your coworker three years ago, except in my case it was what most would consider a “light dusting.” The fact that it wasn’t a full-blown snow storm makes me even MORE anxious driving in snow now, knowing a bad accident can happen even in minor snowy conditions.

        After having a total panic attack last Thursday during a light snow in the morning, my husband had to drive 45 minutes in the opposite direction of HIS work to drop me off at mine. I finally talked to my supervisor about the anxieties I have about driving in the snow, and was thankfully able to set up WFH on those days. Luckily, where I live, there’s only about 2-5 snowy days all year.

    5. Snark*

      I feel like this verges on the armchair diagnosis rule, and we can’t possibly divine what his motivations are from a secondhand advice column letter. Of course you mean well, but we have no idea whether anxiety is remotely applicable to the situation, and so I question whether this is helpful.

      That said….I’ve been through more than my share of accidents, and witnessed a few, and they left some post-traumatic symptoms in their wake…and at some point, one does have to either power through or take an Uber.

    6. KatieHRLady*

      If the employee has stress or anxiety/depression about driving in the snow and is being treating for the anxiety/depression, they could always go the FMLA route so calls out in snow would be covered if a doctor would fill out the paperwork and if it’s an ongoing treated condition. I’ve never seen that happen in my 5+ years working in HR. I live in the northeast and we go to work in the snow unless there is a state of emergency. We have employees that drive pretty far to get to our plant and management will close because more people will call out and they will lose money if they don’t close. When I train new employees I tell them to be proactive and have a plan in place for the snow. I does still irritate me when I have to go to work in the snow and my friends, and husband, who are teachers get snow days.

    7. Oh-snow*

      As an employee who suffers from anxiety and has panic attacks whenever I try to drive in snow, I also picked up on the idea that the issue with the employee described in #1 might have more to do with anxiety than work ethic or lack of awareness (though both are plausible). I’m fortunate enough to live and work somewhere where I can opt to take the bus to work as long as the buses are still running, and my employer is pretty lenient about being late or working from home in those circumstances.

      However, a manager can’t assume someone suffers from anxiety or any similar difficulties unless they’ve been told outright, so it might be best to phrase the issue in a way that allows the employee to explain their issue with coming into work in snow, without forcing them to explain themselves if it’s an uncomfortable subject. I think it’s important to approach these things without preconceived notions of negligence on the employee’s part.

      1. blackcat*

        At least where I am (Boston), if the busses stop, almost everything closes. I have been on busses that go sliding down slippery hills, they trudge along in near white-out conditions. Our subway might suck, but busses just keep on going even when they (and plows) are the only things on the road. The only times I remember busses shutting down was in 2015, and that was for good reasons (multiple blizzards, snow banks so high it was hard for busses to turn even when the weather was good).

    8. TootsNYC*

      I took this:

      It’s the part where you detail that you feel some of his stressors are the kind of thing most people would power through then deal with after work.

      …to mean, “this is the part of your post that made me think he might have anxiety problems.”

    9. MassMatt*

      So you know the policy about armchair diagnosing, but went ahead and did it anyway.

      I *REALLY* wish you hadn’t opened this whole can of worms, read down thread and it’s full of posts about anxiety sufferers and what language is/isn’t appropriate etc. It’s derailing from the topic and not helpful to the OP. Or the employee the OP is posting about, for that matter.

  7. CN*

    re: #1 – I’ve been in a car accident before when we closed early due to snow (only 3 inches, but it was so slippery there were 300 accidents in a 10 mile radius). It still gives me anxiety, so I would take into consideration that even if everyone else can drive in, maybe he’s not comfortable.

    If I do need to be in & can’t telework (in this case it sounds like he deals with clients in person), I suck it up & take a lyft or the bus and consider it peace of mind that I’ll avoid possible inclement weather induced stress. Just another suggestion! I don’t think snow tires & plowing are going to be the best solution as he seems hesitant to drive.

    1. Artemesia*

      Having a job means you show up for work; if you are too anxious to drive in the snow then you make other arrangements to get to work under normal winter circumstances. There are more accidents when it rains too. When people can’t do their jobs because ‘snow’ or they have anxiety or whatever, other people pay for it with longer hours and more stress and demands. Employers should not have to put up with employees who are routinely unable to show up and do the dang job.

      1. CN*

        Since his attendance did improve after the first conversation, my gut just tells me he is probably too nervous to drive (not too lazy/unable to shovel or doesn’t have enough money for snow tires). Again I don’t know, I can just relate if that is the case. I don’t know the public transportation situation, but it wasn’t listed as an alternative which is why I suggested it. Saying “when people can’t do their jobs because… anxiety or whatever” seems really flippant. I know it can be inconvenient, but plenty of people can call out for other reasons and the team deals with it. Since it is happening so often though, I would just make more clear expectations.

        1. neverjaunty*

          But he has a history of missing work for a wide variety of issues – it’s not just “he never comes to work when it snows”.

          1. JessaB*

            That’s the point where I think the attendance has to be really addressed as a whole. Because if he IS out for snow because of anxiety, it doesn’t really matter because of the whole other load of absences. If someone is never out, has really good attendance and gets “OMG SNOW not driving,” it’s way different to someone who has lousy attendance and even if it’s legit, SOUNDS like they’re making just another excuse. And you don’t have to have an anxiety disorder to be scared to drive in snow.

            I think the whole package of person not there, person impacting work of others because we’re a face to face business, is the thing that needs to be addressed.

        2. TL -*

          Also, at least in Boston – there were pretty ironclad social norms about when it was okay to skip work due to snow. If the public transit was down, you were not expected to come in. There were people who took the entirety of February 2015 off because the commuter rails weren’t running. The schools being shut down and public transit running meant you used your own judgement about how safe your commute was. A certain level of blizzard, of course, meant don’t come in (but usually the mayor would shut down the T.)
          If you lived somewhere where plowing was an issue, you let your boss know beforehand and arranged things for snow days, before winter started.

          If it was a regular snow day, though, and none of the above was in effect, you were expected to come in with the rare exceptions of recent transplants, who would get one or two snowstorms to learn to deal with winter while getting gently teased about it.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule*

            TL has a very good point about the importance of social norms that gets lost in every discussion about snow days & work/northerners/southerners/midwesterners/people from Colorado who are in their own category… The OP laid out the social norms for their workplace pretty clearly in their letter and Alison’s response is dead-on for the situation: lay out those expectations.

        3. CN*

          I apologize for jumping to conclusions about the intention of the phrase & I didn’t intend to armchair diagnose – I just shared my experience and how I work around it. Everything shaped up until the weather came around again. It just seemed like all solutions focused on having them find ways to drive himself (although it did mention whatever others do to make it in). There may be something that might work better for him (i.e. taxi, bus, or family/neighbor dropping him off & picking him up). I know OP isn’t making anyone come in terrible weather so I would assume taxis/public transport would be available (if applicable).

      2. Globetrotta*

        Calling it “anxiety or whatever” is extremely dismissive and disrespectful and just another example of how mental health isn’t taken as seriously as it should be.

        My general anxiety means that there are days when I can be a person (dressed, in public, etc) or I can work, but I can’t do both. I also have anxiety and fear about driving in bad weather because of a terrible accident I was in (car upside down, 1/2 way underwater – everyone was physically ok though). Sorry if my life experiences and brain chemistry are inconvenient, but they are no picnic for me either.

        1. Safetykats*

          Of course people with conditions protected under the ADA need to be given appropriate accommodations. That can include FMLA for time away from work, or the ability to work at home where that’s possible. But an employee with an anxiety disorder so severe that they can’t get to work needs to make a request for the accomodation, backed up by a medical diagnosis. The law doesn’t expect employers to play psychiatrist and try to tell the difference between inability to drive in the snow due to a protected condition and just wanting a snow day. If everyone else is making it to work, the appropriate thing to do would be to relate the expectation that these kinds of conditions don’t equal a day off, and if they get any pushback, enquire as to whether there’s anything else they need to understand about the employee’s absenteeism. HR should be able to help with ensuring this is handled reasonably, and any medical need for accomodation is appropriately justified, documented, and provided.

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, I’m not really sure what good speculating about this employee’s possible anxiety does, both here on AAM and for the OP (who, might I say, sounds very level-headed, compassionate, and reasonable all throughout her letter – I feel confident in assuming that she’s thought about a possible clinical reason for her employee’s behaviour before).
            That’s why we’re always asked not to get into these topics, because they create huge derails but don’t change anything regarding the advice.

          2. Ramona Flowers*

            “But an employee with an anxiety disorder so severe that they can’t get to work needs to make a request for the accomodation, backed up by a medical diagnosis.”

            Huh. I’m the UK you do not need a diagnosis / medically diagnosed cause for your impairment in order to be protected under our equivalent law (the Equality Act 2010) although some diagnoses are automatically covered by this legislation. Rather, you need to be able to show that it has a substantial, long-term effect on your day to day life. (IANAL but I work with lawyers who specialise in this area.)

            The OP would want to be sure that the ADA – or other relevant law in the OP’s country – actually requires there to be a diagnosis before following the above advice.

            1. Flower*

              I like the UK way. I don’t know about the working world for the US, but in academic situations (I’m a grad student, and the non academic jobs I’ve held I didn’t need formal accomodations for), you usually need, from the diagnosing doctor, with diagnosis, impact on your ability to do x, y , z, and accomodations recommended. Because as a student I’ve moved around a lot and the typical wait time for a doctor of the appropriate specialty is 3 – 6 months, I’ve always just made do with extra pain meds on the day’s I should be getting accomodations.

            2. Observer*

              In terms of getting an accommodation, it probably requires a formal diagnosis. But, in a case like this, it probably doesn’t matter. Because the ADA requires REASONABLE accommodations, and explicitly does not require the employer to waive “essential duties” of the job. And, in this case, SHOWING actually IS an essential requirement. Allowing the employee to take off at will this way just isn’t a reasonable accommodation.

        2. Wintermute*

          No, no it’s really not. As a severe anxiety sufferer I took it as “Anxiety, or whatever other cause may be mimicking anxiety in this case because **per the site rules** I am not attempting to make a medical diagnosis so it doesn’t matter if it’s anxiety or just looks like it, my response is the same”

      3. Lissa*

        Do you disagree with the substance of what she said or the time? Because her statement seems pretty accurate to me! Other employees do end up stressed and having to do more in those cases!

      4. Totally Not Anxious Right Now*

        ” anxiety or whatever”

        Gosh, it must be really nice to not have to deal with things that are debilitating like anxiety, even when you try to tell yourself it’s “just anxiety.. or whatever” I envy you.

        Yes, employees should be at work. But humans also deserve empathy and understanding. If he’s on the tail end of an already really hard year and still dealing with whatever trauma that may have caused him, and he also possibly is dealing with anxiety (treated/untreated/known/unknown) then there may be real obstacles for him.

        Does that absolve him from having to show up, no? Does it mean a conversation needs to be had about what the problem is and if a reasonable accommodation can be made to make it? Yes. If it turns out he needs to be let go, that is a delicate decision for LW to make and discussing the various options for her employee with some humanity and consideration is probably what the LW would like to do. Letting him go as a lay-off so that he can receive unemployment and maybe get the time he needs to heal or deal with his life-shit might be an option.

        Maybe also, you don’t live in a climate that gets hit with ball-busting winter weather, so maybe you see driving in it as not a big deal, because you haven’t. Maybe he’s newer to the area and doesn’t know how yet, maybe he had a really terrible accident in it before and there’s real trauma behind it.

        I mean… sheesh. Or whatever.

        1. Wintermute*

          As a fellow anxiety sufferer I took her response to mean “Anxiety or whatever condition or situation may look like it from the outside because THE SITE RULES SAY we are not to diagnose him with anxiety, so it doesn’t matter if it’s anxiety or ‘whatever’ else, this is the approach I would take” not as a personal attack.

      5. Drew*

        This doesn’t seem like a constructive post. In general, if you’re commenting on how a person says something rather than what they are saying, you may be better off not posting that response.

      6. Myrin*

        Guys, can we please not have twenty comments harp on Artemesia’s use of “anxiety or whatever” (which, for what it’s worth, I read as “anxiety or something similar” although I get why it can come across as harsh, especially if you deal with anxiety yourself)?
        We have a site rule of not nitpicking other commenters’ word choices for a reason, namely, people will derail with stories and grievances that don’t really pertain to the letter and must just be frustrating for the OP (who wrote in to get actionable advice on how to deal with a situation) to read.

        In this case, there are already many commenters now talking about their experience with anxiety and snow when we have absolutely no idea if this employee deals with anxiety in any way, shape, or form; I don’t intend to sound harsh, but this isn’t really the place for a lengthy thread about personal experiences with anxiety. It wouldn’t be in any case but here in particular, we don’t know if clinical anxiety is a factor in the first place and also, OP wouldn’t be able to do anything about that anyway without her employee approaching her first.

        For what it’s worth, the snow issue almost seems like a bit of a red herring to me – OP lists numerous not-weather-related reasons for absences during the last year and her overall account of this employee makes it sounds like he, yes, is more easily stressed out than many others, but also like he’s just really bad at assessing what’s worth calling out of work for and what isn’t.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes, exactly. People seem to be reading this as ‘my employee has suddenly become afraid to drive in snow’ and ignoring that he has a long history of varied problems leading to skipping work… all of which cleared up immediately once the LW had a serious discussion about it.

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, I’m a bit surprised by both the OP’s and the commenters’ emphasis on the whole snow deal which seems like a mere symptom to me.

            1. fposte*

              My suspicion is that this is “Oh, nobody told me” guy. When you tell him that he has to reliably arrive on time, he arrives on time, but until then he doesn’t because nobody told him. When you tell him he’s expected to shovel his driveway and come in in the snow, he does, but until then he doesn’t because nobody told him. Nobody told me guy isn’t necessarily terrible at doing the actual work, but the labor of repeatedly telling him can get pretty draining.

              1. JessaB*

                Oh yes this guy. Totally, and this guy is usually a rules lawyer, so if someone tells him x, he’ll ignore x+1 and until he’s told x+1 he won’t reasonably extrapolate. It’s exhausting because you have to tell them everything and keep a record of it because they’ll often come back at you but you never told me x+1. And you sit there screaming inside your head that any reasonable person understands if x is true x+1 is true.

        2. Wintermute*

          I agree with your interpretation, and I also suffer anxiety, I read it as a respectful attempt to FOLLOW THE SITE RULES and not make an armchair diagnosis of anxiety by saying “maybe it’s anxiety, maybe it’s whatever else” and giving the answer in terms of whether it’s anxiety “or whatever else may be going on there…”

        3. Penny Lane*

          “I don’t intend to sound harsh, but this isn’t really the place for a lengthy thread about personal experiences with anxiety. ”

          Yay, and it’s also off-track for people to cite numerous anecdotes about how “people from the South aren’t as practiced in driving in snow as people from the North” and “gosh, did you know the South doesn’t have the infrastructure the North has to deal with snow so a little bit of snow shuts things down?” Every functioning adult knows these things – they don’t need to be said!

          1. Wintermute*

            I think personal experiences with anxiety can be helpful on two levels and still be on topic.

            First there is a possibility we are dealing with an anxiety issue here. We cannot nor should we diagnose the employee over the internet, however it’s not out of line to point out to the LW that if this is an anxiety-related issue, how people that have lived with anxiety would feel about various approaches their boss could take in having this conversation, or more generally “hey, these conversations are hard! we get it, we live this experience and you might not so here’s how you can be sensitive” or “A lot of people have a very ableist approach to conversations like this, just something to consider, of course you can still hold employees accountable without being ableist but here’s a viewpoint it may help to consider when doing so.”

            It can also be on-topic when you’re saying “I deal with this issue, and if this conversation with your employee takes a turn into this territory, and ends up in an accommodation negotiation or into a solutions brainstorming session, here are solutions I have found work for my life.”

            Outside of that, I do agree.

        4. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, and I just removed some of comments nitpicking the wording because they were derailing the discussion (and violating the commenting rules). Thank you.

      7. Wintermute*

        +1!

        I agree 100%, I had a bad accident that by a miracle didn’t see me seriously hurt. black ice situation, it took TWO tow trucks to get my car off the guard rail it was sitting atop, next to a fairly steep embankment, all four tires off the ground, if I hadn’t gone up a snowbank and slid down the rail I’d have probably been seriously injured hitting the metal railing.

        I moved to a location close enough to work there is no highway from here to there, I pay more than I would otherwise but I do it to manage my commute and anxiety. If it’s snowing too bad to gut it out, I take an Uber. If I couldn’t do either of those, I’d be forced to move south. Just not coming to work isn’t an option.

    2. Kirsten*

      I like Alison’s wording since I think it’s worth seeing if the OP can pinpoint why the employee is so hesitant to work in the snow- maybe there is another factor that affects him differently than the other employees. For example, my street is nearly always one of the last to be plowed (last time it snowed significantly overnight, the first plow didn’t come through until 3:30 pm, and that’s in a Midwestern city where the plows are plentiful), so it would be a lot more difficult for me to get to work in those conditions if my schedule weren’t as flexible as it thankfully is. I’m not saying he should be leaving his duties for others to take care of or forego having a contingency plan in place, but whether it’s due to anxiety or not, compassion (while still laying out expectations, obviously) can go a long way!

      1. Al Lo*

        I mean, I wasn’t totally sad a few years ago when my (rural) road was drifted in with 4′ high drifts and the plows didn’t come through for 3 days. My neighbour’s huge pickup truck couldn’t make it through — my little Kia certainly couldn’t. The highways were fine after the first day, but we really couldn’t get anywhere until the county got to us. However, that’s pretty rare (plus, I was in constant communication with my office (and responsive from home via email and phone)). Most snow, if you’re in a city that gets snow regularly enough that everyone else can drive in it, is nowhere near that paralyzing.

        (These days, I’m much happier living in an apartment with a) heated parking (no brushing/scraping!), b) building management that blows/plows the driveway, and c) downtown, so there’s no such thing as waiting 3 days after the snow stops for road service.)

        1. Kc89*

          Al lo do you ever post comments on the blog into the gloss? I feel like i recognize your chic user pic from over there as well. If not, ignore me!

      1. Natalie*

        It sounds like it’s the last minute call outs that are a problem, so him taking it as PTO time wouldn’t really change anything. I actually assumed he was taking PTO since I can’t imagine someone living in a snowy climate would want to take every snow day unpaid.

    3. Natalie*

      If public transportation exists in their area, I would definitely mention the bus if I was the LW. Just my personal experience, but I’ve known a surprising number of people who didn’t grow up taking the bus that have a big blindspot around buses existing and being an option to take to work. (And I worked with one person who was literally terrified of the bus and paid an obscene amount for parking on a theater manager salary for that reason. Anyway.) And in my city, at least, the bus is a good metric – if it’s shut down, than the city is shut down and you can definitely stay home.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I often wish I could do this here when roads are bad (or just in general), but our buses stink. They don’t come often enough and routes are so few that one bus has to make a very long circuit. I looked into it when I had a much crappier car, but if I used them, I would be extremely late to work every day. One of my friends is blind and relies on them heavily and she agrees they’re not optimal.

        1. Natalie*

          It’s definitely going to vary by location. I’m in the Twin Cities, which is big enough to have a robust public transportation network (especially for standard business hours) and snowy enough that the buses and bus drivers are prepared for it. But we’re Midwestern and sprawled enough that a lot of people forget we have buses, or mentally dismiss them as “poor/young people only”. Downtown employers have been pushing public transportation hard since it saves on parking and traffic, which is helping a bit.

    4. Triple Anon*

      It’s interesting that we’re talking about psychological explanations. It’s also possible that this person can’t afford decent tires or has a physical issue that’s aggravated by the cold or a dependent family member who does and they’re reluctant to tell their employer about it. But whatever the case, it is their responsibility to either show up or explain their absences. They have to decide if they want to, for example, get a weekend job so they can buy snow tires or tell you, “I don’t have snow-worthy transportation right now. Can I work from home on snowy days until this changes?” So I agree with Allison that checking in is the best way to go.

  8. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 – definite weird. My surmisal = they know you CAN’T provide that, it might be that they’re trying to weasel out of paying for your trip out there. I’m assuming they haven’t offered you the job yet. And guessing they won’t.

    1. Mrs Kate*

      If push comes to shove re: reimbursemnt, could you print out an email approval or a time sheet showing you took PTO that day? It’s absurd, but I’d to it to avoid them weaselig our in reimbursement.

      1. Chloe Silverado*

        Good thinking, if it comes down to that. This is a ridiculous request, but if it were me and they refused to budge I’d still want my money back!

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I would offer that if they keep pushing to make sure you get reimbursed and then clarify with someone else whether this is really their standard operating procedure and if so–walk away and don’t look back!

    2. Triple Anon*

      I agree that it’s sketchy. I had the same thought. On the other hand, it’s possible that this has been an issue for them before. Maybe it’s an industry where people often travel to a certain city for business and they happen to be in that city. But if that were the case, they should have been upfront about needing this kind of documentation. And they should have worked with LW to find a way to verify it without involving the employer. So, yeah, they’re being weird. I say push back until you get reimbursed and don’t accept a job with them.

  9. Anxa*

    #1

    Regarding snow and work. I have some minor anxiety about driving in snow–I’ve rarely had to do it. I moved to warmer weather right after getting my license and haven’t ever had my own car, so I’ve never gotten to practice.

    But my mother is pretty scared about it.

    She has dismissed job ads in part because she doesn’t know how she could get there in case of snow.

    Now there’s no telling if she ever would have gotten those jobs, but she’s underemployed and at retirement age and there’s only so many more years she wants to work and is back on the job market (her employer shut down her location). She isn’t really in the position have having an impressive resume with the ability to negotiate work from home with ease (although I’m sure that could be a possibility if she finds the right match).

    How does one get around this without having to rely on a Taxi that may be unreliable in the same conditions or not be willing to drive as far as some of those jobs are?

    If she takes the jobs and gets fired for no-showing, what’s the best way to handle it?

    I understand noone likes driving in the snow, but her anxiety about it is more than just not wanting to do it. It’s also not something she just wants to get over because she doesn’t think she’s a skilled driver in those conditions.

    1. Safetykats*

      Anxa – if your mom has an actual anxiety disorder, as I commented above, a diagnosis will allow her to request an appropriate accomodation. Her employer will need to provide that accomodation. However, if by “pretty scared” you mean she just really doesn’t like driving in the snow, all she can really do is find an alternate way to get to work when it snows. Carpooling with a coworker who doesn’t mind driving in the snow might be a good option.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        A clarification – an employer does not automatically need to provide the accommodation requested by an employee. They may need to provide accommodation under the ADA, but there will be a discussion about what is possible and reasonable, and it’s not necessarily going to be exactly what was asked for.

        I have a friend who can’t drive at all, for medical reasons. He’s legally not allowed to get a license. So he can only apply for jobs that he can get to by public transit: he can’t get a job, and then request ADA accommodation to get them to handle getting him to work, or allow him to telecommute full time. However, when he has business trips, he can get them arranged so that renting a car is not needed, which in some cases means he needs to be paired with a driving coworker, to reach remote locations.

        1. Anon lady*

          There are medical conditions that categorically prevent someone from driving…that’s a true “can’t drive” situation. That could be true of anxiety when a person has explored treatment options that haven’t alleviated their anxiety enough for them to safely drive (in both emotional and physical terms).

          But someone who appears to have driving anxiety but has made little effort to address it directly – doesn’t believe they have a treatable anxiety issue in the first place, unwilling to work on driving skills… that might fall into the “won’t drive” category. Someone with anxiety might not see the difference between “won’t” and “can’t”.

          This is a subjective line to draw, and that’s not a call for an employer to make necessarily. That said, an employee who treats something that’s potentially manageable like it’s an immovable barrier… it’s a personal choice, but not necessarily a helpful one for anyone involved. And I say this as someone with an anxiety disorder who’s totalled a car on a snowy highway as a teenager and remains uneasy with winter driving.

      2. Wintermute*

        The employer would have to engage in good faith negotiation regarding the disability. Since “showing up” is the very essence of a core job requirement it’s unlikely that regular last-minute call-ins would not be called an undue hardship, it would depend on individual factfinding and the results of good-faith negotiation.

      3. Anxa*

        It’s not a mental health issue. It’s just specific to driving in the snow. She hates driving in general, but is afraid to do in those conditions. She knows she doesn’t have the confidence to do it safely.

    2. Mrs Kate*

      I’ve been a people manager for decades. Does your mom live in Boston, Minneapolis, Buffalo or similar? Or are we taking like, Virginia? If the latter, a quick convo at the beginning of winter about expecatatipns and possibilities around snow + a convo as the weather report starts predicting snow would be fine. She could take PTO if it snows. She could take a taxi, or WFH, or carpool. Or a combination of all 4.

      But if she’s in a snowy area, it’s be like saying you can’t come to work when it rains. Without a real diagnosis, it’d be a hard sell. Sure, I’ve had people who are less confident in snow- and they’ll come in if it’s light snow but if it’s 2” and predicted to increase all day and they have a long drive or whatever, we talk about it and make accommodations as necessary.

      A lot of this is about advanced notice and frequency. If you always tell me you’ll Need PTO or a WFH day when it’s bad weather, we can assess how reasonable that is for our business. If you tell me at 7am you can’t get out of your driveway….different story.

      1. Anxa*

        Closer to VA but not quite.

        To be honest, I think that being out of work for so long has kind of skewed her perceptions about the fact that commuting is a hazard for all of us and nobody likes it. She had been self employed for years and the last job she had was one where she would have had to go in depending on the work load, but not a place with shift schedules. She hadn’t worked hourly shift positions for decades.

        She’s in her mid 60s now and has noticed changes in her visual perception that make her uncomfortable in all weather conditions in more congested, cut-throat traffic situations and has lamented that she just feels too old. But she lost a good decade of working to unemployment and she has to make up for it now and I think she needs to address it because she probably will be working about 10 more years if she can.

    3. DaisyGrrl*

      You mention that she doesn’t feel skilled driving in snow. Do you think addressing that would be helpful to her? For example, a couple of winter driving lessons on a closed course could help increase her confidence and teach her how adjust her driving based on different conditions.

      If she doesn’t already have them, snow tires add tons of traction in colder weather (anything below 40F) and I’m always amazed at how many people don’t have them. In terms of cost for snow tires, getting them means you’re extending the life of your all-seasons, so it’s usually cost-neutral in the long run.

      Otherwise, does she have a friend or neighbor who would be able to drive her in sometimes, perhaps in exchange for another favor of some kind? (I also second the carpool suggestion above)

    4. Anon lady*

      My mom’s somewhat like this – never got a driver’s license, has spent most of her adult life in a snowy and icy region, but isn’t even comfortable walking outside if it’s a little bit icy. She also isn’t totally comfortable using transit if she has to transfer bus routes (is afraid of getting lost). These issues may stem from anxiety, but she is very adamant that she has the right to make these choices. She also has a career where WFH isn’t possible and where a lot of jobs either require private transportation (doing private duty nursing) or would require a transit trip with a transfer.

      How she got around this was to only work at the one facility that she could get using one bus only. In the winter, if she got scared of walking to the bus stop, she would take a cab, have me drive her (when I was a teenager) or call in sick. Most years she ended up needing to use her vacation to deal with call-outs, which her employer accommodated for several years. She did get one-off medical notes for “headaches” when this happened, but she never sought formal accommodations or treatment for anxiety.

      When she lost that job, she wasn’t able to find anything else that was convenient in terms of year-round transportation and hasn’t really worked since then.

      The moral of this story is that if your mom wants to stay employable, she needs to find a way to consistently get to work. That might mean budgeting to take cabs throughout winter, moving somewhere with a public transit system she can tolerate, or working on her driving anxiety with the help of professionals.

  10. MommyMD*

    He’s pulling a snow job on you about snow days. He’s already had an attendance problem with myriad other excuses. This is just another one.

    1. Clemintines*

      Agreed, absenteeism whatever the reason, besides medical/physical impairment, becomes a problem when it routinely stops you from getting to work. I have seen previous coworkers lose jobs for such patterned behavior. Because after a while a person is needed in the job. Client driven jobs more often require multiple appointments cancelled or moved around if the provider/employee is out all the time. (this is referring to people who seem to call out all the time, not someone who is sick/impaired or dealing with a life event that otherwise is holding them back from work).

    2. Broad paintbrush 2*

      I think you are jumping to hasty conclusions. I am from a city in the southwest where it snows about once a year. The reality is that things come to a standstill whenever there’s a light dusting of snow. This causes out-of-town visitors from snowier climes to guffaw endlessly, but it happens. We don’t know where this employee is from, or (despite the assertion that all the other employees know how to drive in snow) where this workplace is.

      Even in New Hampshire I have known people who are reluctant to drive in snow. I don’t put this anxiety in in the same bucket as “phone anxiety,” where you basically have to suck it up.

      LW also noted that the other problems with the employee had ended.

      1. Clemintines*

        Yes, I realize this but with client driven jobs showing up is important. I grew up in a very snowy state and yes I didn’t like driving on black ice to work but arrangements were made to get there. All I’m saying is if this isn’t due to an ADA covered issue it’s the employees responsibility to find a way to work. Perhaps car pool with a coworker who is more comfortable driving in this type of weather. I also agree with other posters that a honest conversation is needed to get to the bottom of whatever is going on.

      2. KarenT*

        And those of us living in snowy climes understand that we still need to go to work when it’s snowing (except in truly extreme weather). Getting up early to shovel snow is pretty much my least favorite thing to do, but I do it because I have to. As mentioned, snow tires and plow services are options. Snow blowers or taking public transit may be as well. I get that some people are very nervous driving in the snow, and I don’t want to make light of that, but it’s a part of life for many of us on the winter.
        The employee has also shown a history of not coming into work reliably, and Alison is spot on in pointing out his barometer for this kind of thing is off.

        1. Totally Not Anxious Right Now*

          Tires may be prohibitively expensive. Hiring a snow plow if your town or neighborhood doesn’t plow for you, also may be prohibitively expensive. Employee dealt with car trouble in the past. I’m going to assume he may be working in a role that doesn’t pay a whole hell of a lot. I empathize.

          Driving in after a snowfall is a lot safer then driving in during a snowfall as well. Sometimes coming in on a delayed start time is necessary to be safe and arrive alive. If the employee has that option, LW, it might be good to discuss that on days where the conditions aren’t safe, if he delays his arrive a couple of hours (if possible) and stays later (if possible) to make it up, perhaps that’s an option you can arrive on with him.

          1. Wintermute*

            I think we’re getting a bit into “but some people can’t eat sandwiches” (thanks to captain awkward) territory if we’re shooting down snow tires, snow blowers, public transit, hiring a plow and taking an Uber.

            At a certain point you have to set a bar and say “we expect you to be reliable, your co-workers can, you will, or you will find alternate employment.

            1. Teacher*

              I think taking into account the possibility that these things may be prohibitively expensive is pretty reasonable. An uber or taxi to work could be a round trip of well over $100 depending on where he lives. This isn’t a case where there is an easy substitute for the suggestions in question (as when someone says “pack a sandwich” as shorthand for “pack something you can eat for lunch” and people nitpick that because the person might not be able to eat bread). All of the suggested solutions are very expensive and/or time consuming if he lives outside the urban core, which describes a lot of people.

              1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                “This isn’t a case where there is an easy substitute for the suggestions in question”

                Sure, some ways of handling living in a snowy area are expensive. Not all, however. And that’s beside the point because
                1. If you live in an area prone to snowy weather, you simply have to be prepared for snowy weather. I live near Boston. People make it to work. You can’t take the winter off here. A shovel is cheap. We drive in snow or we take the bus/train or *any number* of not expensive options.
                2. Snow is the current excuse. But the employee has had huge attendance issues before. Snow is a red herring.

                His attendance issues are not caused by “good snow tires are too expensive.”

              2. fposte*

                It definitely could be a case where an easy substitute is available, though; we have no indication that distance, expense, etc. are factors, and we *do* have a history that suggests this employee has found coming to work a challenge generally.

              3. please*

                What is the end result of what you are advocating? That people who are unable to deal with normal snow just take jobs they know they will not be able to get to a fair number of days and year, and people like the OP just take that?

                I don’t understand what you are suggesting as an action step for the OP.

            2. nonymous*

              I think the tolerance for accommodation can include an understanding of how pay affects the possibility of making use of options. For example, if we’re talking minimum wage in a high COL, it’s much more reasonable to expect that staff would rely on delayed public transit instead of driving an SUV with snow tires. When I lived in the midwest, it was pretty common to say “the snowplow normally hits my street ~9A, and I’ll telework until they come by” (if it was a big dump).

              However accommodation requires a bit of proactive effort on the employee’s part, and that’s the point OP needs to communicate to the employee.

            3. Natalie*

              “but some people can’t eat sandwiches” (thanks to captain awkward)

              Hey now, we invented that! :)

              (And IME CA does not have that rule and would have about 25% of their current comment volume if they did.)

          2. Mrs Kate*

            Those things make it easier, sure. But a snow shovel is $14.99 and if you have a driveway in a snowy climate, part of living in such a place is figuring out how to get your car out of it when it snows. Shovel =‘get up earlier. Don’t like it? Buy a snowblower. Can’t afford one? Have to get up early then. Going back to bed and waiting for spring isn’t an option in snowy climates!

            1. Decima Dewey*

              In my neighborhood, whenever there’s a good amount of snow, I can count on someone knocking on my door offering to shovel my steps and sidewalk. If public transit is running, I make it in to work. Then I take calls from people who aren’t going to even try to come in and figure out if I’ll have enough staff to open to the public, or if I’ll be redeployed to another branch I can reach by public transportation. That’s assuming that I haven’t heard on the all news station that the city offices are shut down for the day.

      3. Yomi*

        This is a good point, especially because in the end a nervous driver in bad weather is not just being a danger to themselves but to everyone around them.

        Once, I was on a bus during a snow storm because hey, the busses were running so I was going to get to work that way. On our bus route we saw about four or five cars whip out, either into ditches, onto shoulders and sidewalks, or spinning around to face the wrong direction on the road. We saw the results of multiple fender benders, with two cars smashed together on the side of the road and the people standing in the snow on their cell phones.

        Here’s a thing to consider when you’re thinking about how strict you want to be with this employee: if you insist he just drive to work because you decided that it’s fine and he should get there no matter what, and he’s in an accident, how would you feel about that? What’s your responsibility in that? Okay, how about if he causes an accident that injures somebody else?

        Is it really worth that? Really? I get that there’s an attitude in certain areas of the country that “well we’re just tough and amazing and we’re gonna get this done and it’s all just the way we are” but at the same time looking at somebody else and saying “yeah, you’re gonna have to do something you think is incredibly dangerous that could hurt you or someone else because I think you should suck it up buttercup” is just…something has always felt off about that to me, and I do live in an area that gets a fair amount of snow.

        It’s fine to address it as part of his attendance problem and to say you’ve got to figure something out. But saying “well, other people got here so you just have to” without any consideration? I’m not a fan.

        1. El*

          Yeah – but the employee can find another way to work then, surely? If you work in an area that gets snow, you have to find ways to deal.

          1. Yomi*

            Maybe, maybe not, there’s no way to know. Because this is the kind of thing that is incredibly individual, down to the point where people who live two blocks away would have different answers and different situations.

            Using me as an example, right now if the buses are running I can still get to work because it’s transit accessible. My previous job, neither my house or the office were near enough to transit and nobody lived anywhere near me. It was drive or nothing.

            That doesn’t mean there aren’t options to deal with that, there are plenty, but it would involve a kind but fair conversation with the employee where you explore options for them getting in to work, and if you can’t find one that works then you talk to them about what else you can do because they can’t be chronically absent again. Right now this is one time the employee pre-emptively told their boss they might not make it in, which actually is pretty responsible of them. So it’s fair to say “hey, it’s winter, let’s figure this out before it becomes a problem this year, okay?” But that solution might not involve them being physically in the office, it just depends on a ton of factors. It’s a long conversation the manager needs to have with them, but I think they should make sure they approach it without the bias they demonstrate in the letter and actually ask the questions and listen to the answers.

        2. I don't do winter*

          Very well put, and OP should also consider that if the employee says he can’t drive in snow, is ordered to, and gets in an accident, the company could be liable.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            That’s a pretty big stretch.

            What the employer says is “You need to be here reliably and that includes the multiple days a year where there is a normal snowfall.” It’s then up to the employee to figure out what to do about it – take some snow driving lessons, get a lift from a friend or family member, call an Uber, take public transit.

            If the employer is insisting that they come in when there is a snow emergency – the kind of thing where cars are ordered off the road – that’s a completely different matter. And if it’s a climate where snow days mean one or two days a year, it’s easy to be lenient. But if you live in a climate where it snows regularly, and you have a job, getting to work in the winter is part of the job.

            It’s like if you lived in Edmonton, and told your employer that you were nervous and not safe driving after dark. You’re very unlikely to get permission to work 5 hours days during the winter to accommodate that – it would be up to you to figure out how to get to work.

            1. Yomi*

              To be clear, I don’t think that the employer would be legally liable in either situation I mentioned.

              But I do think it’s worth considering how they would feel about it if it happened, because that is the exact risk they are asking their employee to take, and they should know for themselves how they feel about that.

              Maybe they don’t care, or they don’t think that’s really anything to do with them. That’s fine, but asking the question of yourself can be important and maybe would help them divorce themselves from the loop of “I’m angry he’s not here” that’s crowding over the actual stated reason for this instance, which is what would need to be addressed.

              And also to be clear, it is absolutely a situation that needs to be addressed. As it is, the manager seems to not actually have the complete story or understanding of the exact situation that makes this guy feel unsafe in the snow. And there are a lot of perfectly valid and reasonable things that could be going on that could be worked around depending on the situation. They just have to be willing to work together on it.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                This seems like such an unhelpful path to go down. Employers ask employees to do slightly “dangerous” things all the time — driving to work under any circumstances is probably the most dangerous thing most of us do on a given day.

                Of course any manager would feel bad if an employee died on their way to work, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t ask people to come to work.

                1. Yomi*

                  It isn’t. I think that any employee who feels that it is unsafe to drive in unsafe conditions should be given the same consideration.

                2. fposte*

                  @Yomi–but my point is that you were saying the employer would feel bad if the uneasy employee had an accident on the way to work. *Any* employee can have an accident on the way to work. It’s not worse just because the employee stated he didn’t want to come.

                3. Natalie*

                  @ Yomi, this is definitely influenced by where I live, which has good public transportation if you’re in the city proper but not out in the suburbs where half the people live, but that just does not sound realistic to me. Lots of people feel unsafe driving after dark, but in the winter it’s only light for about 7 hours – should they work short hours for six months?

                  Now, if your work functions in such a way that it’s easy for people to work from home when needed, then I think it’s lovely to be flexible when you can, but for all sorts of reasons beyond driving anxiety.

            2. Lilo*

              I grew up in Michigan and not coming in on snowy days would mean missing weeks, if not months of work.

              A good rule of thumb would be to follow county government or school closures. If they have a snow day, it is reasonable to not come in. Otherwise, you are not being unreasonable: the government has determined it is safe for kids and school busses.

        3. TL -*

          But driving is a skill, not a trait. Nobody is born a good driver – you practice. If you’re nervous about driving in the snow, take lessons, practice with an experienced friend, go for winter drives in quiet neighborhoods. Develop your skill. That’s what I did – lots of slow, cautious, scary drives and then a few more.
          Or move to a warmer climate or on a public transit line.

          1. Yomi*

            This is true, but we also don’t know if the situation he’s dealing with is a matter of skill or a matter of his situation in one way or another. There’s really just not enough information to know, because there’s too many things that could be going on.

            For that matter, we don’t know anything about his situation and why he lives where he does, so we don’t know why he doesn’t just move somewhere else. I could think of a dozen reasons off the top of my head why that might not be viable.

            The point is there’s no room for making assumptions about his situation, and that the letter writer needs to have an open conversation with him about what’s going on to get the full information and work out how to deal with it.

            1. TL -*

              I think, given that the OP has talked to him extensively about this, and he’s aware that it’s a problem, the chances of him having a really solid reason (like living on the last-plowed street) are incredibly slim – he already knew he was on thin ice attendance wise so he probably would have mentioned it when he was saying he might not make it in.

              And every other reason I can think of comes down to this: the employee lives in a place with an actual winter and part of living with winters means that you figure out winter transportation, barring major blizzards or Snowpocalypse.

              They have a clientele-based position and the OP needs to depend on them coming in, barring illness or extraordinary events – my guess is the OP would have mentioned WFH or flexible hours if they were an option. This has already been an issue with the employee and I think the OP needs to tell the employee that if the schools are open (or some other metric), he needs to get to work.

            2. Wintermute*

              I disagree, because all of those are red herring. The LW doesn’t need to know anything, they need to set an expectation that other employees are able to be reliable in these conditions, he will find a way to do the same or find alternate employment.

              We don’t need to get into the “but not everyone can eat sandwiches” (courtesy of Captain Awkward) thing here, there are lots of options, there are lots of reasons they might not work, but surely there is no possibility NONE of them will work, and if so that’s not the LWs problem.

              For the uninitiated– “not everyone can eat sandwiches” is the phenomenon where someone points out a list of solutions, say someone is talking about what food to bring to a picnic, and suggestions are brought out and increasingly unlikely circumstances are brought up to shoot each down until by the end you’re ultimately discussing a vegan Kosher-keeping nut-allergic celiac sufferer who had a traumatic childhood experience with a sandwich and they trigger his PTSD and trying to figure out WHAT they can eat, and then someone brings up “but what if they don’t like lettuce? We’re not there yet but the shorthand concept is a reminder that when solutions are listed we shouldn’t require impossible levels of inclusivity and stack hypotheticals.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Just FYI, that’s not a Captain Awkward thing. It’s something from the commenting rules here, based on an actual discussion that happened here once. The rule is to not aggressively shoot down suggestions just because they might not work in one particular circumstance.

                1. MassMatt*

                  I have heard the “not everyone can eat sandwiches” rule on another website (not Captain Awkward—it was Behind Closed Ovens) and assumed it had been invented there. Is there a link for this historic meme?

                2. PB*

                  I knew this was a site rule, but I thought it was a made-up example! I had no idea it came from an actual conversation.

                3. Wintermute*

                  I heard it mentioned in the comments there and thought you got it from them!

                  It’s bizarre how much overlap there really is.

                  I stand corrected!

                4. Wintermute*

                  Can’t edit… dang. It is in the “captain awkward glossary” the community put together, they probably got it here though, apparently I didn’t know that!

        4. neverjaunty*

          Alternately, we could take the LW at her word that she isn’t expecting the employee to drive in a blizzard? Or in conditions different from those she or other employees would have to drive in to cover for him?

          “But what if he gets into an accident” – I don’t see why he and he alone gets a pass to skip work anytime the weather is not clear and dry such that the chances of accidents are higher. The first rain after a long dry stretch, even if it’s half an inch, is dangerous because it lifts up road oil that’s accumulated, yet I doubt many of us would excuse the guy from calling in due to “first fall rain”.

        5. Thursday Next*

          I don’t think this is fair to the OP, who sounds compassionate and reasonable. There’s no call to lay a guilt trip on the OP.

        6. Penny Lane*

          “Is it really worth that? Really? I get that there’s an attitude in certain areas of the country that “well we’re just tough and amazing and we’re gonna get this done and it’s all just the way we are” but at the same time looking at somebody else and saying “yeah, you’re gonna have to do something you think is incredibly dangerous that could hurt you or someone else because I think you should suck it up buttercup””

          I think that is a misstatement of the opinions being expressed. The people here who live in Boston or Chicago or Minneapolis or Toronto or wherever are not all “we’re just tough and amazing.” They are simply dealing with the fact of life that they live in climates with snow and thus they are prepared, both physically and mentally, for dealing with it. Just like people who live in Phoenix deal with 100 degree heat by putting sun-shades in their cars, getting their car windows tinted, maybe carrying a towel they can put across a hot leather seat so they don’t burn their legs, etc. Part of being an adult is adapting to the environment you live in.

          And whether you think something is incredibly dangerous doesn’t mean that it actually is incredibly dangerous. We are taking the LW at his word that we are not talking about requiring the employee to drive in blizzards; we are talking about a few inches of snow.

          I think “other people do so you have to figure out a way too” is quite on point. Maybe it’s not the best way to express it, but it’s a true sentiment.

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            Eh. I think a lot of snow accidents are because new englanders think they are amazing snow drivers when in reality they are just as dangerous as anyone else. Also my skill diving in snow doesn’t really matter if some overconfident chump slams into my rear***

            ***This actually happened to me.

      4. MommyMD*

        If you can’t show up to work driving in routine snow, employee needs to get another job. He’s one excuse after another. After the snow it will be something else.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          It’s just that simple. Don’t need to solve, offer alternatives, talk through it, whatever. He just needs to show up.

          1. Anna*

            You’re right, that’s a bit ridiculous, but it’s also not really the OP’s responsibility to find solutions or offer alternatives. The OP needs this employee to show up. The OP can certainly offer suggestions on what the employee can do, but ultimately it’s on the employee to figure out how to meet OP’s expectations that he’s at work when he needs to be there.

      5. neverjaunty*

        The other problems ended because the LW told him it was unacceptable. That’s very different than his problems ending because, say, he had a health issue that is now better or a car issue that got fixed. He shaped up immediately once he knew there would be consequences when he didn’t. So yes, his past history is pretty relevant here.

      6. Penny Lane*

        “I am from a city in the southwest where it snows about once a year. The reality is that things come to a standstill whenever there’s a light dusting of snow. ”

        The OP and employees live in an area where there IS snow, there IS an infrastructure to deal with it, and there IS a cultural expectation that unless it’s a particularly unusual / threatening storm, you get in the car and go to work.

        It really doesn’t matter that Atlanta and San Antonio and Scottsdale don’t know how to deal with snow, so I wonder why people in those areas feel compelled to bring up that things come to a standstill there when it’s not relevant to the OP. Yes, we all know places in the south come to a standstill. But the OP’s area doesn’t.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I think people are suggesting the absent employee might be *from* an area in the south where no one drives in the snow and might need to be told that it’s not the norm where they live now. They might honestly not know they are the only person not making it in.

          1. Penny Lane*

            It would seem to me that if the employee were a newly-arrived transplant from Arizona or Florida or wherever, the LW would have mentioned it. Given that he didn’t, it’s a fair assumption that “he’s really new to driving in snow and doesn’t have a clue how to do it” is NOT the issue.

        2. Purplesaurus*

          I think it’s being brought up to suggest that the employee might have a legitimate reason (not accustomed to traveling in snow) for being out on snow days, versus laziness and wanting to stay in his warm comfy bed. That shouldn’t change OP’s expectations of course, but some people were commenting about the snow being a non-issue to them, when it actually is an issue for many other people.

          1. Anna*

            But the snow issue came up last winter and is coming up again. Even if the employee is a transplant, enough time has passed for this person to figure out how to manage. It doesn’t mean they are required to drive, but it does mean they need to figure out their options for getting to work.

        1. fposte*

          Yup, and one of the explicit reasons was “Can’t get out of the driveway.” The driveway is under his control.

          1. Erica B*

            But even if your driveway and car are all cleared and ready to go, you can’t necessarily leave your driveway if your street hasn’t been plowed yet and there is 6″ of snow. Happened to me once, but once my road was plowed I went in to work 2 hours late. Perhaps it’s something like this for the employee

            1. fposte*

              I don’t think that’s the real issue, but you’re right that he could mean that situation and that kind of plowing wouldn’t be under his control.

      7. Anon Anon*

        I am reluctant to drive in snow and I live in the midwest where it’s a pretty regular occurrence. I don’t think those feelings of reluctant’s are uncommon. However, I do think it’s important that if you have those feelings that they are raised early on with your boss. For example, I have worked with more than one person who won’t drive at all in snow because of prior accidents, and usually their absences and using PTO in those situations can be handled.

        To me the biggest issue with #1 is that the snow days weren’t isolated. There was chronic absenteeism with a host of various issues (many of which were unrelated to the weather). So I may be willing to let this one snow day go, but see if the pattern crops up again. Because it wouldn’t surprise if it does.

      8. Anna*

        Yes, after the employee was spoken to and given very clear information on what next steps would be if they didn’t get it together. A person who has a job does need to show up and on some level, will need to suck it up. We don’t know if they have any sort of anxiety about driving in snow or if they just decide hey! Not doing it, thanks. Also, from the letter, it sounds like snow is a pretty common occurrence where they are and so it is sort of expected that people living there have some idea of how to function on snow days.

        Also also, even if it is an ADA covered issue, that doesn’t mean the employee doesn’t have to show up.

    3. CubicleShroom#1004*

      Where I used to work (university hospital setting), we had a lot of staff who were originally from southern states. 1 inch of snow closes stuff down there. 1 inch of snow where I live means you grab a shovel and get up 30 minutes early.

      You don’t know how many husbands called in for their wives saying it “was too dangerous” for them to drive in. This was the year 2000. No school closings. No black ice. Not actively snowing.

      It made it hell for staffing. There were a few times security would drive out to pick up an essential person. And the person had lived in my snowy state for 10 years.

      I’m sure part was anxiety with a health shot of I don’t want to go to work, and learned helplessness.

  11. Knitting Cat Lady*

    I didn’t go to work due to weather only once.

    We had freezing temperatures for weeks. And then it suddenly got a bit warmer and it rained. And went back to freezing.

    In the morning my car was completely covered in a 5mm thick layer of clear ice. Looked neat! Couldn’t get in, though.

    I also lived at the top of a hill at the time. Walking on an even surface was difficult enough, but downhill with no fences to hold on to? No way.

    So I called in and said I’d use a vacation day.

    1. AnnaleighUK*

      I used to live on a road called The Mount – it was as well, freakin steep – and one day it was so icy that cars had started sliding down it with their handbrakes on. I thought ‘I am not driving in this’, put on my walking boots and YakTrak ice grippy things and started to pick my way to the station.

      Several cars went past me in varying states of sideways. THAT is conditions when it’s too hazardous to drive. Not snow, which is actually pretty forgiving to drive in. It sounds like a case of the employee would rather stay in bed and reckons the weather is a ready made excuse. That wouldn’t fly where I work – we are always told unless we’re at risk of actual dying to try and get in.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I discovered something neat after the 2007 ice storm–my car was covered in a very thick layer of ice too. If you tap it gently with a rubber mallet, it pops right off. (Obviously don’t do this on the windows.) Not only is it effective, it’s fun. :D I took it to work with me and my coworkers were all begging to use it, haha.

      DO NOT USE A HAMMER–IT HAS TO BE A RUBBER MALLET.

      1. Natalie*

        Is it bad that I now want an ice storm so I can try this? Dumping a bunch of water on my car would be stupid, right?

        1. fposte*

          Not if it’s for science!

          (There’s something deeply satisfying about pulling the ice off your car in really big sheets, isn’t there?)

      2. Erica B*

        also the back of your ice scraper as raised bumps, so when you have a sheet of ice on your windows, run the back of your scraper all over the ice. it will make striped gaps, and then you can scrape as normal!

  12. Yomi*

    I disagree quite a bit with the reasoning with #1.

    I know a lot of people that think of things as “reasonable winter weather” when it really isn’t. Maybe they grew up further north than they live now, maybe their road gets plowed regularly, maybe their car is heavier and has a wider wheel base, whatever. It doesn’t matter.

    What matters is that you aren’t your employee and you need to think very, very carefully about the fact that you’re imposing a lot of assumptions and personal feelings onto their life and their safety. Yes, in some cases they may be overreacting. But in a lot of cases, the assumptions being made on the frustrated employers side is shading the situation into a place where it’s actually being unreasonable.

    This happened to me and it was one of the reasons I left a job, because I had a boss who refused to respect my right to choose when I felt safe and when I didn’t. He said very similar things about how “you should be able to get to work” and “everybody else got here just fine.”

    I live in a suburban area that has pretty good service for plowing the main roads. And from my house I can see the main road. But until the plows get to the third and fourth tier of their service they’re not going to touch the piece of road I have to drive on to get to that main road. A person on the other side, who can see my building from their window, would have no problem getting to work when I would have to drive across a lot of black ice (or regular ice).

    A four wheel drive car is going to have a different experience on the roads than a sedan. An SUV will handle differently than a compact. A front wheel drive will be easier to handle in those conditions than a rear wheel drive. Do you want to sit and take an inventory of every employee and what vehicle they drive and then put qualifications on the personal vehicle they choose?

    There’s also the fact that you’re usually doing this while surrounded by people who weren’t comfortable with the conditions and didn’t know how to drive in them but were on the road anyway because “you should be able to get to work.”

    Added with that was the fact that when I lived in a different place, I decided that a snow storm that had just started wasn’t that bad and I should go out while I still could. Barely any snow had fallen, maybe a quarter inch, it was not in the slightest “white out conditions.” A few hundred yards from my house, when I was within a few feet of the main road which was still clear, my car lost traction and slide sideways into two cars that were already piled up at the stop sign. I declared then that driving in snow when I was uncomfortable doing so for any reason wasn’t worth it, no matter what any boss of mine tried to say about it because it wasn’t their life or their car (while everyone was okay, two of the three cars were totaled including mine).

    I know this is a long comment, but I’m trying to point out that any one of these things could be reason enough to think twice about insisting that your employee “should be able to get here.” There are quite simply too many variables to make that assumption, and because it is a safety risk, I think managers should hesitate to make that decision for employees.

    What is reasonable is to explore other options for when this employee might be dealing with inclement weather. Look at telework options, work they can take home with them when you expect bad weather, contingency plans, looking with them at public transit options, delayed start times, or whatever. There’s a lot of ways to play it that don’t involve telling somebody that their judgement about their own safety isn’t good enough. You can talk about mitigating the issue because it is an issue, but it’s not an issue with him being too chicken to drive when you think it’s fine (which is how it will come across to him, even if it’s not your intention) but it’s an issue of difficult circumstances. And maybe he is lying, I certainly don’t know, but again, assuming he’s lying because somebody else got to work is a bad place to start the conversation.

    At the job where my boss insisted I should have been able to handle “a little snow” and “it wasn’t a big deal” and “everybody else got into the office just fine,” he also told my coworkers that I was trying to get out of working and make them do my work for me because I wanted a day off. I didn’t just turn in my notice without another job lined up, I described it in detail in my exit interview in an official complaint to HR. It wasn’t the only reason I left, but it was a last straw.

    1. Totally Not Anxious Right Now*

      I agree with all of this. You “should be able to get to work” as if everyone lives in the same house, drives in the same car, has the same snow management options, has the same life experiences, etc is really generalized and simplified and lazy.

      It doesn’t mean he should be allowed to just not show up, but it does mean that every situation is unique and should be approached as such. It doesn’t necessarily mean he needs to be canned, but how can this situation be made ideal for all parties?

      Reasonable snow lol… How many times have I driven from clear roads right into white out, then back out into what appeared clear or settled, only to hit black ice or a backed up highway due to an accident and almost join in because someone behind me was being too ambitious or didn’t know the proper way to handle a car while sliding on ice…

      1. Em Too*

        I don’t agree. I don’t see any assumptions in the letter. OP seems to have been very understanding and isn’t imposing anything, she wants him to improve his attendance in any way that suits him. If that isn’t possible, maybe he needs a job which can offer more flexibility.

      2. Penny Lane*

        “It doesn’t mean he should be allowed to just not show up, but it does mean that every situation is unique and should be approached as such. It doesn’t necessarily mean he needs to be canned, but how can this situation be made ideal for all parties?”

        How is every situation unique? In major metropolitan areas across the country where millions upon millions of people live, the vast majority of them manage to get to work in the snow and it’s just not a big deal (unless it’s a blizzard or situation in which the weather reporters tell people to stay home). People who work in hospitals and nursing homes manage to get to work. Your gas and electric stay on because people who work at the utility companies manage to get to work. You can stop at the grocery store and stock up because people who work at grocery stores manage to get to work. You can check the forecast because the weatherman and all of the people supporting the broadcast manage to get to work.

        Now, I agree that shipping teapots or llama grooming may not be at the same level of importance as these other things, but there’s just a little too much special snowflake (ha! see what I did there?) about “I just don’t like to drive in snow.” Isn’t it fascinating that rain can be dangerous, but we don’t hear comments about not wanting to drive when it rains out? Everyone pretty much agrees that you take your umbrella, and you allow extra time, and that’s just part of life. You don’t get to skip out on life and responsibilities due to inclement weather, unless it’s particularly severe — and the OP isn’t talking about blizzards, he’s talking about a few inches in an area where there is sufficient infrastructure to deal with snow.

        1. Bea*

          Over here they run crews that are specifically categorized as “essential” and anyone on those crews will live pretty close. How many grocery cashiers live so far out they commute? Most of my retail working friends can walk to work if necessary, of course they can come in when it snows.

          I’ve never worked anywhere that flinched over someone deciding to stay home for snow in any capacity.

          However I think that the OP is getting caught up here because he has an absentee issue. If all he did was call out for snow, this post probably wouldn’t have happened. So now we’re all having a pissing match over snow safety. Ick.

      3. CheeryO*

        I really disagree with this, as someone who lives in a super snowy city. Obviously we’re not robots, so LW can have a degree of empathy and understanding for the employee, but the “ideal situation for all parties” is for the employee to figure out what it would take to get his butt to work on time so he can continue to be employed and get paid. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but that’s absolutely the culture in snowy places.

    2. El*

      As stated, when you live in an area which gets snow, you have to learn to deal with the situation. If employee can’t drive, then maybe he should carpool with a colleague. His job is client facing, so teleworking is not an option. If he can’t reliably get to work when colleagues who live nearby can, then perhaps he needs to find another job where he can telecommute.

      1. Yomi*

        My point is that “another person who lived nearby got here” isn’t a good metric for figuring out the situation for the employee in question. It’s actually nearly useless information in this situation, because there’s just too many factors at play, and generally should be dismissed as part of the process of thinking it all through.

        Yes, they should figure out a way to work this out. But looking at him and saying “Sue who lives a few miles away from you got here just fine so you must not have a problem and you’re lying” is not good management.

        1. Loose Seal*

          Once I lived in a cabin on top of a mountain in an area where lots of people had similar housing (in the U.S. south, FWIW). My boss lived in town about four blocks from work. Once, after a foot of snow overnight, I called saying I’d work from home. She said she’d come get me. I said I’d be ready when she got there. Three hours later she called saying it was ok if I stayed home. Turns out, she had been stuck in a snowbank for most of that time and had just gotten pulled out.

          She never questioned my judgment about road conditions again.

          1. Yomi*

            I’m sorry, that’s coming from the comments, not the letter writer. I admit that I projected a bit because of my own history of being told I was lying when I stated that my roads were unsafe, but there are definitely people in the comments saying that he is lying.

            1. Stardust*

              Not to be nitpicky or attack you personally, but I just did a search for “lying” and “lie” and the only comments mentioning it are your own. I feel like some commenters feel very personally invested in this letter because of their own past experience and project both a tone and a content that isn’t actually there. (Which you acknowledge you did, I’m speaking more generally.)

              1. Shiara*

                There are multiple comments talking about how he is only using the weather as an excuse to stay at home, some of which have a very strong implication that he is insincere about his level of discomfort about driving in snow. So I do think you are being a little nitpicky.

                I think it’s quite probable that this employee is sincere about his concern about the snow. But I don’t think that means the LW needs to just leave it alone. Based on what we know about his role, it’s not unreasonable for him to need to find a way to come in (whether that means walking through the worst of it for a few blocks to where someone can pick him up, getting up early enough to plow, planning for an uber or taxi, etc) or do a better job of communicating about it. “I might not be able to make it in because snow is forecast tomorrow” is a bit planning for failure and somewhat frustratingly oblivious to everyone else being in the same situation, which is what makes me suspect that there’s a snow culture mis-match between where he grew up and where he lives now. “As you know, my street is the last to get plowed, so I’ll be in once they get to it.” or “I’ll walk several blocks and take an uber from there/Susan will pick me up but we’ll be late” or something a bit more proactive and indicating that yes, he is taking getting to work seriously would probably go over better.

                1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Well, that is different than lying. Like, remarkably different.

                  I do not think the employee is lying – I do not think he is deliberately making up a story out of nowhere.

                  I DO, however, think the employee is using the snow as an excuse. The employee has an established history of absenteeism. The employee has had many, many reasons and excuses to miss a lot of work. The current reason is snow. And he may honestly feel that snow is why he is not coming in to work! But looking at the employee’s history, it sure looks like there is always one reason or another. The reason changes, the result is the same – poor attendance. So addressing just snow is not, IMO, really helpful.

                2. Risha*

                  @Jessie the First (or second) – That’s, uh, not actually what the definition of “lying” is. Using something as an excuse to call out when you don’t need to call out is, in fact, lying, regardless of whether or not that thing exists. Calling out for a headache because you’re in too much pain to work would be a lie if you had a headache but it was so mild that it had no impact on your ability to work.

                3. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Risha, I thought I explained my thought process pretty clearly but I can try again. Lying, as Yoni appears to be using it to berate those of us who are more harsh towards the employee, implies a deliberate intent. For me, that implication is not correct, and just because I do not think snow is the actual reason does not mean I think the employee is lazy or malicious – does not even mean I think the employee is not sincerely convinced he needs the day of for real and true.

                  So, aside from the dictionary definition of lying, which isn’t really what I was trying to debate, what I got from Yoni’s comment was an *implication* that I think is not true of the comments here. Also, not relevant anyway, as snow is the current reason to be out of work, but there have been plenty of others.

              2. MCMonkeyBean*

                People can say someone is lying without using the word liar. I saw someone say he was pulling as “snow job” and others saying he was just being lazy…

        2. Someone else*

          But the current metric seems to be “nearly everyone except this particular person got here”. I completely agree that some people who come from very snowy climates moving to a less-snowy area can be cavalier and not realize that the non-snowy place simply isn’t as equipped to handle as much snow as they are personally used to, and thus it may be more dangerous than one’s personal idea of “a lot of snow”. That’s not the sitch here. The OP commented this is a very snowy area and the employee in question is originally from there. I do think the rule of thumb is: if some government entity has said only emergency vehicles on the road, or even a lesser warning “if you don’t need to drive, don’t” then it’s reasonable for any employee, not just this one, to hesitate. But it sounds like this employee’s personal threshold appears to “it has snowed. at all.” Most of the time, that’s way too low a threshold to be reasonable for calling out of work. We don’t know yet if this person does live much farther away, more rural area, something else that makes their commute more dangerous than 90% of their colleagues. That’s why it’s worth it for the OP to ask the employee what’s up. I don’t see people suggesting she should blanket tell him “deal” without discussing it further, but I do think there’s a high probability he doesn’t have reasonable mitigating circumstances for this degree of absenteeism.

    3. Tassie Tiger*

      Yomi, I don’t know if I will ever be a manager, but if I do become one, and have to deal with snow days, I will remember your wise comment. Thank you, it’s really insightful.

    4. Engineer Girl*

      Clearly your boss had higher standards than you.
      Your description of driving in snow sounds pretty normal though. Most of us have done a donut or two. You learn.
      I hate to say it, but most of us learn to deal with it. It may be leaving earlier, getting a ride with a friend, or buying a beat up truck. But you’re expected to get to work. If you can’t then you do need to consider a different job.

      1. Yomi*

        If your job isn’t life or death, then why should your commute potentially be?

        Doing a donut or two and saying “well, that’s just what it’s like to drive” is just an attitude that I will never fall in line with because that harmless donut can easily at any second become deadly, or extremely costly when it totals your car, and for what really?

        There are a lot of things that people do every day in cars that are actually extremely dangerous and extremely risky, but have become commonplace in their lives and they no longer notice the behavior. That doesn’t mean that they then get to turn around and insist someone else adopt their risky behaviors.

        If the employer can’t figure out how to actually reach a compromise with the employee on this kind of thing then yeah, they should consider a different job, because their management isn’t very good.

        1. El*

          I disagree. LW is doing her best to figure out what’s going on – just like good managers do. If the employee has some kind of anxiety, that’s on him to ask for accommodation.

          1. Lilo*

            I agree – employers are not required to compromise on unreasonable absenteeism. If an employee is going beyond the norm of absences the onus is on them to ask for accommmodation (like providing a doctor’s note if you are out sick for two weeks). It sounds like employee has pushed boundaries in the past. Wanting an employee to show up is not unreasonable.

          2. Yomi*

            I don’t think the letter writer is being a bad manager. I think the advice that is being given in the comments would lead to bad management.

            I do think the letter writer is very understandably frustrated with his past behavior and it’s leading them to make some assumptions about the present situation that they need should try not to let color the conversation with their employee before they even have it. And I don’t think they’re necessarily going to do that because venting frustrations in a letter to an anonymous advice column is a far cry from sitting him down in a meeting and saying “I think you’re making this up to get out of work and I’m sick of it.”

            There’s a lot of reasons he might not be making it in during bad weather, anxiety is only one of them. The LW needs to know what the reason is before they can act. And there’s every indication that’s what they are planning on doing.

            1. TL -*

              I don’t actually think the LW needs to know what the reasons are. It would certainly be nice if the LW helped point him towards resources, but what the LW needs is for her employee to come in reliably 12 months of the year instead of 9.

            2. neverjaunty*

              You’re projecting a lot of assumptions onto the LW from your own situation, which sounds entirely different.

        2. NYC Weez*

          Agreed 100% with this. I live in an area that gets a LOT of snow, and I’m no stranger to mandatory commutes with 10” clogging the roads. Over time, I’ve grown tired with the whole attitude that every employee is so critical to the infrastructure that we all need to suck it up and drive in. Sure, if you are emergency services, then your work is life or death. But here’s what happens to everyone else. We spend 40 minutes digging out. Our normally 30 minute commute takes 1.5 hours. We get to the office and our clients don’t show up or there’s only a tenth of the usual customers or Bob in accounting that we absolutely needed to talk to decided to stay home today bc his kids were off from school. So you can’t do the 2-3 things you specifically dragged yourself in to do. After your shift you have to dig out from the extra 1-2” that fell during the day, and then you are trying to drive home, and the roads are somewhat better but now someone got going too fast and caused a fender bender so you get stuck in a snarl trying to get by the scene. And we all go through the ordeal because everyone else is doing it.

          What I like about Current Job is that pretty much 95% of the staff is provided with the technology to do our jobs remotely. First, it makes it a lot easier for business trips, and second, I never have to stress about driving in on snowy days. I can take all of my meetings, produce all of the needed work, AND stay safe and cozy on my couch in my pjs. Since all of my coworkers have the same tech, we still collaborate and stay productive. It’s actually flipped around now where sometimes I will choose to drive in with lower snowfalls because I know I can have the office to myself.

          1. Lady Bug*

            Agreed. Employees who can work from home should be able to in a significant snow storm. Most jobs are not life or death situations. Manufacturers can adjust their hours the remainder if the week to make up for lost time. Office jobs can be done remotely. My attitude about requiring people to come into work changed after a particularly bad storm in NY (where we are fairly good at snow removal – except by midwest standards) where the roads became clogged with cars stuck in a foot of snow on the main roads during the Friday night commute and many people ended up sleeping in their cars that night.

            However, there is a difference between flurries, average snow, ice and blizzard conditions, and a difference on what each individual’s car is capable of handling and the conditions at their particular house, and a difference in public transportation options, and the reliability of those public transportation options (looking at you LIRR leaving me at a station 20 miles from my station). The attitude that you have a job you have to show up just boggles the mind. Some jobs yes, and those who are in those critical jobs have my ultimate respect for making the sacrifices they do, but for most office jobs it shouldn’t be required in dangerous conditions.

            For this employee it sounds like there are other issues with attendance and the snow is just another part of that.

            1. paul*

              This doesn’t sound like it’s only been an issue in significant snowstorms though; it sounds like it’s been an issue any time it snows. In a significant part of the country just deciding not to work anytime it snows at all isn’t going to work

        3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Driving is dangerous. Every commute is potentially life and death. It’s crappy, but it’s something we all need to deal with (or make choices that allow us to not deal with it– choose a career where we can work from home, move to an apartment in a downtown location and only choose employers located on the same block, make an arrangement with our partner that we won’t work at all, etc.).

          Of course those are big, life-altering choices to make — it limits where you can live, how much money you can earn, what kind of work you can do, who you can marry, etc. But so is deciding to draw a very tight line around the type of weather that we will drive in. It’s ok to make that choice, but it’s not unreasonable that it will have some consequences.

        4. Penny Lane*

          “Doing a donut or two and saying “well, that’s just what it’s like to drive” is just an attitude that I will never fall in line with because that harmless donut can easily at any second become deadly, or extremely costly when it totals your car, and for what really?”

          Driving in general is full of risks, though. At any moment, the car in front of you could suddenly slam on its brakes, and you slam right into it. A rogue driver could run the red light and slam into you when you are fully following the law. You can’t let your fears run your life, though. There is a certain amount of resilience and flexibility that you need your coworkers/employees to have.

        5. fposte*

          Your commute is *always* life or death. Every single time. It doesn’t even matter if you’re in a car or not. Dark, wet, snow can all heighten the risk, but it’s not like people who die in commuting only do it in the snow. You’re drawing a bright line where there isn’t one.

      2. Project Manager*

        Doing a donut or two is normal? Well, that is terrifying and only reinforces my determination to never live anywhere that gets snow.

        That being said, if this employee chose to live somewhere with snow, then he has to find a solution. Mine would be moving, probably while sobbing hysterically, but to each his own.

        1. Miss Betty*

          It’s not, or shouldn’t be, normal. If someone’s routinely doing donuts on the road every winter, they’re an unsafe driver. They scare me, because they’re the kind that think it’s ok to drive the same speed on icy roads as on dry ones and who don’t take black ice into account. Unfortunately, we have to watch out for them every winter. (They almost certainly aren’t watching out for anyone else.) It’s true that you can end up in a ditch in winter no matter how careful you are. Still, when I see a car 10 feet on the other side of the ditch, sitting in the cornfield, facing the wrong direction – especially if they’re the only car off the road – I tend to think the driver is one of those who believe that doing a few donuts every winter is normal.

        2. Penny Lane*

          Doing a donut or two is not a normal occurrence with snow. (Anyway, it’s ice that is the problem to drive on, not snow.) Snow just means you have to go more slowly and allow extra distance between yourself and other cards, and don’t try to do things like go through a tight yellow light.

        3. CheeryO*

          No, it’s not normal, but it’s pretty typical to have a few scary moments when you’re learning how to drive in the snow (usually skidding into a snowbank or across an intersection because you accelerated or decelerated too quickly). That’s why it’s a good idea to learn how your car handles in the snow by practicing somewhere safe, like in an empty parking lot.

          1. KAG*

            That’s how I learned to drive in the snow – in a rental on the NJ Turnpike during a blizzard. Fortunately (?) my manager at the time was of the “the more hours in the office the better” ilk so common in certain NYC fields that I was the only person on the parkway at that point. Spun out every three minutes or so before I realized that brakes are NOT your friend in certain conditions.

            Still, if you need to learn to drive in snow, I’d recommend an empty parking lot over working for a similar manager.

        4. Engineer Girl*

          It’s normal within a lifetime of snow and ice driving. Like getting stuck when you stop at a stop sign.
          I realize a lot of posters are younger than I am. When I was younger we grew up with a LOT more snow. I’m now seeing hysteria in the media about snow that would be “normal” when I was growing up.
          I realize a huge part of this is perspective.
          I’m not advocating driving on icy mountain roads. I am however, encouraging people to learn how to drive thier cars in less than optimal conditions.
          BTW, my “I think I’m gonna die” moment actually happened in the rain when the 2 trailer big rig jack knifed and folded up in a Z while doing 50 mph. I was driving a small car at the time so was able to brake fast enough.
          Driving is dangerous in any condition because you can’t control the other drivers.
          Oh, and calling me a risky person? I actually do risk management. I probably analyze situations more than others?

          1. LBK*

            When I was younger we grew up with a LOT more snow. I’m now seeing hysteria in the media about snow that would be “normal” when I was growing up.

            FWIW the data doesn’t really bear this out, at least in the US. ’95 had several large storms but prior to that the last time there were as many big storms as there have been in the last few years was in ’60-’61. If that was when you were growing up it’s kind of just coincidence, it didn’t continue to snow as heavily every year for the 50 years in between then and now.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              Please provide a reference. According to Weather Channel there were multiple cat 5 storms when I was growing up.
              Also remember that it isn’t always about the snow. Ice storms can be far worse than snow storms.

    5. Knitting Cat Lady*

      By that reasoning many people in Germany wouldn’t be able to go to work for weeks in winter…

      If you live in an area where snow is common driving in it is a skill you really need to learn.

      It’s not difficult.

      1. Yomi*

        Because the letter writer hasn’t had the conversation with the employee, there’s no way to know if the problem is a matter of skill or not. There’s too many variables to know until they ask. That’s my point, that you can’t make assumptions about another person’s circumstances with something as intertwined with personal safety as driving in inclement weather. You have to find out because it’s an individual circumstance, not a one size fits all.

        We also have no idea where the letter writer is, so a lot of people (myself included) are assuming that their weather is like a type of weather that either a-is what they are used to or b-fits their argument.

        But it’s really beside the point. It doesn’t matter what people in Germany do. It doesn’t matter what somebody across the street does.

        It matters what this one employee is and isn’t able to do and why. And what the employer is and isn’t able to accomodate. And that’s a conversation only the two of them can have and a compromise only the two of them can make.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          The way the letter reads to me is this:

          Employee had been able to come in in snowy weather before last year.

          Last year there was lots of stress and employee stopped driving in snow.

          And that lots of snow is a regular occurrence where they live.

          If the weather is bad and I can’t get to work because of it I a) don’t get payed for the day or b) take a vacation day.

          It is my responsibility as an employee to make sure I’m able to reach work consistently.

          If I can’t drive in a certain type of weather that is common in the area I live in I have to make alternative arrangements.

          If the problem is ‘Schools are closed and I have no alternative child care’ things are different.

        2. Myrin*

          I’ve said this above but I feel like it bears repeating – the snow issue seems like a bit of a red herring. It’s just the current manifestation of an overall problem with this employee who has (or used to have) “frequent, last-minute absences or sudden departures halfway through the workday”.

          If this were a medical issue in any way, the point to bring that up was when OP had her AAM-script-supported conversation with him.
          For what it’s worth, from everything described in the letter it sounds to me like this employee is one of these people who just always have Something Happening To Them (we had an interesting discussion about this on here last year or so, I’ll go see if I can find it) and additionally like he’s either pretty cavalier about absences or doesn’t really have a good internal sense for what is appropriate re: absences and what isn’t. I have a slight feeling that it’s the former mixed with generally being stressed out easily, because of the fact that after his conversation with OP, his behaviour “improved immediately and hasn’t been a problem”.
          (Of course it’s entirely possible still that there’s some medical reason behind many of his absences and after OP’s intervention, he just decided to power through those but again, in that case and if it’s affecting him to such a strong degree, he needs to talk to OP about it proactively and not wait for her to draw details out of him.)

          1. Al Lo*

            I interact in a professional capacity with someone who always has Something Happening To Them, and it’s certainly easy for that to drain goodwill really fast. Any one of this person’s excuses would be cause for sympathy; three is a stretch of bad luck; the number that we hear are increasingly difficult to take seriously.

            In my experience, Something Happening is often a combination of genuine bad luck/circumstance, poor planning/lack of foresight, and the need for more or better self-care and insight into the ways in which one’s actions impact one’s surroundings/interactions.

            1. TL -*

              I always think of people who Always Have Something Happening is that they always plan for things to go exactly perfectly and so things often snowball out of proportion because they’re planning for a version of life that doesn’t exist. (I am prone to this magical thinking when hitting my snooze button!)

              I do know people who just can’t catch a break, but generally it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between someone who’s having life thrown at them without mercy and someone who has 16 million different excuses every other day for why their circumstances are special.

            2. Veronica UK*

              Agreed – we had a similar situation. I didn’t doubt that the absences were genuine, but they were too frequent in a way that affected the rest of the team, so we had to have a conversation about expectations.

              We checked to see if there was anything else going on that accommodation from us would help with, encouraged the person to take the holiday they had accrued and had been encouraged to take previously, and part of the conversation was around carrying out the self-care to ensure you’re fit and healthy the majority of the time.

              Everyone gets ill every now and again, but when you’ve run yourself into the ground, or you’re not taking time off when you can and have been encouraged to, you’re that much more vulnerable. When that personal decision starts affecting the team through frequent absences, you do have a responsibility to start taking care of yourself to get your health back up to where it needs to be (long term health issues aside, of course, these were colds/viruses and the like), and seek out medical help if attempts to self-manage are unsuccessful.

              Happy to say in this instance it resolved itself very quickly, holidays were taken, and illness-related absences have returned to normal levels.

            3. PlainJane*

              THIS. It also seems to be an issue of prioritization, as in work is far down the priority list compared to other stuff happening in their lives. There are things that should be prioritized ahead of work (like your health and safety and that of your family), but since work keeps most of us housed, fed, and clothed, it needs to be a pretty high priority. I advise interns and entry-level employees: be as reliable as you can–including during minor crises–so that when you must miss work, people will understand and not see your genuine emergency as yet another excuse.

          2. neverjaunty*

            Exactly this.

            I know people like this who get upset for not being cut slack because “but I really did have the flu / car trouble / a snowed-in driveway!” Yes, and you had something else the last several times that you ditched and people had to work around your absence, possibly at the expense of dealing with their own Things Happening, so why are you continually shocked that people are less than sympathetic?

        3. Penny Lane*

          “We also have no idea where the letter writer is, so a lot of people (myself included) are assuming that their weather is like a type of weather that either a-is what they are used to or b-fits their argument.”

          We don’t need to know the specific city to know that this is clearly an area where they get snow regularly and there is an infrastructure to deal with it (roads plowed, etc.), AND a societal expectation that regular snow does not generally prohibit someone from coming into work, which is the same societal expectation that great swathes of the US (and all of Canada) live under.

        4. LBK*

          Because the letter writer hasn’t had the conversation with the employee, there’s no way to know if the problem is a matter of skill or not. There’s too many variables to know until they ask.

          I don’t think it’s really the employer’s problem, though. If someone moved to the suburbs after living in the city their whole lives and relying on public transportation, it wouldn’t be up to the employer to teach them how to drive and get them a license; it’s up to you to figure out what you need to do in order to be able to get to work consistently. If this employee absolutely refuses to drive if there’s any snow and he’s in a place where it snows regularly, maybe he needs to live closer to the office or somewhere that his office would be accessible via public transit (that’s why I do because I hate driving in general, never mind in the snow, and I live in Boston so it would be a regular occurrence).

    6. Dram Llama*

      This isn’t about what’s understandable and what’s not, though. The company has a need for employees to turn up to work. If an employee is unable to do that, for whatever reason, they’re not the right fit for the role.

      1. SunshineOH*

        This, exactly. All the discussion about weather, anxiety, he’s lying, he’s not lying… all irrelevant. He’s needed in the office to do the job. That’s what the OP has to focus on. The reason for the absences is not her concern. Same as excessive sick days or last minute PTO.

    7. LDN Layabout*

      You chose to live where you live. You chose what kind of car you drive. You chose not to have alternative options for getting into the office. Your employer is not responsible for /your/ choices.

      If the majority of people can get into the office and someone’s circumstances aren’t so different to their coworkers, an employer is entitled to question why someone can’t. If it’s a regular thing, an employer can’t be expected to give as much leeway as it sounds the employee in the letter is getting.

      I get it, wintery weather sucks. I live in London, we get under an inch of snow and the city goes insane. On the day of traffic and public transport chaos, my employer would expect me to work from home. But my walk to the tube is often frozen over to a horrific extent for several days following snow. It’s slippery and awful and I end up on my arse an awful lot, but I’d never expect to call into work and say that even though yes, I am risking injury to do so. Because I chose where I live and I know what happens when we have these events.

      1. TL -*

        Off-topic, but you know you can get micro spikes for your boots that’ll help a lot with traction – little nubby ones for slippery bits and actual spikes for thicker sheets? (You may already and choose not to use them but if you don’t, they slip on and off, weigh almost nothing, and are brilliant for providing traction on ice.)

        1. LDN Layabout*

          No and I’m definitely looking these up, thank you!

          (Part of it for me is fear to be honest, I managed to crack my head open on frozen concrete one time and I stiffen up immediately when there’s ice…which means I walk in a way that’s more likely to make me fall)

          1. TL -*

            https://kahtoola.com/product/microspikes/
            If you have thick sheets or long stretches of ice, this brand is the priciest but they’re worth it – they grip better than anything but crampons and they are durable as all get-out, plus you can refile if they ever get dull.

            If it’s just patches of ice, or a thin, easily broken layer, you can save yourself some money and get something that looks like this: https://www.rei.com/product/806475/yaktrax-icetrekkers-diamond-grip-traction-system

            You’re welcome! I love any chance to talk winter gear :) :) :)

          2. TL -*

            I have a comment with two different brands and comments about which one for which conditions in moderation.

            Hey, there’s something out there which can make your walk safer – it doesn’t matter why you need it, as long as you can stop falling!

            1. MCL*

              YES! I actually put this in the “what items make your work life better” thread from earlier this week, because my winter commute here in Wisconsin is 1000% improved by YakTrax.

        2. Anna*

          I bought some last year when we got a bit more snow than normal. I leave them in my car because I’m probably going to need them when I’m headed into the office.

      2. LBK*

        And not to mention that even if someone does have unique circumstances, that’s…not really the employee’s problem? I mean, I had a coworker who was commuting to Boston from NH every day. If snow kept screwing up his commute or making it unsafe for him to drive that far, it seems to me that the obvious solution would be for him to get a job closer to where he lived. It wouldn’t be up to the employer to just say “well, that’s understandable, so you’re okay to not come in even though everyone else does.”

    8. Wintermute*

      You make some very good points, but I think that you’re missing a few things. First, this employee has a history of work avoidance, which certainly does inform the responses.

      Second of all, depending on where you live, weather really isn’t an excuse that’s viable. I work supporting and administering over a 24/7 network with safety and public interest implications. We must have coverage. Not every job is like mine but having lived in Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, if we called in for every snowstorm… there’d be years where we took weeks straight off work. Businesses have to be open for business, even a novelty teapot shop won’t be able to pay the rent if it’s closed too many days. It’s not fair to expect other employees to shoulder an unfair share of the burden.

      At the end of the day you need to take steps to ensure your reliability. If your car is too light, bad in snow, etc. you have to look at a new car. If you live in a rural area you might have to move. At a certain point it is not unreasonable for a boss to ask employees to actually do their job.

      Now, if this employee had no history of avoidance of work and the incidents were much less frequent then yes 110% you are correct. Managers shouldn’t second-guess employees any more than necessary, but there are times it is necessary.

      1. Academic Addie*

        +1 to all of this. I’m not reading anyone saying that the employee needs to crawl if he has to to get to work. But getting to your job might well be a requirement of your job, and employees need to be prepared for that. Some comments are very focused on fairness to the employee who wants to take snow days, but there are also other employees to consider and who are affected by his behavior.

    9. Mrs Kate*

      I agree, but then the employee should know their limited in advance and plan PTO. Or discuss WFH possibilities. Not call out morning-of saying s/he can’t get out of the driveway. That’s a major eye roll for me, especially from someone with attendance issues.

    10. Colette*

      You choose where you live and what (or if) you drive. Frankly, it’s not your employer’s problem. If you don’t want to drive in normal snow, you need to figure out how to manage your life. Some options: taking the bus, carpooling, or getting a job where you can work from home. If you can’t do any of those, you may need to move closer to work or accept that you won’t be able to take a job.

      1. Allison*

        Yeah, I agree. Living in New England means either knowing how to get yourself to work on snowy, icy mornings (and knowing when it is okay to call out), or getting a job with WFH flexibility that works for you. Or you move to an area with a warmer climate where snow isn’t a problem.

    11. Future Homesteader*

      I appreciate this comment. I’m really of two minds on this. I’ve spent my entire life in snowy areas and feel pretty confident driving in snow. But I’ve also had my share of near misses, and certainly don’t trust other drivers to always know what they’re doing or be safe. I think in general we tend to be too cavalier about nature and our ability to overcome it – it really doesn’t take much to turn roads dangerous, and one careless person or one deceptive patch are all it takes to turn a snowy-but-doable commute into a nightmare. That said, we unfortunately live in a society where the show must go on, and for the majority of people the majority of the time, it’s not a life-or-death issue. I don’t know what the answer is, but I do agree that we need to pay more attention to our conditions and should all be more cognizant of the potential hazards, and more understanding of people not willing to take the same risks, for whatever reasons.

    12. spock*

      Thank you for this. I understand the employer needs people to do their jobs but all these “snow is not a big deal” comments really aren’t generous with all the assumptions they’re making.

      1. El*

        I don’t think people are saying “snow is not a big deal” at all. They’re saying that when you live in an area which gets snow in winter, you learn to work around it.

  13. Lilo*

    For snow days, I think a reasonable standard is “is school open”. That call is usually made by people whose job it is to think about road safety. It gives a clear, checkable standard and is forgiving for those who would have a childcare problem.

    1. Ebircs*

      In my seventh or eighth grade year, we missed three solid weeks of school. It would snow three inches between 6-8 a.m., and because my school district had kids who literally lived on gravel roads and lots of hills, they’d close school because it was too dangerous to drive. Then it would stop snowing. Repeat the next morning. For three weeks. I don’t know any businesses that also shut down. The parents of the kids who lived on those gravel roads or hills pretty much all had big trucks or vehicles specifically to be able to get out of snowy situations and to work.

  14. banana&tanger*

    Regarding #2, I live in an isolated area where every health organization is constantly trying to recruit from elsewhere. If a hospital is traveling someone for an in-person interview, they book the airfare and always interview on a Friday or Monday. They make it impossible for you to interview with someone else on their dime by controlling flight times and scheduling full day interviews. They’ll usually let you stay over a weekend to find housing or explore. But you’re gone before the next business day.

  15. Loose Seal*

    #1 — Is it possible where you live to tie expected attendance due to weather to school closure? What I mean is that if he is traditionally calling off work but schools are open, perhaps you could direct him to the school closing announcements and tell him that if schools are open but he feels he can’t come in, he has to use a vacation day for it.

    That will depend greatly on how often schools close in your area due to weather but since you describe plow services, etc., I thought maybe your schools are used to staying open except in the most extreme conditions.

    1. Grits McGee*

      If OP in the US, there’s also the OPM Operating Status. (Though, caveat- I don’t know how useful or responsive it is to weather conditions outside of the D.C. area.)

    2. SallytooShort*

      ” he has to use a vacation day for it.”

      I assume he’s taking PTO for missing the day regardless. If the office isn’t closed they probably make him take time.

    3. Kvothe*

      The rule of thumb in most snowy areas for not being required to come in is if public transit shuts down…schools often close for forecasts rather than actual weather conditions

      1. fposte*

        I think that’s too variable to be a rule of thumb, but I agree that school closings are too common in a lot of areas to build an office policy on.

        1. KellyK*

          It might work in one direction but not the other. That is, you don’t necessarily get the day off if schools close, but if school *isn’t* closed, you need to be there.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, yes, true; I was thinking more about the public transit rule, which I think is limited to conurbations with serious public transit. The state of public transit doesn’t even rate a mention in the weather warnings here, whereas the school bus situation is right up there.

            The school closing issue doesn’t really get any traction at my workplace because we’re in higher ed, and our school’s official policy, reiterated pretty much annually, is that the university does *not* close for weather. That’ll be us at our desks when the floods come.

            1. LBK*

              And IME public transportation shutdowns are less about safety and more about whether they’re physically able to operate or not, which isn’t necessarily a great metric for whether people should be driving. In this most recent storm in Boston they were asking non-essential personnel to stay off the roads but the MBTA stayed operational the entire time, including most of the buses.

        2. Kvothe*

          That’s a fair point, maybe going by if local government offices are closed would be a better indicator?

  16. Jayna*

    I had a boss who would threaten us, similar to #5. And he did this even when he would lag and delay our pay for weeks.

  17. Laura H*

    Lw#1, the absenteeism is an issue and it seems like your employee’s communication timing is bothering you. (The morning of/ after the day has started for your employee) Is there a way to address that aspect?

    So I live where we just had an ice storm and a derp freeze that lasted several days in the south. I don’t drive- i take transit on the weekdays. I wasn’t working Tuesday during the brunt of it (we were closed that day I later found out.) I was scheduled to work on Wednesday, but I knew that if the bus did not take me in because roads were still icy, there was no way I was asking someone else to.

    I sent an email Tuesday afternoon to that effect, stating that if those conditions happened, I’d call in and miss my shift. Turned out to be unnecessary-we had a delayed opening Wed,-but it certainly saved me a bit of fretting.

    All of these issues unaddressed is a perfect storm for disaster waiting to happen. (Bad pun sorry.) Address them, get a system in place, remind him of the policy on communicating a missed workday in a timely manner. Good luck OP!

  18. Triplestep*

    #4 – I don’t think it’s wrong to take an “anything can happen” approach about Jane, but I don’t think you can phone screen someone at what is essentially the end of a successful search, and then cite “bad timing” when you reject them. The timing is only bad because you’ve chosen to add to your candidate pool at this late stage. I get that you are trying to make the rejection sting less, but they are likely to wonder why their time was wasted on a phone interview if you were ready to hire someone else.

    I actually had this happen to me, and while the person did not cite “bad timing” (that would have made it worse) I did wonder why we were even talking if someone else was so close to getting an offer. I resented having my hopes raised, and having spent time preparing for the phone interview. In the end I decided that the best case scenario was that they were fibbing, but they had stronger candidates after the initial round of phone interviews and didn’t know how to say that. I don’t know why they thought I’d rather hear “oh, too bad – we just made an offer” days after my phone screen! I’d use Alison’s script without mentioning timing.

    1. OP #4*

      I totally understand, and I feel bad for getting a candidate’s hopes up! However, you *never* know if the candidate you make an offer to will accept. This particular candidate seems very interested and we gave her an offer, but now she’s asking for way more money than we can pay her (and that is really reasonable for the role). Thus, we may actually be moving the recently-screened applicants forward and I will be thankful we have them in the pipeline.

      1. Triplestep*

        Yes as I said, I don’t blame you for covering your bases by continuing to consider others besides Jane. My point is that you don’t get to *create* the bad timing and then say “oops, sorry! Bad timing!” Just leave out any mention of bad timing in your rejection, and no one will ever need to know how close you were to the end of your search when you added them to the pool.

        1. tangerineRose*

          How about “We found someone who was a stronger candidate, but you’re a very strong candidate, and if we have another opening in your field, I hope you apply.”

          1. Triplestep*

            Perfect; says all it needs to and nothing it doesn’t.

            It sounds like in this case, the late entries to the candidate pool might get a shot to go further in the process, but the original question to Alison was “how do I tell them ‘if the timing were different … I’d move forward’ “. If the goal is to spare their feelings, then they really don’t need to be told (although not in so many words) that they were “safety” late late additions to the pool.

  19. Lynatta*

    #1: If the employee is not native to an area with snowy weather that may contribute to his hesitation to drive in it.

    1. neverjaunty*

      If that’s the case, then he isn’t a good fit for this position. “But I’m not used to the normal and expected weather here” is not a reason to ditch work.

      1. Mookie*

        I realize you’re describing the action, not the reason, but I wouldn’t characterize it as a ditch.

        As for whether this is part of his old pattern: when he was told, more or less, that his job was on the line because he was taking too many absences or early-leaves, he straightened up. This sounds not like skivving, but like he’s got a problem traveling in these conditions. That may mean he needs to find another job or another form of transportation that doesn’t require him to drive, but it isn’t as far-fetched an excuse as some commenters are characterizing it. The intent matters because the LW ultimately needs to know now whether she can work with him, whether he’ll address this like he addressed the other behavior, or suggest that he find employment elsewhere.

        1. Yorick*

          I’m not sure I agree that this demonstrates an actual problem with the weather. He straightened up for a bit, but this may be him sliding back into his old pattern.

      2. Southern Transplant*

        So someone who moves from say, Florida to New York is a bad fit for a position? Perhaps he had no choice in the move. I’ve lived all over the US. People who are used to winter would laugh at the gulf coast. Google Highway 59 Houston Storm. You’ll see (from just days ago) what a mere “dusting” will do to non-snow folks.

        1. CityMouse*

          Not to be harsh, but if you move to a city with different weather, you do need to learn to deal with it. I’ve learned to drive in both the blinding rain of Miami and the snowstorms of Chicago – it takes a little practice, but it’s not unreasonable. You certainly can’t call out of work in Chicago every time it’s icy and snowy – you’d likely miss the entire months of January and February, at least.

          1. nonymous*

            while I agree with the sentiment, I also think that there’s a learning curve (usually the first season) to develop skills and observe norms. Ideally, OP#1 should have had this conversation the first winter in a friendly manner – although coworkers’ ribbing will often do the trick as well. If the employee is especially clueless or sheltered, OP will need to be direct.

            For example, when the first predicted snowfall came up, our local admin circulated info with the website and phone number for info about whether our campus was closed. We also have a policy that those who can telework are expected to (so remember to take your laptop home!) even if the campus is closed. It makes it really easy to figure out when to ask for accommodation.

            1. CityMouse*

              I don’t think they had this conversation last year because the absenteeism involved other things. After all – leaving halfway through the day has nothing to do with snow.

              It honestly sounds like the snow is just the new excuse. The snow seems to be a total red herring here.

        2. Penny Lane*

          Someone who moves from one part of the country to another has to adjust to deal with the climate in their new region, yes; that’s part of being an adult.

          The person who moves from NY to Florida has to buy more shorts, get used to wearing sunglasses all year round, stock up on sunscreen, and deal with different (and more!) kinds of bugs around their house. And the person who moves from Florida to NY has to buy a winter coat/hat/mittens, get used to days without sunshine, buy a snow shovel, and keep a scraper in their car.

        3. fposte*

          In addition to what other people are saying, you’re going to land other people with a greater work burden if you call out for weather that doesn’t stop anybody else. That’s not fair.

        4. neverjaunty*

          Someone who moves from Florida to New York and then insists that they can’t come to work when it snows is a bad fit for a job that needs employees to be present, yes. Setting aside the fact that we have zero facts suggesting this guy is an unwilling transplant, I’m really not following the argument that people who grew up in the area or who aren’t as unreliable as this guy should have to suck it up and drive in the winter, but he gets a pass.

        5. Rusty Shackelford*

          So someone who moves from say, Florida to New York is a bad fit for a position?

          Someone who applies for a position that requires coverage and can’t be done from home, who will find it difficult or impossible to get to the office more than other employees? Yeah, that person is probably a bad fit for that position.

  20. rj*

    I’m from a place in Canada that gets snow. If you can’t get to work in the snow there, it is on you. If a person lives in a place with snow, they will (should know at least) about snow tires. In my former state (ohio) local governments routinely called for emergencies in weather that at home would never be considered an emergency. I now live in the south. If there’s snow, things are shut down (logically). It’s very location dependent. Basically, if your other employees make it, it is a good rule of thumb.

    1. Scott*

      Amazingly most provinces do not require winter tires. I’m from Quebec where it’s required, but it amazes me that pretty much the rest of Canada is so cavalier about it. The difference is night and day, and could save your life (and others around you).

      1. Anon lady*

        On a provincial-wide basis, I’m pretty sure it’s just QC that requires snow tires! There are some provinces where snow tires or chains and studs are required on some roads, though – BC does that. But it’s ridiculous – I lived in Ontario when studded tires were illegal, which made for awful driving up north.

      2. rj*

        I know! I’m from Ottawa, which means that more people have snow tires (because lots of people know people or work on the Quebec side in Gatineau. I don’t know why more people don’t get them. It’s so much better!

        1. Anon lady*

          I live in Alberta, and even here I know a lot of people who never get winter tires. It’s pretty horrifying when you consider that winter road maintenance in my city is close to non-existent compared to southern and eastern Ontario.

      3. Engineer Girl*

        But snow tires have longer stopping distance on pavement. You really only want them if you’re sure you’ll have snow. If it is mixed you’ll do better with regular tires or mud and rain tires.

        1. DArcy*

          The key point is that snow tires are not the same thing as winter tires. Snow tires are a highly specialized subtype of winter tires which are SOLELY AND EXCLUSIVELY optimized for driving in snow and have terribad traction on anything other than snow.

          1. Scott*

            Terrible is an exaggeration. I’ve driven into June once with M&S (mud and snow with the legally required snowflake icon on it), and the only thing that really happens is your fuel efficiency goes down, and your tires wear out very quick. And the traction any car has regardless of the specific rubber compound on snow is inherently bad, but you’re much better off with winter tire technology.

  21. it_guy*

    LW#1 – I used to live in a rural area, and when the schools were closed, none of the back roads were plowed. I used to tell my boss that if the schools were closed, I would take a day of PTO or work from home. Since your employee can’t feasibly work from home, you could address it that if schools are open you have no excuse not to be in the office. That’s not an ideal suggestion, but it would be a good place to start.

  22. Stormy*

    LW #1 I live on a very steep dead-end street, which becomes impossible to climb in even the slightest winter weather. I’ve been informed by my town that street cleaning is prioritized by traffic patterns, so I’m SOL in requesting quicker plow response. Often we’re not dug out until early afternoon. It’s entirely possible that your employee DOES have a harder time navigating snow than other employees–but that’s his problem to solve. When bad weather is forecasted, I park in the development behind mine, and walk out my back door and through two neighbor’s yards (with their permission, of course!) to get to my car.

    You also mention illness. Could that be a factor? I had an older boss at a former job who used up her PTO to stay home during bad weather. When we had a particularly brutal winter and she started taking unpaid time, HR intervened and had a sit-down with her. General aging, poor vision, and hand tremors were all factors that led to her becoming gun-shy regarding her driving skills. The situation was untenable, and she was basically forced into retirement. Last I heard, she had moved to Florida and and was working part-time.

  23. Delta Delta*

    #5 – Oh, I used to work with a terrible boss who used to threaten this all the time. We had an employee dare to go home at 5:00 one day. This was bad optics for the boss who believed everyone had to burn the candle at both ends every day. Threatened to dock his pay for going home “early” (but was really the time when the office closed). Bad Boss also wanted to meet with an employee on a weekend day to work on a project. There was legitimate miscommunication, and employee didn’t come in. Boss didn’t try to call him to follow up on where he was. Instead, he just puffed that he was going to dock his pay for not coming in.

    I don’t work there anymore. Neither do those other 2 employees. I kind of think that threatening to not pay people is not really the most effective way to get things worked out.

  24. sunshyne84*

    My city shuts down for ice, I can’t imagine living somewhere I’d have to have a snow plan to get to work. :(

    #3 Is it possible to contact someone at the company directly and maybe see if they can suggest you directly? I don’t know how that works. Seems like they are sending new people every time, but also asking you again just in case.

  25. A.V.*

    OP #1, I recognize the behavior that you describe because it’s something I’ve dealt with myself. Caveat: I am in no way diagnosing this individual as I obviously do not know the person. But I have anxiety, and it’s an issue that went unrecognized by me for over a decade. And I was absolutely the person in the office who stayed home for snow. It was because I had literal panic attacks while trying to drive in inclement weather. Panic attacks are bad on their own. When you’re driving, it’s beyond terrifying. And the other descriptions, about stressors and how they would affect him, sound so much like me. It wasn’t until I acknowledged what was going on and sought help that I was able to start working through it. I live in Wisconsin and have now made it through three winters with no panic attacks while driving.

    I know this doesn’t offer any substantive advice for you, because obviously you can’t approach your employee about this. But I just wanted to point out that there may be an issue here for him, and regardless of how those of us who live in snowy areas can “just plan for it,” sometimes there are other hurdles at play.

  26. Liz2*

    #1 sounds exactly like my ex, who even had a crazy driveway you’d get caught in after an inch of snow if you didn’t park at the top ahead of time. Chaos demon who will get away with anything they can and rely on people’s good will to excuse them for so many things- even things which could have been anticipated and handled properly first time around. Make it clear what their expectations are and what the consequences will be. Either they will step up or not.

  27. Kaitlyn*

    “My question is: can I tell my employee that he should be making some sort of contingency plan for himself so he can get to work in the winter, whether it means getting up early to shovel out, hiring a plow service, putting on snow tires, or whatever makes getting to work possible? I know his finances are tight and some of those solutions might be hard to afford, but it seems to me that getting to work in routine winter weather is a reasonable expectation.”

    Okay, this might be unpopular but: I think, if this isn’t related to the overall absenteeism (big if, I know!), I think this type of “make it work, regardless of cost” attitude is cavalier at best and classicist at worst. Presumably this employee, with his tight finances (not mentioned: perhaps his tight finances are related to his work income?), can’t afford to hire someone to dig out his driveway, install snow tires, etc. If he’s dealing with burnout, depletion, or anxiety after what sounds like a hellish year, yeah, an inch or two of snow might be in work’s-not-happening territory. Snow day absenteeism still might be related to a bigger issue. I’d approach this conversation with compassion, and not ask him to use the same money-dependent workarounds that you can afford to fix the issue.

    1. SallytooShort*

      Yeah, the casually throwing out putting on snow tires really, really put me off. That’s a huge expense! A complete extra set of tires plus getting them on (and then off come spring.)

      Yeah, he needs to be at work. But casually throwing out that that will involve big expenses when she knows he doesn’t have the money for that would be insensitive. I hope she doesn’t say that to him.

      1. SallytooShort*

        I’d also note that there are a lot of penalties on being poor that people don’t think about. A lot of the “just make it work” things that come so easy to the middle class are actually “just throw money at it” things.

        Doesn’t mean it’s OK to not show up to work. But it does mean you should be thoughtful about realistic solutions to that.

        1. Totally Not Anxious Right Now*

          This. Actually a little surprised by some of the privilege I read in the thread today, when that’s not typical here. Being poor is expensive as f*ck. People saying people “choose” to live where they live, like it’s simple to get up and relocate your life if the weather where you’re planted doesn’t suit you, was pretty cavalier as well.

          The LW said this employee just had a nightmare year. Whether it matters to people or not, things often aren’t standalone. Lots of things come together to contribute to how something “simple” might affect a person. And, as I said, being empathetic and understanding of that in the conversation is important. Doesn’t mean this employee will work out for this job long term or not, but approaching the conversation with some understanding as to how having life put you through an obstacle course and then dropping the ground out from under you at the finish line, can affect how you approach life once you are seemingly back on on stable ground. We don’t know his variables.

          But lol at anyone saying just buy snow tires / just hire someone / just dig out. I know people who losing ONE regular tire right now and having to replace it might mean their lights and gas are shut off next week or they dont eat for this pay period.

      2. Colette*

        Driving a car is expensive in general. If you can’t afford it, you have to organize your life so that you don’t need one. I don’t think she should suggest snow tires (or any other solution) – it’s his problem to fix, not hers.

        And yes, life can be hard, and some choices are out of reach due to finances or health or family situations, but that’s still something you need to manage yourself.

        1. SallytooShort*

          Snow tires aren’t a necessity. And she can suggest what she wants but I will absolutely look at someone sideways so indifferent and callous when she knows that isn’t an option. I am also allowed to do that.

          1. Colette*

            She doesn’t know what is and isn’t an option, because she does not control her employee’s finances. In fact, it’s unreasonable to expect someone to filter what they suggest as options based on the belief that they know your financial situation unless you’re willing to share your complete financial picture with them.

            Snow tires are considerably safer than all-season tires, but I see nothing in the letter that makes me think that the problem has anything to do with tires.

          2. LaurenB*

            You can’t really have it that snow tires are not a necessity and that it’s too dangerous to drive to work. They’re not a necessity only if you live in a place with very little snow.

            1. fposte*

              I agree with your first sentence but not with the second. I’ve never bothered with snow tires my whole adult life, and that’s not all that uncommon around here despite the snow. (It’s flat country, which simplifies matters.)

              1. LaurenB*

                That is true. I meant more that if you regularly feel the need to not drive because of road conditions, snow tires are an obvious first step.

              2. Colette*

                I got snow tires a few years ago, and they make a huge difference, even though I can drive in snow without them.

                Not that the tires are the issue here.

            2. Queen Anon*

              Honestly, I didn’t know they still made them. 50+ years ago when I was a kid in Michigan, they were The Thing. I think they might be illegal now because the studs ruin the roads and because today’s all- weather tires are better than yesterday’s snow tires. At least that’s what car dealers and mechanics tell me. (I don’t know about the legality of studs for sure because I don’t live on Michigan and have only heard it in passing in conversations with relatives who do.)

              1. LaurenB*

                Snow tires aren’t studded tires. They’re a different kind of rubber that doesn’t harden as much in the cold. They’re legally required in Quebec and maybe some other places.

                1. Santa's neighbour*

                  Chiming in from Finland here. Snow tires are legally obliged in the winter here — they are simply a part of the expense/hassle of having a car. The time they are required depends on where you are in the country: further north it’s a longer period of the year.

                  The concept of snow days doesn’t exist here, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone not making it to work or school because of icy conditions, either.

      3. Bea*

        Chains, chains, chaaaaaaaains, unless you’re in a constantly frozen state snow tires are so over the top.

        You also have to have a place to store snow tires. So I’m like “where will I put them in April when they have to be removed?”

        1. Natalie*

          It’s worth noting that a lot of states (particularly flat ones that get a lot of snow) have restrictions on who can use tire chains and when because they EFF UP the road much more than snow tires. So if you’re thinking of using tire chains check your local laws.

          1. Bea*

            The DOT suggest chains every time there’s snow here, they’re not illegal. I assume that semis are otherwise allowed to use them, I’ve never known any of those long haul drivers who didn’t carry them as traction devices.

            1. Natalie*

              I don’t know where you live, that was more of a PSA. Sorry if the “you” part made that unclear; I meant it to be the general “you”.

    2. Penny Lane*

      I was waiting to see when “classist” got thrown in here! Isn’t it funny how in these same cities we are talking about, millions of blue-collar workers manage to get to their jobs / customers, just like their white-collar counterparts?

      1. SallytooShort*

        Because they have public transport and the description in the letter sounds like a place where they all have to drive.

        Yeah it’s SO CRAZY how different situations are completely different.

        1. Colette*

          If you can’t or don’t want to drive in snow, you may not be able to work at a job that is not accessible by public transit, or live in a place that is not accessible by public transit, unless you live somewhere that snow is a rare occurrence. You certainly aren’t going to get 4 – 5 months off work in most places.

          1. Totally Not Anxious Right Now*

            Yes, because for someone who is poor just moving or living anywhere is a luxury they can just adjust at a whim?

            1. Colette*

              Life involves choices. If you can’t get to work from where you live, you chose the wrong place to live and will have to either move, get a job you can get to, or figure out a mode of transportation.

              What’s the alternative? Get fired and have nowhere to live?

              1. Anxa*

                I think that’s part of why class does matter. It often take money to choose where to live. You live where you are born until you move.

              2. nonegiven*

                A lot of people live where they live and drive what they drive because that’s what they could afford when it was needed. Now, if they wanted to move or get a different car, they couldn’t afford the extra expense. They also work where they could get hired on when they were looking for a job.

    3. CDM*

      We have a plow service due to a quarter mile long driveway. They come on their schedule, after all their commercial clients are plowed out. It’s typically at least 4 hours after the end of the snowfall.

      You don’t just snap your fingers and a plow magically clears your drive at 6 am so you can get to work on time. Local media reported several years ago that the average residential plow service charge for the area is over $200.

      1. Purplesaurus*

        Local media reported several years ago that the average residential plow service charge for the area is over $200.

        Is that just once, one day?

        1. Totally Not Anxious Right Now*

          Probably. Friends of mine who have plows on their trucks for the winter LOVE snowy winters (and are pretty said when we get mild ones here in Michigan) because they CLEAN UP (literally and figuratively)
          It’s good money. Also so expensive that a lot of apartment complexes I’ve noticed around here will end up buying bobcats with plows to keep on site and doing the plowing themselves after contracting out for a long time.

      2. nonymous*

        when I lived in the midwest there were a lot of landscapers who made money in the winter as a private plow service. my neighbor was one of them – he would clear his own driveway at ~3:30A and be done with his route by 9A.

        The cheap option is like someone else commented &#