do you have to be paid if your office is closed because of a hurricane?

I’m getting a lot of questions because of Hurricane Ian about whether you have to be paid if your office closes because of the storm. Here’s a quick run-down.

If you’re a non-exempt employee (eligible for overtime): If your office closes because of the storm and thus you don’t work on those days, your employer is not required to pay you for those days. Some employers still will, but the law doesn’t require it; it just depends on what your employer’s policy is.

If you’re an exempt employee (salaried and not eligible for overtime): If you work any portion of the week, you have to be paid your full salary for the week … even if your office closes because of the storm. They can, however, require you to use a vacation day for that day. (But if you’re all out of vacation days, they can’t dock your pay to cover it.) Smart employers will not make you use vacation time for these days, but they’re not all smart.

What if your office is open but you can’t get to work because of the storm? If you’re non-exempt, nothing changes. If you’re exempt, however, it’s a little different:  In this case, you’re not considered “ready, willing, and able to work” — even though that’s not within your control — and so your employer can dock your pay if you miss a full day. If you only miss the part of the day, they can’t dock any pay; that’s part of being exempt. But most employers will let you use vacation time for these days, and some won’t charge your accrued leave time at all.

So the answer, as it so often does, comes down to whether you’re exempt or non-exempt.

Of course, employers can choose to do more than they’re legally obligated to, and good employers think carefully about the morale problems associated with paying exempt workers for missed days while not paying non-exempt ones, particularly in a context where people are fearing for their safety and their homes.

Originally published in 2017 during Hurricane Irma.

{ 123 comments… read them below }

  1. Melanie Cavill*

    Has anyone ever had an instance of being unable to get to work because severe weather shut down public transit? I have fun memories of being told to walk 5km in the snow by the duty manager at Wal-Mart on a day when buses weren’t running.

    1. Ann Lister’s Wife*

      That’s horrible. I haven’t experienced that, but I’m sorry you had to go through it. One more reason to avoid that store.

      1. Melanie Cavill*

        Fortunately, I was sixteen at the time, so my mom was more than willing to step in and put her foot down. It’s a four on the Terrifying Anecdotes About Capitalism scale.

        1. Miss Muffet*

          Here’s another one for the scale (I’m assuming it’s only 5 points?)

          “It’s not going to be that bad,” Gendusa said in a video recording of the meeting obtained by The Washington Post.
          “Obviously, you feeling safe and comfortable is of the utmost importance, but I honestly want to continue to deliver and I want to have a good end of quarter,” Gendusa said. “And when it turns into nothing I don’t want it to be like, ‘Great, we all stopped producing because of the media and [thought] maybe that it was going to be terrible.’”


          1. 2 Cents*

            As a former SW Florida resident, does the news tend to overhype the storms? Absolutely. Is this CEO still a terrible person? Also yes. She told her employees they could bring in their families if they were afraid. What if someone got seriously injured or worse because of the storm at her facility? Idiot.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      In my experience when that’s happened to me (a few times!) I’ve been paid for my scheduled hours/not charged any PTO. That said, in my area *most* people use public transit so a business may fully close if the transit shuts down. In an area where it’s not as dominant, that might not be the case.

    3. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Not so much shut down but severely delayed, yes. I was late to due weather and traffic combined delaying my commute. Weather is the worst in winter here but the buses keep running, even during the 2016 Snomaggedon (but they were Soooooooooooo delayed and stuck in ditches, blocking exit ramps, etc.).

      I advised my supervisor I would be making up the time. He replied I had to ask permission to make up the time. Honestly…

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Yeah, buses and trucks should be some of the first things to shut down for safety reasons in bad weather. They are terrible in snow and ice & block a lot more than a normal traffic when they do crash or end up on the side of the road. But it does make it much harder to reliably commute.

    4. I'm Sorry Dave*

      A couple times for blizzards. And I was in Boston in 2013 when the city went into lock down. In those cases my place of work shut down as well, so no one was required to come in.

      1. roisin54*

        Same here (I still live in Boston.) Basically if the T isn’t running, we’re not working. We were already closed in 2013 when the lockdown happened, because we’re really close to where the bombs went off so only law enforcement could get anywhere near the building (we had one window blown out but thankfully that was it as far as damage goes). Working temporarily at another location was offered as an option, but it was strictly voluntary. Everyone still got paid for the week and a half we were closed regardless of whether or not we were actually working.

    5. nm*

      This has happened to me during flood season. Fortunately my office just took the loss and didn’t ask for me to make it up in any way.

    6. Diatryma*

      Not only the city buses, but the university shut down the campus buses, which many people used to get from the parking lots to work (as planned; the lots aren’t walkably close.) I tried to walk to work without the city bus and ended up with a head injury; others tried to walk from their cars and also fell. It was A Mess. And I work for the hospital.

    7. NotRealAnonforThis*

      Sort of?

      Teenaged employee of a department store, nasty winter storm in the midwest. Mom determined that my 16 year old self was NOT driving to work in this mess, nor was she driving me to and from work (our county had been placed under “yellow”, meaning “don’t drive if you don’t need to” by emergency services). I was just going to call in, and that was that. I knew better than to try to get around that, and wasn’t going to attempt, because it was that bad.

      Manager on Duty, who had a history of thinking she had more power than she actually did: “Well can’t you take the bus?”
      “The bus does not run out in the boonies where I live; I’m literally beyond the boundaries of bus service.”
      “Well call a cab then”
      “Is (department store) going to cover that, because the cab fare is going to exceed my pre-tax take for my three hour shift. Look, my MOTHER says I’m not going anywhere in this mess, and as I’m not an adult…”

      The mall closed an hour later per their management company.
      My actual manager reiterated to “all of y’all kids, if your parents say you’re not driving in it, you’re not driving in it, call in.”

      1. NotRealAnonforThis*

        And after Melanie Cavill’s further update about “being 16 and Mom putting her foot down” further upthread, I feel I should state that I did not work for Walmart, and the MOD was trying to go outside company policy that day.

        Do power tripping managers just try to say stupid crap to teenagers thinking that they’ll get away with it? I sometimes wonder.

        1. anon24*

          Awful to do to a teenager. Years ago I managed teenagers and as soon as the first snow flake hit the ground I was pushing to close as fast as possible or at least send home as many employees as I could because I didn’t want some poor 16 year old kid with minimal driving experience to get hurt or total their car trying to get home.

        2. Sylvan*

          Yes. I used to work for a manager who did that. And I would try to have sneaky conversations about things like state minimum wage and OSHA requirements.

    8. Eether, Either*

      Many times, unfortunately. The firm made us take vacation days even if the city was shut down and only essential workers were to report to work. This was in New England during a blizzard. We, the admins, actually protested at one point, during a particularly snowy winter, and they let it go, but rewarded the people who could walk to work with one additional day of vacation.

    9. CoveredinBees*

      Yup. During Hurricane Sandy, not only was public transit shut down but non-emergency vehicles were banned from the road. All bridges and tunnels were closed. I worked for one of the agencies responsible for making that decision and we still got docked PTO (which I desperately needed for something else non-fun) for not working. My job could have absolutely been done from home but the rules didn’t allow me to work from home.

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        Oh, you reminded me of when my BF called out of work because there was a snow emergency, we lived an hour away in good weather, and *no one* was supposed to be on the road except emergency vehicles. His boss gave him a hard time about it because boss lived closer.

    10. Hen in a Windstorm*

      For a few years, I lived within a few blocks of one of my office jobs. They *always* expected me to walk in, even when coworkers in the burbs couldn’t get out of their driveways due to snow or the subway was down. I mean, I was able to, but it sucked being the only one expected to work.

      1. Captain+dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        But you’d benefited from a much shorter commute the other 99% (or more probably) of work days. I expect if you added up time spent commuting and compared to your colleagues you’d have a differential of a lot more than those snow days…

        1. Ginger Pet Lady*

          That doesn’t excuse the fact that her employers had a double standard about work requirements.
          If it’s too dangerous to drive, EVERYONE should get to stay home.

        2. somanyquestions*

          What does that have to do with anything at all?

          Are you seriously suggesting it’s reasonable to schedule people punitively because they have a shorter commute? Do you think they get paid for their commuting time?

      2. Melanie Cavill*

        That does suck! Admittedly, I’d probably be thrilled to have the office to myself for a full day. I’d probably try to leverage the increased productivity of no one bothering me to get a half day later in the month when the office is full.

    11. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      A power outage during a heatwave in NYC shut down the subways when I lived there. I was a graduate research assistant and my boss insisted we all come in. I walked from 137th St to 168th. Our building had no power AND our office was in the basement. We sat there doing nothing with only emergency lighting until the grandboss heard what was happening. Luckily he was on-shift in the hospital and not at his house in CT so he was able to get there and cut us loose only 20 minutes or so after the generators gave out and we lost emergency lights. I will have you note, the boss that ordered us in did so from his house in NJ when we called to ask what to do.

      1. Coffee Bean*

        I want to find the person who was your boss at the time this happened and give him what for. Seriously.

    12. Shira VonDoom*

      I lived in Houston, TX until 2020, and had more than one boss try to tell me I had to come in (for office jobs!) during flooding issues. I enjoyed telling them that they could look on the news at the (specific intersections) which were my exit routes from the neighborhood, and tell me where I should expect to meet the boat.

      Did they love me for it? No. but I’m not flooding my car or risking my life for a job.

    13. my cat is prettier than me*

      It wasn’t because of weather, but when I lived in Chicago all transport shut down during the George Floyd protests*. I had to walk home in new shoes. Luckily it was only an hour and a half.
      I was not upset about this. I attended several protests on weekends.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        oooohhh that explains so much about this season of The Good Fight. (It’s set in a law firm in Chicago, and they have protests going on outside all the time.)

        I live a block from Protest Ground Zero in my large California city and all they did was reroute the buses onto nearby residential streets during the protests.

    14. Overit*

      Years ago, my daughter was working at Sears for the holiday season. Forecast called for major snowstorm and Sears called staff and said scheduled attendance was mamdatory. All staff that day except my daughter used public transportation. Problem was that the busses were running to get to work but were not by the time the store closed. And all taxis were closed too. So a whole bunch of staff with no way to get home. Manager said, “If you made better life choices you would not be in this situation. Bye.”

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I dislike Sears for other reasons but attitudes like that contribute to as why they went out of business. No critical thinking skills or decency used.

    15. Aunttora*

      I live in an area where enough snow to cause a problem happens MAYBE a couple of times a decade. But the Director of Admin would NEVER call it – he even kept us there when there was a credible bomb threat, and every other business in the building sent everyone home. One year when we did have a lot of snow, in the morning, the buses stopped running where I lived. I called to confirm, yes, this is a work day, so I hoofed it down to the main road and waited a couple of hours – buses kept going by, skipping the stop because they were already crammed full. Some of us at the stop started running out into the dribbles of car traffic on the road and trying to find someone who would just let us in. Finally got a bus (standing room only of course) which took another couple of hours to go the ten or so miles into downtown. I was just happy to be warm! Got to work and watched as an AMBULANCE was unable to make it up the steep street alongside my building, it kept sliding backward down the hill. AN AMBULANCE. I got into the elevator breathing fire to go yell at the DoA about being such an ass about this kind of thing, and the elevator stopped and trapped me for ANOTHER hour. By the time I got up to our floor, he’d called the day and everyone had gone home. Was another adventure getting back! AND didn’t get paid. This is probably thirty years ago and yes, still mad.

      1. Melanie Cavill*

        Oh my goodness, your story fills me with incandescent rage. I would have wanted to spit in DoA’s hot beverage of choice every day for the next year.

    16. LifeBeforeCorona*

      My boss sent the company snowplow to pick me up because they knew that the bakery would be slammed the day after a major snowstorm.

    17. DataSci*

      I have! It was my first day at a new job, too. We had about 3 feet of snow in the DC area, above-ground Metro (which it is in my area) was shut down, and my street was not plowed. There was no. way. I was getting in. Fortunately my manager was a lot more understanding than yours, and we pushed my start date back a few days until I could physically get out of the neighborhood.

    18. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Not severe weather, but a public transport strike (how do you tell people you live in France without telling people you live in France!)
      In the mid 1990s, so no internet or mobile phones:
      My partner took me and our son to his daycare place in the car, then he had to go in a different direction to me. I had to wait to drop our son off because there was nobody at the daycare. Within ten minutes somebody arrived, she had had to walk all the way. She asked me to please make sure I or my partner would get back in time to pick our son up before the daycare closed, because she didn’t want to have to wait around when she was likely going to have to walk home too.
      I then went to take the metro, it was closed. I walked to the next station, it was open but hardly any lines were open, and nothing that would get me anywhere near the vocational training school I worked at. I called and the boss said not to worry about coming in to school in the morning, but I absolutely had to get over to the clients’ offices where I was to be teaching in the afternoon. There was no way of getting there on public transport either, so I walked. It took me two hours. I did a few bits and pieces of work on the computer in the client’s classroom, then waited for the students. At 1pm nobody turned up. Two people turned up at 2pm, after their lesson they checked the names of the other people who were supposed to come at 3pm and 4pm, and either they weren’t in the office or they were having to cover for colleagues who weren’t in the office. So basically I wouldn’t be seeing any other students that day.
      I called the boss to explain and to ask for permission to leave straight away, pointing out that I needed to be back on time to pick my son up. The boss said no, I was to stay, because we had a policy of letting people come even without an appointment. Not that anyone ever did come without an appointment.
      I put the phone down and said dammit my son is more important than their stupid contract. If I left straight away, I would be at the daycare in time. So I left.
      The next day, the boss came into my office and told me she’d called me back ten minutes later – to tell me she’d called the client and they’d said I could leave – but I hadn’t answered, why not? I explained that I had left despite her not giving me permission. If she’d said “let me check with the client”, I’d have waited, but she’d just said no.
      She told me if ever I did that again, I’d be fired. I told her that I wouldn’t ever do it again, because if ever there were another strike, I’d just stay at home. I explained that the daycare had the right to refuse children without prior notice, expecially when the parents were late picking their children up, and that I couldn’t afford any other kind of daycare, and if they refused my son, I would simply resign without giving notice (which is actually illegal, but I wouldn’t have had any other solution).

  2. LadyAmalthea*

    When I first became an assistant manager I walked a couple of miles throught the show to get to an underground subway line to open the store. After that, I wasn’t willing to do it again.

    1. Mim*

      I was just thinking about when I worked in retail, and was told (not asked) to come in when I wasn’t scheduled because there was a snowstorm, and he knew I lived close enough to walk. And of course I said yes because at the time I didn’t have the confidence to advocate for myself, and also desperately needed the barely above minimum wage paycheck.

      What was a relatively quick, easy walk most of the time took at least three times as long, and much more than 3x the effort, because of the mostly uncleared knee deep snow. And yes, he just assumed that I was physically capable and felt safe making that walk, which is a big assumption. And then of course almost nobody came to the store, BECAUSE OF THE STORM. We shouldn’t have bothered to open.

  3. Lifelong student*

    I once- many years ago- got out my cross country ski’s and went to work about a mile and a half away. Don’t remember how many people showed up that day. Of course- I was young then- and actually could even walk that distance on a good day in less time than many people’s mechanical commute. I didn’t- but I could have! Now I can’t even walk two blocks!

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I have a friend in Anchorage who used to cross-country ski to work in the winter. It sounded so cool I almost took a job there until I remembered that my seasonal affective disorder would leave me manic 1/2 the year and deeply depressed the other half

    2. Esmeralda*

      I live close enough to walk to work. I boot up and put on my stabil-icers and walk in if it’s snowy or icy. I’ll be damned if I have to use my leave for b.s. like this.

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      During the Ice Storm ’98 myself and one other person who lived downtown were expected to show up to work. Everyone else, (mostly management) lived in the suburbs and spent a paid week at home. This was way before WFH so it truly was a holiday for most of them.

  4. Hydrangea*

    What if your office is open but you can’t get to work because of the storm?

    Are there caveats around this answer? I feel like “can’t get to work because of the storm” covers a lot of ground on the “because of the storm” part. Sometimes there’s just a lot of debris in the street and maybe power gets knocked out in some neighborhoods, but sometimes hurricanes cause really widespread destruction (Andrew, Katrina). What if the destruction is so bad that a state of emergency is declared? Are you still no longer “ready, willing, and able”?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Assuming you are in the US the FLSA only requires payment if the business is closed due to a natural disaster. If the employee cannot reach the employer due to a natural disaster, their pay can be docked.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Also as someone mentioned below, state of emergency is not a direct correlation to severity of the situation.

        1. Hydrangea*

          Dude, I know a state of emergency doesn’t mean that the government is saying there’s an emergency so your employer can’t make you go to work. However, there *is* a correlation to how severe the situation is. Governors don’t call states of emergency for every sun shower. If you need FEMA, it’s bad.

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            No there’s not necessarily a correlation.

            A state of emergency doesn’t inherently mean things are really bad.

            We declared a state of emergency for a flooding event. Even got some reimbursements from FEMA. I personally escorted the SBA guy on the damage assessments. But it was restricted to a very small portion of the county.

            States of emergency’s can even be declared for planned events.

            Covid caused a state of emergency for most places – people still had to go to work.

            My point (as someone who works in emergency management) is that the government doesn’t have anything to do with what an employer is going to have their employees do in an emergency.

            There are really very little protections for employees in the US. If you can’t come to work? Well that’s too bad but your employer isn’t required to see that as their problem.

            And yea it really really sucks. Because the people most affected by disasters and emergencies are those least likely financially able to recover from them and least likely to be able to afford to miss work.

            It is a problem, you’re not wrong. But unless there’s individual states that have made laws to address this (if CA hasnt, likely no one has), there’s not some threshold destruction arises to that makes your employer have to pay you if you can’t go to work.

    2. Weekender*

      Last year during hurricane Ida, we were still working from home. I told my boss I could no longer work the day because my basement was flooding and needed to spend the rest of the day bailing out water. So even though there was no commute, I was not able to work.

      1. Hydrangea*

        I was thinking more along the lines of people being forced to miss work due to widespread *infrastructure* failures. So, if your basement flooded when the entire neighborhood flooded after levee failure traceable to a Cat 5 hurricane kind of thing. I guess even in situations like that, not all companies have the resources to keep people on payroll. However, for companies who do have the resources, it seems like there are natural disaster situations where “ready and willing” should be enough.

  5. Hotdog not dog*

    We once had a catastrophic snowstorm that caused roads to be closed and an announcement by the governor that anyone caught on the roads who was non-essential would be ticketed. My boss was clear that I was expected to come in anyway. (as an administrative assistant in NJ who supported an exec who was at that time on vacation in Florida,
    I would have had nothing to do in the office anyway, never mind “essential”) I walked to the end of my driveway to see how the road looked and the police had set up a road block a short way down. The cop said he was handing out $200 fines and told me don’t even try. I called my boss back and told him I couldn’t afford the ticket, so unless he planned to pay me an extra $200 (at the time I was making about $100/day) I’d just read magazines at home instead of the office.

    1. C-Dub*

      Having grown up in NJ myself, I completely understand this. And yes, I have driven in the snow before, but not to an extent where it was a blizzard. At that point, it is really unsafe.

      And your boss was a jerk to make you come in when it was clearly not allowed. Let alone making you drive in what was most likely whiteout conditions and poor visibility.

      On a hurricane note, I have lived through Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy. There is no way I would have driven in extremely windy conditions with torrential rainfall. It is just as dangerous, if not more so.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        Sandy was worse than Irene, but we had no power for ages both times. I still had to go to work (different job by then) but it wasn’t terrible because at least the office had power and we could flush the toilet and use the sink. Most of my coworkers were in similar circumstances, so we just hung out and watched TV in the conference room (There was very little actual work, since our clients were also impacted.)

    2. Chinookwind*

      When I worked for a box store in Alberta with a head office in New Jersey, the managers told us about the day the previous year they were refused to close early by head office despite the highway about to be closed due to snow (and anyone in Alberta knows it takes a lot of bad weather to close a major highway) and they ended up having to spend the night in the store (which luckily had beyond enough beds but no baths) because they could not leave the building when the store closed.

      This story was told while we waited to open for the day because head office had not paid us our (direct deposit) pay cheques the day before because they had a snowstorm (and of course couldn’t get in to work).

      If staff were required to risk their lives to stay open, then head office can get their act together to pay us on time. So we had an unorganized, impromptu, mini-strike and opened the doors 15 minutes later than usual after we were able to verify that the pay had made our bank accounts.

  6. Fluffy Fish*

    I work in emergency management and just want to add on about State of Emergency. This comes up a lot because people dont understand what it is.

    They *think* it means that the government is saying there’s an emergency so your employer can’t make you go to work. It’s not.

    It’s basically an administrative tool that government can use to do certain things in an emergency. The big one is things like making funds available a little easier.

    1. to varying degrees*

      yes, thank you. I worked for local government and pretty closely with emergency management and this is one thing I always had to tell people.

    2. ferrina*

      Side note: Emergency management is a tough job. I’ve got a friend in emergency management, and I can’t fathom the amount of moving pieces she juggles. Thank you for all that you do!

    3. Sylvan*

      Thank you for explaining this and for what you do.

      I learned a little bit about this recently. My area is in a state of emergency, although the weather isn’t expected to get very bad. It was done to open up some resources and prevent price gouging.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Interesting – so it sounds like it’s used as a preemptive measure sometimes to keep it from getting too bad? I can see how it would be confusing to some business owners but that’s a smart move.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          For things like hurricanes or blizzards – things that we can predict are coming and likely to cause significant issues, states of emergency are often declared in advance.

          But it’s not to keep things from getting bad – we have no control over how bad things will be.

          A State of Emergency is a purely administrative function of government. It means nothing really to the public at large. It allows government to do things it does not have the power to do in a normal day to day functions.

          Think of Covid – practically the entire country was in a state of emergency – what did that mean to you? Probably nothing.

          Now somethings a government does under a state of emergency will affect the public in some fashion, say opening a shelter, but a state of emergency itself means nothing outside of government.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            In California, we often have a statewide State of Emergency for wildfires. This will prevent disaster profiteering by capping price/rate increases for groceries, hotels, gasoline, etc. People displaced by the fires obviously need to go places that aren’t on fire, so it wouldn’t help to have the ban on profiteering only apply in the fire zone. If people have the resources to stay at a hotel or with family/friends instead of at a disaster shelter, obviously that makes things easier for helping the people who don’t have anywhere else to go.

  7. Lilo*

    I once had to work at a theme park during tropical storm. It was so windy I basically drove with the wheel constantly at an angle to fight the wind. For a theme park job.

    1. M&M*

      I worked at a zoo (my title was buildings and grounds attendant, basically a janitor) and had to do similar during a storm. The highway flooded and people were stuck in their cars in the water. My parents thought it was crazy but they told me I was essential. I got there and they suited us up in head to toe rain gear and then I did absolutely nothing all day but stand outside in the rain, because who would go to the zoo in a storm like that! I think they finally decided to close the zoo early and I got to go home, but it sucked.

  8. Dust Bunny*

    I’m non-exempt and my office does pay for official “we’re closed for hurricanes” days (we’re also on the Gulf Coast, though not Florida), thank goodness. And they also do actually close for hurricanes.

  9. Sad Desk Salad*

    There is an interesting article on Washington Post (not sure if it’s OK to post links) right now about the CEO of Postcard Mania, who was driving away from the hurricane while dialed into a staff meeting where she urged her employees to work through the storm. Naturally once she was told what a bad look that was, she tried to walk it back, with expected continued backlash.

    I’ve got my popcorn ready to go for the next chapter in the story.

    1. Random Biter*

      Just got done reading about this. Yes, come to work and bring your kids and animals so you don’t worry about them. ::rolling eyes::

    2. Antilles*

      You can post links, but they’ll go immediately to moderation, so what I’ve seen is that people will generally post one message describing the general concept and say something like “link to follow”, then reply to your own comment with the actual link.

    3. Miss Muffet*

      Yes – and then they say, oh that’s her personal opinion, she doesn’t speak for the company. Um. She’s the CEO.

    4. Fluffy Fish*

      They’re in full damage control mode.

      She didn’t mean that – the office is available as a shelter – that’s what she meant.

      Not sure why they think pretending the parts she said about….come to work because I want to have a good finish to the quarter…dont exist is a good tactic. She very very clearly meant exactly what she said.

      1. Sylvan*

        How important do you have to think your actual postcard business is to keep it open in a hurricane? Amazing.

    5. Maverick Jo*

      I just read it too. I wouldn’t support this business for such a callous attitude towards the employees and their families. How sad that this woman thought so lowly of these people.

    6. LifeBeforeCorona*

      It reminds me of the mayor of Laketown fleeing with his gold while lamenting that his people are stuck behind to be killed by Smaug the Dragon.

  10. Random Biter*

    A hugely important component to this (if you’re listening, bosses) is that any rule is applied consistently and fair to everyone. The non profit I worked for covered 27 counties in my state. The CEO’s rule was we would be paid for stay-at-home-crappy-weather *if* the county sheriff closed the roads. The problem here is that while the sheriff of the county adjacent to mine (and suffered the exact same weather) would declare Level 3 emergencies (stay off the roads or go to jail) the sheriff of *my* county never would saying that people (and businesses) should have the sense to not venture out in extreme weather. So…..those employees got paid, we did not. How that was fair I’m not quite sure but the board was so cowed by this CEO that nothing was ever changed.

    1. stacers*

      Do you live in Ohio because that happens near me all the time. And, I actually work in Michigan, which doesn’t have ‘level’ emergencies, so the rules only apply until I get to the state line (or once I get to the state line, if it snows when I’m at work). That said, in the days before remote work, my employer would pay for a hotel room if bad weather was expected and you were essential.

    2. Lacey*

      Yes! This happened at the bank I used to work for.

      Worse – every other bank in the area closed down because of the weather, but ours stayed open, even when the heater broke and it was 55 degrees inside.

      But after we’d already arrived at work an email went around telling us we could have dressed more casually that day. Thaaanks.

      1. Kacihall*

        I worked at a bank in Indianapolis but lived about 40 miles away in a podunk (no traffic light) small town. the way to the city technically went through 5 counties (Yay for the tiny part of 465 that’s in Hamilton County!)
        If ANY of those countries had a orange or red level for traffic, I did not have to come in. it came into play exactly once, but it was nice knowing my boss had my back for it.

    3. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Agree. This was a large company with offices in multiple locations, US-wide.

      We were consistently given grief by HQ for either closing due to inclement weather or permitting WFH due to it (I happen to be in a city where public transit is a JOKE and we are heavily reliant on an aging freeway system that is maintained by a hodgepodge of agencies).

      Then HQ got nailed by a storm. So while we were all working at home because we’d gotten over a dozen inches of blowing snow in less than 6 hours, HQ got the day off because they’d gotten the same storm overnight. They (HQ folks in the same departments we were in) got a freebie (yay for common sense), while we all had to argue about WFH that day vs. being charged a day of PTO.

  11. Anonanyway*

    We’re not in the direct path but likely to encounter excessive wind and rain. Boss gave us the option to WFH Friday, with the understanding that if we lose power at our home and can’t work we’ll use vacation time to cover it. Seems fair.

  12. turquoisecow*

    The only time my previous office ever closed was after Hurricane Sandy, because the building was half without power. My boss texted me to let me know it was closed because I couldn’t get through on the emergency line we were supposed to call (which in most cases said regular business hours were in effect, please drive carefully). I didn’t get the text until I had driven around various debris and detours for over an hour to get to the office and gone inside to find no one there – received it in the parking lot. My grand boss helpfully sent an email to everyone but since most of us didn’t have laptops and had no way to access our work email, none of us got it. I think I got paid for that day anyway (I was salaried but I think even the hourly workers got paid).

    A few years prior to that we had a snowstorm and I physically couldn’t get my car out of its parking spot. It was a few days after Christmas so I’d used all my PTO for the day and had to take it unpaid. There were times the office closed early for snow but they never closed the office, ever.

  13. Abogado Avocado*

    I would just add that rules for government workers may be different than what Alison has posted here. And that’s because some states have constitutional restrictions that require public money to be spent for a public benefit. In the context of public employment, this public benefit requirement has been interpreted by some state courts to restrict when and how rank-and-file public employees (not emergency responders) can be compensated (apart from using leave) for being unable to work due to an emergency.

    1. Jaid*

      For ages, my service center would remain open in snowstorms, then send people home mid-day. Finally, the union sued because a state of emergency had been declared and the employees were still expected to come in.

      TPTB are more careful about closing down, but for us folks coming in at, they still take too long in making their determination. I have been on my way to the train station before they update the emergency hotline to announce the building is closed, many a time.

  14. Lacey*

    Most of my jobs expected us to use vacation time to cover office closures, no matter why it was closed. But my current job always pays us and it makes me think 1000% better of them.

    1. Shira VonDoom*

      My current job too. IF we can reasonably work from home, we’re all set up for that. but if we can’t, we’re getting PTO, no questions asked, because my boss is a logical reasonable person, and not a money-grubbing monster.

      2 years in and I’m still getting used to…not working for jerks. LOL

  15. Nea*

    There was a time I was a government contractor on a remote campus and there was a major snowstorm. Only essential people were supposed to be on the barely cleared roads.

    Everyone who worked in a government space got a snow day off.

    Everyone who worked for company HQ got a snow day off because they couldn’t shovel out the parking lot.

    Everyone else, like me, was docked a day of holiday because we were expected to go to work. Why would we expect a day off to just be given to us? We don’t have an excuse like the others do!

    (Just one of my poor experiences on my way out the door of one of the supposed “best places to work” in the area.)

    1. Government Contractor*

      Wow. I’m a government contractor in a government space and I don’t get snow days off. I get “admin leave,” which isn’t leave at all, it’s just extra flexibility to make up the time.

  16. Meep*

    -laughs in Arizona-

    Honestly, though, I am happy where I am at for this reason. No hurricanes, no earthquakes, no tsunamis, and if I want to see snow, I can visit Payson or Flagstaff.

    1. Double A*

      Though I’m not in AZ, you and I are both in wildfire and heat wave country; all of us are in regions where we will face weather disasters. Maybe not a good look to laugh at anybody.

    2. Generic+Name*

      This comment really rubs me the wrong way. I would argue that most people are not financially able to move across the country away from where they were born. I can’t help but remember hurricane katrina. Many many couldn’t afford to even evacuate, and then they had to relocate to escape a non functional city, never to return. People were walking out of the city with nothing but the clothes on their backs. So it’s not like they could have made the smart decision you did to move to an inland state. People die in these circumstances because they cannot afford to do anything else. So go ahead and feel smug about your decision to live in a desert state.

    3. DrRat*

      I lived in Arizona for years and would never move back. Yep, no hurricanes. earthquakes or tsunamis. Just 117 degree heat. (Tomorrow is OCTOBER and temps in some areas will be over 100 degrees, still!) Godawful traffic in the metropolitan areas.

      And guns. Guns freaking everywhere. Open carry state so guns at the grocery store, guns at a church wedding, guns in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. And many, many elderly people so Alzheimer’s patients with guns. (Let me tell you about the elderly in-law in AZ who shot accidentally shot a hole through his bathroom wall while dropping his pants to sit on the toilet…) And while I am not 100% anti-gun and believe in responsible gun ownership, Arizona completely makes me feel like the wild, wild West got a little too wild.

      1. AntsOnMyTable*

        What part of Arizona did you live in? I have been here my whole life and I have not seen that many guns being carried around.

  17. Anonymous for this*

    “Smart employers will not make you use vacation time for these days, but they’re not all smart.”

    Leading the not-so-smart pack: the University of North Carolina system!

    hurricanes, severe t-storms and tornados, ice storms, pandemics…

    UNC system motto: we don’t give a flying f— what the governor says, get your ass on the road and get to work.

    1. Kacihall*

      I went to Purdue when they had their first snow day in 23 years. it was only a foot of snow. The state had to FORCE them to close. later that year (or maybe the next) all of the local schools were closed and the busses weren’t running because it was dangerously cold to stand outside for any length of time, so they tried to close again – but the university president, who was in Texas at the time, said ‘it wasn’t that cold’ so we got to walk to class if our professors didn’t cancel them individually. that was not a fun day.

    2. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

      If Ian takes a deep breath and heads your way (I hope not!), your new personal motto shall be: I don’t give a flying f— what UNC says, my ass is staying off the road and I’m making hurricane snacks instead. Want a muffin?

  18. The Prettiest Curse*

    A few years back, I couldn’t get into the office one morning because there was a bomb scare and multiple streets around my office were shut off by the police. Best excuse I’ve ever had for not making it to work on time. (It wasn’t a bomb, and I waited the situation out at a safe distance.)

  19. C-Dub*

    I once drove in the snow to my minimum wage job while I was in college at a well known chain retail store early in the morning – this was in early January while I was on winter break. I ended up skidding and hitting a streetlight, severely denting my front bumper but my car was still drivable. It was not pleasant.

    I ended up making it to work, but was late. Not surprisingly, many other employees who were scheduled to work later in the day ended up calling out. But in the food section of the store, the boss in that department was extremely nitpicky and strict, and her exact words were: “(Name of employee) better not call out, or he will be in trouble.” She was not joking, nor was she smiling. She was dead serious.

    I made no comment, as I heard it out loud and she was not speaking to me directly. But at that point I was glad I did not work in that department.

  20. Working for the weekend*

    I’m so fortunate that my office/campus offered Administrative Leave so despite being closed, I’m still getting paid for the 16 hours I’m at home.

  21. Francie Foxglove*

    Anyone remember the northeast blizzard of 1993, Storm of the Century? Afterwards, I read in Newsweek that someone at the New York Times, I forget at what level of management, announced, “Anyone who considers him- or herself to be non-essential may leave. BUT…I’m going to remember who left.” Ouch. No, that’s all I know, and I’m taking it with the additional grain of salt that it was a newsmagazine spilling tea on a competitor. Still, ouch.

  22. SpaceySteph*

    Back when Texas had our big freeze in 2021, some roads were impassable, large swaths of people had no power, schools were closed, and then we had low water pressure/boil water notice.

    In discussing why we wouldn’t have facility closure leave provided, our site director said that it wasn’t necessary because he had worked from home the whole time and we should have too. Height of tone deafness.

    Instead I had to spend almost a week’s vacation to be cooped up in a house with my kids, afraid we would freeze to death if the power went out again (several people did die), and boiling baby bottles in a pot on the stove to clean them.

  23. TiredButHappy*

    My current job is the first one where, when I showed up 40 minutes late during a major snowstorm, I got ‘OMG thank goodness you’re here!” And not “YOU’RE LATE. WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?”

    Once my reason was that my bus did not come (two, in fact, I went out for an earlier one that did not show).

    At another job I was stuck behind a snowplow and my usual 12 minute drive took me 45 minutes. I was told I should have left earlier. I said I DID. I gave myself an extra 20 minutes.

    I wasn’t the latest person. And some people didn’t make it in at all and I always hated the “if I think it’s safe to go in, everyone should”.

    I would have turned around and gone home the day i was stuck behind the plow if I could have.

    One winter I was walking to work every day in minus 40 degree weather and broke my foot. I was more worried about missing work than calling an ambulance that I called to say I’d be late.

    And my coworker was like “Omg I am coming to take you to the ER”

  24. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

    I worked for Florida DEO (the unemployment office) until last year, and specifically worked with disaster relief claims from a hurricane. State and federal unemployment help are peanuts but better than nothing. Here’s all the helpful personal-experience info and admin notes I still have if you’re missing time from work because of Ian.

    First off, Florida does not have a state department of labor and no administrative wage enforcement. If your employer refuses to pay you, you need to consult a lawyer. Don’t let cost stop you from getting legal advice; good employment lawyers will offer a free consultation. If you do talk to a lawyer, have as many detailed concrete facts (who/what/when/where) lined up as you can.

    If your employer fires you because the hurricane deprived you of transportation, then good riddance to that employer. You’re considered unemployed through no fault of your own. That includes being unable to get to work because your vehicle was damaged, because public transit was not running, or because roads were washed out.

    If you’re out of work because of Hurricane Ian, there will be disaster unemployment benefits available, but there’s a deadline. It’s usually 30 days past the major disaster declaration date which will be today. Don’t dawdle! If you miss the deadline because your area doesn’t have power or internet, there are ways to fix it and awesome people who will do everything they can to help, but the system itself is a disaster for applicants and employees alike.

    As of Florida’s last smackdown with Mother Nature disaster, you can get unemployment help if:
    1. Your employer shuts down temporarily or permanently as a direct result of the hurricane.
    2.You’re unable to work because of an injury directly related to the storm. The catch is that the injury has to have occurred during the hurricane, not in the immediate aftermath, e.g. shock from a downed power line. I sincerely hope the legislature has changed that rule since last September because it’s ridiculous.
    3. You live or work in a county listed in the disaster declaration. I know, obvious, but we got hurricane claims from people living in Miami for storms that only hit the Panhandle.
    4. Your head of household/primary breadwinner was killed in the storm.
    5. You have no transportation to work for the reasons I mentioned earlier.
    6. You had a concrete start date for a new job but can’t start because of one of the reasons listed above.
    7. Don’t assume you’re not eligible if you’re self employed.

    Document everything, write down details, and be as specific as possible when applying for benefits. Have your employer’s name, physical address, phone number, last day worked, and your manager’s first and last name. Yes, I’ve talked to people who worked Bob’s Store, but not that one, the one over the bridge across from the good steak place. No, that did not help. One more time: WRITE IT DOWN. Agencies nitpick, and it’s normal for people with great memories to forget things in the shuffle when dealing with a catastrophe.

    Last thing: make sure you’ve got your most recent pay stub if at all possible. You may be asked for proof of employment, and the usual confirmation letter from your employer may be hard to come by for the next few months.

    This may not be much help, but it’s what I’ve got to offer right now. At best, we’re all sleep deprived, stressed, and shocked, waiting to hear the real extent of the damage. Please stay safe inside and off the roads for a while longer if you possibly can. Where there’s life, there’s hope.

    1. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

      The standard questions afaicr, beyond applicant’s basic personal info:

      *Name/address/phone of employer, manager name.
      *Are you FT/PT? If PT, approximately how many hours per week? Pay rate?
      *Were you employed when Ian hit? (i.e. Did you still have a job, not asking if you were actually physically working during the storm.)
      *What was your last date worked? (Date of last normal work day or shift)
      *What date did the business close down due to disaster?
      *What’s preventing the business from reopening? or What’s preventing you from returning to work? – Avoid one word answers like HURRICANE or TRANSPORTATION or INJURY. Summarize in 1-3 sentences: “My street was flooded for 3 days and it was unsafe to drive to work.” “My work location has extensive water damage and cannot reopen until repairs are complete.” “I work remotely and did not have power for a week. I could not physically report to the office because it’s 200 miles away.”
      *When do you expect to return to work? “no idea” is an acceptable answer.
      *What county did you live in at the time of the hurricane? What county is your employer in? – People commonly move to unaffected counties after disasters, but agencies can’t assume you lived in a disaster area, so expect this question. As for your employer, give the county of your physical workplace. Your company may be headquartered in Cincinnati, but you worked at the now-flooded Sarasota office, etc.
      *Is your employer paying disaster pay or compensation?

  25. Yes Anastasia*

    I once worked a job where I was both genuinely essential (banking operations) and earning a very low salary. My employer told me that if they needed me during inclement weather, they would send someone in a 4WD vehicle to come get me. I really appreciated that – it seems like the only correct answer if you expect employees with limited means to report to work in dangerous weather.

  26. so over this*

    The morale problems are real. I live in Texas and didn’t earn any pay at all the week in February when we had the freeze and my employer’s business closed, even though due to the nature of our business model, I was very aware that we didn’t even lose any money over it. I quit over it.

  27. TLC*

    If you are exempt, can an employer force you to use a vacation day (or other accrued paid leave) for a partial day absence? Like in the last scenario or in any regular scenario where you need to be gone for a partial day.

  28. Solutioncat*

    I’d also add, your company maybe eligible for tax credits on non-exempt employees if they pay them, which is incentive to pay them.

  29. rubble*

    I’m confused….. I thought if you were salary non-exempt they still weren’t allowed to dock your pay if you worked some of the week? this post is written like there’s only two categories, hourly workers and salaried, exempt workers.

  30. JustComplaining*

    I am govt contractor and our work site was closed to non essential personnel for Ian. About 2/3 of our group is non-exempt and cannot WFH so they were given a special charge code they could be paid for these days off. The exempt employees (incl me) were told to WFH or use PTO.
    My house, while thankfully not damaged, was without power for a full day, and besides that I have kids home from school/daycare. So I’ve had to use PTO.
    Seems unfair? Or not and I just need to suck it up?

  31. DrRat*

    Just jumping in to say that if you believe all companies are evil, some actually do the right thing. Proud to say my company already activated our Work Disruption policy for this hurricane. If you can’t get to the office but have the ability to work from home (as in, you have power, water, etc.) you are asked to do so. If you can’t work remotely or get to work, you get paid normally for the time you missed.

    As I have mentioned before – this may not be my dream job, but it’s definitely my dream company.

  32. DrRat*

    Just jumping in to say that if you believe all companies are evil, some actually do the right thing. Proud to say my company already activated our Work Disruption policy for this hurricane. If you can’t get to the office but have the ability to work from home (as in, you have power, water, etc.) you are asked to do so. If you can’t work remotely or get to work, you get paid normally for the time you missed, no need to use PTO, even though we have extremely generous PTO.

    As I have mentioned before – this may not be my dream job, but it’s definitely my dream company.

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