my employee doesn’t want to come to work when it snows

A reader writes:

Last year one of my employees had attendance problems related to various stressors involving family members, 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. His frequent, last-minute absences or sudden departures halfway through the workday began to have a negative impact on our clients. I advised him that we valued him as an employee, but his ongoing pattern of being unavailable to work was affecting the functioning of the organization and he would need to be at work consistently. His attendance improved immediately and hasn’t been a problem — until now.

Today, he emailed me that he might not make it to work tomorrow because of possible snow in the forecast. A number of his 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 he is unusually hesitant to drive in snowy weather.

We all know snow is part of life here and we plan for it. We get up early, shovel ourselves out, 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 dangerous conditions, but in routine snowy weather everyone else manages to get here except him. Can I tell him that he should be making some sort of contingency plan 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? It seems to me that getting to work in routine winter weather is a reasonable expectation.

I answer this question — and two others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My employees finish my sentences
  • Interviewing with sweaty palms

{ 414 comments… read them below }

  1. Edna*

    I certainly sympathize to LW1– I hate the snow, and I hate having to navigate in it. Would it help to be explicit about EXACTLY how often snow is an acceptable excuse? Depending on your climate, you might say, “generally there are around 2-3 days a winter where the snow is bad enough to warrant missing work, so I need you to stay around that number.”

    1. Artemesia*

      If there is a traffic alert asking people not to drive, ok. but if most people are making their way to work then there is no excuse for one person to take a vacation every time it snows.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        On the other hand, part of the blame for the recent fiasco in Buffalo is that the authorities didn’t put out a do not drive order until commuters were already on the road. Some workers had begged for the order to be issued earlier, as their employers would otherwise require them to come in.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          There’s always going to be crappy employers but I think for reasonable one, a “do not drive” order or declared state of emergency or something similar is a good baseline, with the understanding that there will be some exceptions.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I wish more people sympathized with employers who DO shut down in terms of delivery and food service.

            When we lost power during a giant wind/ice storm a couple weeks ago, our stores managed to remain open, but the delivery and pickup times were through the roof. I’m talking hours. And for every person who understood why it was so difficult for stores to keep up with the order flood, there was another who was insistent that because they had lost power/had kids to feed/were throwing a party, they deserved to be bumped to the top of the line. We had people asking if the drivers could stop off at the grocery store and pick up supplies for them.

            Same for when we have to close certain zones during inclement weather. Yes, your particular street may be plowed/salted, but that isn’t the case for every street between you and the store.

            1. Daisy*

              Oh, we recently had a “do not drive” winter weather advisory in my town. Residents were complaining on social media their mail either wasn’t delivered or was delivered late.
              Really? Nothing I send thru the mail is so important it is worth the mail carriers life or health if it shows up two days late.

              1. New Jack Karyn*

                My uncle was the manager (postmaster?) of a post office branch. He told the story of a really bad ice storm in his area, but the higher-ups said that delivery staff had to make a “good faith effort” to deliver the mail.

                He lined up his crew, told them all to take one step forward. They did so, and he said, “You have now made a good faith effort. Go home, and be careful!”

                1. Jasper*

                  When you make your literal motto “neither rain nor sleet nor snow”, is it any wonder that company policy is slightly toxic around this area?

            2. ZK*

              We were under a winter storm watch a few days ago and my husband said, “If the weather gets bad, we can always order dinner in.” And I gave him such a stink eye! If I’m not comfortable going out in the weather, I am certainly not making someone else bring me something. Maybe meds in an emergency, or something, but I can certainly live without that burger.

              When I worked in retail and the weather was bad there was always that person who would ask why we were open in this weather. The answer is YOU, you are standing in front of me because you are out in this weather to buy craft supplies to keep you busy when it gets even worse out, because you can’t plan ahead….

        2. TeenieBopper*

          My GF was one of those people. Woke up to an email saying her office was open. Got on the road just before the weather was starting to turn and then got to the office only to be told “lol, just kidding. Office is closed now.”

          Meanwhile, another friend of mine was trapped in his office scrounging food from office refrigerators to eat for two days before being rescued by emergency services.

          Which is to say, I have almost zero sympathy for employers complaining about workers who won’t come into work in inclement weather, especially when there’s a significant chance that WFH is a perfectly feasible option.

          1. lilsheba*

            Agreed! Around here snow means ice, and there is a steep driveway just to get out of my apartment complex, and I don’t have a car. When I had to commute I would stay home on snowy days, because it didn’t matter if the roads were plowed or not, if there is a good chance I slip and fall going up or down my driveway I’m not doing it. My health and life are not worth risking for a job. And if bad weather starts while I’m at work I’m hightailing it out of there before it gets too bad so I’m not trapped at work.

            1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

              I was going to say this, too. We have weather where it rains, then freezes over night and, because my work is easy to do remotely, the days when I risk falling on my rear to get to work are over.

            2. Phryne*

              I commute by bicycle, and I will cycle trough wind and rain and everything, but I will not cycle in snow or sleet. A couple of times I have made messy smacks on slippery roads, and I will not do it anymore. People break bones that way. Fortunately we have generous work from home possibilities and if required I can take public transport fairly easily, so m employer is not difficult about it.

          2. Cmdrshprd*

            “Which is to say, I have almost zero sympathy for employers complaining about workers who won’t come into work in inclement weather,”

            I guess I think it depends on your definition of inclement weather? The recent storm that hit buffalo and other parts of the country is an obvious one to let people stay home, LW1 seems/sound reasonable, I don’t think they expect the employee to make it to work that day. But it sounds like the employee is missing work for routine 2/3 inch snowfalls in a location that normally gets snow.

            I know even 1 in in an area that does not get snow like Houston/Dallas etc can be a lot, but in snow locations like Buffalo, Chicago etc… 2/3 inches over a period of time is not a lot. Obviously there can be various factors like extreme cold (-35F+) and a little snow.
            Expecting people to commute in a routine snow when they live in a snow region is understandable.

            1. Willow Pillow*

              Definitely depends on the location! Where I live (northern Canada) it is frequently the coldest place on earth. Travel is typically slow the first big snowfall in November, but things rarely come to a standstill. I’ve seen people in LW’s employee’s circumstances asked to take a vacation day. The weather is a tradeoff for LCOL, and it seems like it’ll only get more erratic.

              1. Chinookwind*

                We had this in December. Weather was dangerously cold. You are still expected to get to work. We turn a blind eye if normally on-time people are late or if parents call in/are late because school buses aren’t running. We also accept the odd car won’t start excuse, but that only works once a season (or more if you have an unlucky run of people stealing your extension cord), but we still expect you to figure out how to keep these from being recurring issues.

                The biggest thing, though, is that the people who get the biggest leeway and sympathy are the ones that work the hardest when they do show up. You can easily tell which people are unlucky but hard workers and those that are just looking for an excuse for a snow day.

            2. LifeBeforeCorona*

              That same storm hit us and I had to go to work. I can say now in all honesty I did walk to work in a blizzard just like our grandparents claimed they did.

              1. Dancing Otter*

                The claims may well be true.

                I remember the day after the 1967 Chicago blizzard, the suburban streets weren’t plowed because so many cars were abandoned wherever they had gotten stuck. (great fun for children! Until we were voluntold to help shovel)

                The commuter trains were running, though. My father, who had had a heart attack the previous winter, hiked something like four miles to get to the train station, with his nitroglycerin bottle ready in his hand. I was seconded to walk the first mile or two with him, until it was clear he wasn’t going to keel over. What I could have done if he had, as a child in the days before cell phones, is still unclear.

            3. thievingwillow*

              Yes, this exactly. Where I live now, we get like an inch of snow a year, and the whole city shuts down for that one inch because the infrastructure isn’t developed for it—we have just about enough snowplows to clear major arterials so that emergency services can get around, but that’s it. Nobody buys snow tires because why would you invest in them for three days a year? And most employers tell people to stay home, because, again, it’s a couple days once a year.

              But I grew up in rural north Idaho, and if everything shut down for a couple inches of snow, everything would be shut down from October through March. Which obviously isn’t feasible. Good employers still have thresholds of “ok, everyone stay home,” but they’re like, a foot of snow all at once, or an ice storm, or so cold your car literally cannot start. On the flip side, there are nearly as many snow plows in that one medium-smallish-sized town as there are in my whole major city now, and the putting-on of snow tires is an expected annual ritual.

              I could see how someone from my current city might need a significant readjustment if they moved to the town where I grew up, but they’d have to make that adjustment, because it’s one of the realities of living in the snowy north. “Too much snow to come in” is completely relative.

              1. londonedit*

                Your first paragraph is pretty much how things are in southern England. It’s probably not even every year; every now and then we’ll get a bit of a weather event with a few inches of snow, and of course everything shuts down. People go mad about ‘this stupid country, can’t even cope with a bit of snow, other places just get on with it’ but do they really want the government to spend millions on snow ploughs etc that would just sit around 360+ days of the year? The roads are gritted and salted and everyone does their best, but no we don’t have winter tyres and often the best and safest thing is for people to stay at home if they can. The other thing people moan about here in London is the train/Tube service being affected – but the thing with that is that the drivers and staff need to get in to whichever station they work at, and often those are at the end of the line and not underground, so the lines will be covered in snow and it’ll be just as difficult for the drivers to get to work as it is for everyone else.

                1. Phryne*

                  I live in the Netherlands and we get that with the railways as well. When it is very cold, the switches will freeze, and people will complain that the trains in Switzerland keep running in the cold. Yeah, well, that is because the switches in Switzerland are heated because they have that level of cold every year. We can do that here, just takes a couple hundred million euro’s to implement and upkeep. Is that worth it for weather that occurs once a decade or so? Don’t think so.

                2. Jasper*

                  Re the frozen switches, *most* of the core network here in NL does have heated switches — it’s something like 9000 heated ones and 16000 non, IIRC, but they prioritize the more-used ones, obviously.

                  But our heaters are mostly finicky and based on cheap natural gas (haha, joke’s on ProRail for that one with current prices), and as such they are much more complex devices than the electric heaters which are much simpler, but slightly more expensive to run. So they break.

              2. Indigo a la mode*

                Exactly. I grew up in Seattle. People in Chicago or Nebraska or whatever make fun of how everything shuts down for any sort of snow. But in addition to the lack of infrastructure you mentioned, there are other real dangers. I bet Chicagoans wouldn’t be quite as confident snow driving on our hilly streets, especially on day 2 and beyond when the temps have warmed and cooled repeatedly to create an unrelenting layer of ice on said hills.

                But if I lived an hour away in Snoqualmie, I would expect a snowy winter season and it’d be my responsibility to have snow tires and a snow blower. And there would be plows and salt trucks.

          3. NoSnowBunny*

            It doesn’t typically snow a lot where I live. But one year my employer wanted everyone to come in despite the 6 inches of snow. I ended up in a terrible accident on the way in and got stuck in the snow. Damages to my car were in the thousands. They ended up changing the policy after that. And, for the record, I am terrified to drive in the snow and can’t do it now.

            1. Bast*

              @NoSnowBunny I am the same. I live in an area where we can have heavy snow one year and next to no snow the next. I used to travel in it all the time, until one year I was forced to come in during a storm. The roads were not salted or cleared and I wrapped my car around a pole. I was extremely lucky that I hit the way I did, as I walked with minor injuries. I have not been able to drive in the snow since and it’s been about 8 years. As an office worker, 90% of my job can be done remotely and none of my employers have had an issue with me working from home since then, as I am reliable and still get my work done. I can see where it might be an issue for some jobs that cannot be remote, but covid had taught us that butts in seats is outdated for the most part and most jobs can be done remotely.

            2. J*

              I also had an accident that made me change my mind. I was lucky that I was safe, I could literally see my house when it happened, but after having tripled my commute to find a safe route home and still finding myself in danger, I decided I would never risk my life for work again. It’s actually a part of why I chose to only accept work at home jobs in recent years. If employers had just treated me with the respect to choose my own safety, I wouldn’t be always avoiding the office (this also applied to Covid for me and safety there)

            3. Sandangel*

              Heck, I once had a very minor slip on some ice biking back from classes, and I insisted on being driven (didn’t have my license yet) until the snow and ice went away. I didn’t want to risk something worse if I could help it.

            4. Observer*

              It doesn’t typically snow a lot where I live. But one year my employer wanted everyone to come in despite the 6 inches of snow.

              I really don’t understand people like this.

              I’m glad that they at least changed the policy afterward.

          4. Dona Florinda*

            Maybe it’s because I’m from a place where it doesn’t snow ever, but I agree: if work from home is an option (even a temporary one just so essential work doesn’t pile up), then employers should make an effort to make that happen.

            1. Clisby*

              I live in an area where it seldom snows (coastal SC), but we get a lot of flooding and that’s how I feel about it. I’m retired, but my still-working husband just doesn’t go to work if streets are flooded. Or he comes home early if there’s a bad rainstorm, because a bad rainstorm + a high tide here can mean cars flooding out in the streets downtown.

          5. Girasol*

            Yes, this! Police closed the main road to our company due to slick ice from freezing rain. Employees were expected come in via back roads. I called in sick because hey, if the police close the main road it’s bad out there! Boss sends a message an hour later that he did slither in only to find that a water leak had taken down the power and our building was closed so he had to slither home. The emergency manager kept asking to put a notification on the phone line but he was denied. I asked him the next day and he said that we had a line that employees could call to see if the plant was closed, but nobody was ever told that it existed because management was afraid to close the office lest employees get into bad habits. Besides, they had a rule that only a vote of the board could make that decision and the ice had already melted before they could locate enough board members, so it really didn’t matter that no one knew about the emergency call-in line. So there’s a point at which employees get the message that the employer would prefer to risk lives than risk WFH.

            1. Observer*

              Yes. Especially if the boss actually was that flippant / said that the email was “just kidding”.

          6. HeffalumpsAndWoozles*

            “We are an essential business. You are expected to be here on time even during a Level 2 Snow Emergency.”

            Narrator: They were not an essential business.

            Insane! Part of the culture of rolling over and taking whatever your job dishes out.

            Also when your 30 minute commute is now 3 hours, who’s time is that? I’m not getting up four hours early to risk getting wrecked in an active snow storm again.

            It may be reasonable to tell employees to prepare better, but every job I’ve had had in expectations very skewed of what is reasonable.

            1. New Mom*

              Yeah, as a mom of two young children, I don’t necessarily have extra time in the mornings to shovel snow, do drop offs and then add 30-60 minutes to my commute. That seems really unreasonable.

            2. Chirpy*

              I work for a *debatably* essential business, but honestly if the weather is so bad that travel is not advisable, nothing we sell is 10000% necessary to have *this instant* unless one was woefully unprepared for living here, and very few people are going to be shopping in terrible weather anyway. Like, if you don’t have one day’s worth of toilet paper, that’s your own fault.

          7. Lea*

            Yeah, we don’t have a lot of snow here and one I went to work, then got stuck going home, accidentally parked on a random no parking street because I couldn’t get home and got towed.

            So now I am really extra cautious.

            I’m wondering if this employee is from a less snowy area and maybe has less familiarity too! Put a southern up north there is going to be an adjustment phase

            1. Splendid Colors*

              My first thought is that the employee moved from someplace it doesn’t snow. I grew up in California and have only seen snow twice when I went to go see it (and I wasn’t driving). Have not attempted to drive in snow, and honestly that’s one of the top 5 reasons I haven’t relocated “somewhere with lower cost of living” because it sounds terrifying.

              I also wondered if he became less inclined to take risks for his job in general after COVID. I used to be all about the grind and doing whatever it took to turn orders around ASAP, but I’ve started doing more risk assessment. My studio is over a small mountain range from my home, and there are always accidents if it rains. Or if there are a lot of tourists who don’t know how to drive in the mountains, but they wanna go to the beach (and possibly show off their fancy performance car). There are rockslides, trees falling on the roadway, etc. and driving a safe speed to avoid such hazards means risking getting rear-ended by glassbowls in SUVs.

              After my business was shut down for so long during the pandemic, I started looking at the weather report and deciding it isn’t worth possibly wrecking my car just to get an order out the door a day or two faster. There’s also a strong possibility I’d get over there and they’d be closed for a blackout anyway–it’s happened twice this week already. It could be this employee is using a similar thought process, especially if he’s from somewhere with milder weather.

          8. StressedButOkay*

            Yeah, I’m flashing back to Carmageddon in the DC area. It wasn’t supposed to be that bad or that much. By the time that everyone got on the road at the same time, the untreated roads had turned into ice skating rinks. People were stuck on the highway for up to fourteen hours.

            I was one of the lucky few who got home RIGHT before mess happened but I vowed that snow or ice = remote from then on, regardless of how it looked.

          9. Observer*

            Which is to say, I have almost zero sympathy for employers complaining about workers who won’t come into work in inclement weather, especially when there’s a significant chance that WFH is a perfectly feasible option.

            This letter was written a few years ago when WFH was not as common. Also, the OP was not describing anything like what happened to your GF or your other friend.

          10. Snowy*

            I once made the mistake of trying to come into work during an extremely dangerous winter storm to appease my unreasonable boss (who wanted everyone else there despite him not being able to make it himself!!!) It only cost me *two* tires and 4 days waiting for a tow…sure, it’s not a job that could be done remotely, but I am never, never doing that again.

          11. D.*

            Yes, agreed. I think this original letter is older, but—especially now—we’ve proven that working from home is a feasible option in these circumstances. I work in higher education, and our institution’s bad weather policy is abysmal; it’s largely based around whether the students can get to class or not. Students living on campus and walking to class in wintry weather is much different than forcing your employees to drive from all over to do work that can easily be done from home.

        3. Le Sigh*

          The DC area has had this problem more than once. We get snow, though not the way the Northeast does, and more often than not it’s a mix of snow and rain/sleet. In 2011 they pre-treated the roads, which was promptly washed away by rain, which then quickly turned to snow and ice as the temperature dropped …. which was also right when the Fed finally released all personnel to go home early, all at the same time. Cue a flood of traffic on the main roads, quickly followed by dozens of accidents as people skidded on the untreated pavement, which created a bigger mess and blocked other cars. I had friends who slept in their office or slept in their cars.

          1. FORMERHigherEdPerson*

            Ah yes, Thundersnow 2011! My husband had to abandon his car and walk 2 miles home.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Ugh. Two miles in that kind of weather must have been rough. I had friends who spent hours trying to leave a *parking lot* (because everything was so backed up) and just gave up and slept in their cars. I have never been so glad I packed up and went home that morning. I once tried to drive home in something similar and a car driving too fast spun out, nearly forcing me into oncoming traffic. I decided after that it wasn’t worth it to wait.

            2. plz don't dox me*

              Ah yes! I was unemployed at that time but I remember my dad having to leave his car in some random parking lot and walking something like 3 miles home. Now I like a good hike/walk and so does he, but not in heavy snow on Rt 1.

          2. L.H. Puttgrass*

            That’s interesting. I’m now a federal employee who arrived in DC well after Snowmageddon 2011, and it seems like OPM is pretty quick these days to call snow days or delayed starts for relatively light snow forecasts. I wonder if they learned their lesson in 2011 or if it’s just easier to call “telework if you can” days now that most DC-area feds can telework.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Oh they got a LOT of grief over that disaster — both for how long they waited and not staggering it. I’m sure it being better set up for telework helps, but iirc, they promised to make changes as a result of this.

            2. Lizzianna*

              I was a Fed during Snowmageddon, and we couldn’t even access our emails from home – we still had desktop computers, only supervisors had blackberries (yes, we still used blackberries), and we didn’t have webmail to access email from our personal computers.

              So when the government was closed for over a week, it was CLOSED. I heard from a friend much higher up than me that the political appointees were shocked at how unprepared we were, which I think was part of why they didn’t want to close until they absolutely had to.

        4. Anon for this*

          Buffalonian here. Another thing that has been a factor here for years is that if you live in the city proper, they do not plow much or at all which people in the suburbs often do not get. A winter or so ago, I really couldn’t get my car down my street and because I really had to come in, my supervisor volunteered to drive me in. It wasn’t till they also could not get their car down my street that I think they understood.

          There is a reason why a lot of us routinely have shovels in our cars.

          1. please just cut us a break*

            You’re so right! As a young person living in the city for the first time, I wanted to cry every time we had a hefty snowfall. My car had to be street-parked and there was nowhere to put the snow – if you put it on the street, the plow people would just come by and push it back onto your car. If you put it on the other side, the people who had houses would actively come out and yell at you. Multiple times, I ended up in tears because I could not figure out what to do with all the snow!

            I also was young enough at the time that I didn’t understand how shoveling can be
            dangerous to your health. We had a huge storm in followed by single-digit conditions. My employer didn’t make an exception for this storm, so I went out to shovel late at night. Per usual, someone came out to yell at me about the placement of the snow and said “Why don’t you just give it a rest? It’s not like you’ll actually have to go into work.” which just made me more upset. I ended up shoveling so hard that I vomited.

            Go ahead and punish me – I’m staying home.

          2. Chirpy*

            I used to live just outside a city that did the same. The township did a decent job plowing (it routinely took forever but they plowed well), the county kept the highway pristine, but the actual city? Never plowed the street my job was on, despite it being right downtown.

        5. Avril Ludgateaux*

          There was a snowstorm (not even a blizzard) back in November of 2018 that brought the entire tri-state NY-NJ-CT metro area to a complete lockup because – I suppose because of past hypervigilance that resulted in “wasted resources”? – the respective executives of each state neglected to issue any orders in advance of, including the bare minimum of salting the roads. They’ll claim that “nobody predicted the storm would be this big” but I remember at least one major local network (remember this is the NYC metro area, so even the local news has very far reach) was consistently reporting 18+ inches of snow based on one of three models.

          Anyway, it took me almost 6 hours to get home from work that day, at a crawl, because every highway and major thruway was down to one lane that had barely been carved out by moving traffic. My car does not have 4WD or AWD but I miraculously never spun out. Can’t say the same for others on the road. Lots of people got stuck on icy, slightly inclined on- and off-ramps, too, which meant many could not even get off the road where they needed to.

          All that to say… maybe let’s just let non-essential people stay home when it snows? It’s safer for everybody involved, including the essential workers.

          (And even if the forecast is for a light dusting of snow, salt the roads.)

        6. Random Biter*

          This happens in my county on the shores of Lake Erie all…the…time. Sheriffs here issue different level alerts for their county, everything from Level 1 (take extra time, be extra careful) to Level 3 (if we catch you on the roads and you don’t have a reallllly good reason, you may be going to jail). The problem is, each sheriff makes his own judgement call so if you live in a different county from where you work you may get two different calls for the SAME weather. And my OldJob based it on what the sheriff in your office’s county said. I can’t tell you how many times I was expected to bulldoze through major drifts because my county’s sheriff said he wouldn’t ever broadcast a Level 3 because employers should be smart enough to tell their people to stay home. Yeah…not.

          Another problem is (and I’m not saying a couple of flakes should keep you home, if you live here you adapt or migrate) that my city doesn’t salt the side streets. City government believes traffic will pull salt from the main roads on to the side streets. Yeah, cost saving measure, sure. Of course if you’re an “important” person your street will get salted regardless. I have a plow guy for my driveway, but if the street plows were out 5 hours ago and not since, there’s not much point getting out of my driveway just to get bogged down in the street, especially as I live in the middle of my block so there’s no possibility of maybe making it to the corner in a mad dash.

          1. HigherEdEscapee*

            “Another problem is … that my city doesn’t salt the side streets. City government believes traffic will pull salt from the main roads on to the side streets.”

            Wait, they believe in trickle down salting? That’s wild.

          2. Hannah Lee*

            Yeah the inconsistent plowing is a thing. For years our city’s fire chief lived at the end of my dead end street and it was always impeccably plowed, sanded etc. I’d sometimes be fooled into thinking a storm wasn’t that bad because my street looked fine.

            After he moved, things immediately changed. The first big storm hit mid day, while I was at work 15 miles away and by the time I left early and finally got home, it was nearly impossible to drive down my street. I wound up making the block and then gunning it over the snow piles at the start of the street and then fishtailing the rest of the way to my house praying the whole way none of the neighborhood kids was playing in the street because I didn’t have complete control of my car at times.

            On the plus side the city plows don’t block my driveway with hard packed street snow as often… most storms I’m actually able to clear the whole driveway and front of my house where the hydrant is before the plows come by and plow me in.

        7. Professor Plum*

          True. But that particular storm was also being called an “unprecedented storm of the center” so don’t make a general policy for normal snow in a snowy climate based on it.

      2. curmudgeon*

        I’m sorry, are you saying people who follow road safety directions should be penalized for not coming into work when they’re told by local officials not to drive??

    2. ecnaseener*

      It really varies too much year to year for that. Some years you get tons of heavy blizzards and ice storms, sometimes nothing too heavy to drive in.

    3. Random Dice*

      Is there a potential ADA accommodation at play here? Can he use whatever remote work option they used during the pandemic?

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yeah, and I can’t think of any disability where the reasonable accommodation would be to be absent/wfh specifically on snowy days.

          (Random Dice, I believe this is a pre-pandemic letter)

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            A phobia or an anxiety disorder triggered by driving in snow might rise to the level of ADA recognition, depending on the severity.

          2. cosmicgorilla*

            Balance issues that aren’t apparent on non-snowy/icy floors, migraines caused by light reflection from snow, debilitating anxiety around snow, muscle issues that precluded snow shoveling…

            Now mind you, if these were at play, the appropriate thing would be for the employee to have a conversation with the boss. And I do see where the employee had other issues, so snow was just a scapegoat. But I can absolutely see where snow days would be different from other days.

            1. Baron*

              Yes, absolutely there are health issues that can make it unsafe for someone to drive in the snow and that would require accommodation. I don’t want to say which one, but a medical condition runs in my family that leaves us able to drive (just barely) well enough to get a license, but not really to drive under any kind of adverse conditions. I don’t drive at all, because I know I’d be a menace on the roads if I did. My siblings…didn’t get that memo, and do drive, but should absolutely not be driving if it’s snowy.

              1. Splendid Colors*

                I am ignorant about snow country living, but if someone had a disability that wasn’t severe enough to prevent them from driving or working–but meant they weren’t strong enough to shovel snow–what options would they have to get their car/driveway/whatever shoveled out?

          3. Barb*

            I have that very accommodation due to balance and mobility problems significantly exacerbated by trying to walk on snow and ice.
            My accommodation is to WFH from October to April.

          4. DontPresumeToKnowWhatImpactsDisabled*

            I use a walker and literally cannot manage walking if there’s any snow on the ground. Not even 1/8 of an inch. It catches on the wheels and the mechanisms get stuck. Plus people rarely shovel out the sidewalks wide enough or at the right places at the corners to move from block to block. So yeah, disability can absolutely prevent someone from going out even with a tiny bit of snow.

        2. Random Dice*

          He could have osteoporosis that would make a fall more dangerous. He’s older (IIRC) and may have balance / eyesight issues that make hazardous driving a no-go. There are a whole host of things.

      1. Meep*

        I was leaning towards this. We had a guy with Chron’s and had anxiety when it came to driving. He was a real jerk about it. Once everyone (three of us) besides him left to go to an event and he came up to my car to tell me I didn’t lock the door. He had a key. He had been told to stay behind. But the fear of forgetting to lock the door made him want to leave before everyone else. He moved from Arizona to somewhere snowy, so I can totally see this being him. He is kind of a mess.

        1. Meep*

          Another example is he didn’t want to drive two hours to a different city for training due to his Chron’s. Again, while he was a jerk about it, I could see this being a mix of having something like Chron’s and not wanting to get stuck in a snowstorm.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            If I had any kind of digestive issues, I certainly wouldn’t want to be stuck in a car in a snowstorm. I’m sure everyone else would realize why if they were stuck with someone and they had a bowel attack.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              A friend of my with Crohn’s changed jobs and where he lived primarily so that his daily commute could be on a public transportation route (bus and ferry) which provided access to a restroom for the whole round trip. Because anything else came with a risk that he would urgently need a bathroom when the closest one was … too far, too long from wherever he was.

    4. Cake or Death*

      “generally there are around 2-3 days a winter where the snow is bad enough to warrant missing work, so I need you to stay around that number.”

      I’m not sure that would work, because winters can vary. I live in the northern Midwest and we have snow anywhere from October to April. Sometimes it doesn’t snow until December. Sometimes we get 8ft dumped on us over the season. Last year, we’d had several snow days by this time; this year we’ve had none yet (knock on wood!).

      I’d say whether school is cancelled or not would be a much better barometer of whether the weather is bad enough to stay home. Even still, it depends on where the employee lives. If they live quite a ways from work and have to travel on highway, it might be a more treacherous drive than say if they lived in the city limits and not far from the office and they took low speed limit city streets. I RARELY don’t work on school snow days, because I only live 3 miles from my office and and take low speed limit city streets to work. The only time I ever don’t come in due to snow is when we get dumped on overnight and they city hasn’t plowed all the streets yet, so i literally can’t get to work. But if I lived out in the rural area on the outside of the city, getting into work would be a lot riskier and difficult.

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          Similarly, in the DC area, most of my employers have followed what I’ll call an “OPM+” policy: if OPM (office of personnel management for the federal government) declares a delay or closure due to weather, our offices will be delayed or closed as well, and at or office management’s discretion we might also have delays or closures even when OPM doesn’t. Importantly, it means as employees we can subscribe to OPM alerts and rely on them to know when we don’t have to go in, even if our office manager hasn’t yet woken up and emailed a closure announcement to our staff, so staff with longer commutes are less likely to find out only once they’re halfway in that they don’t need to come.

          It’s a somewhat better proxy in our area than school closures, since DC is bordered on several counties and it’s very often that some will have closed schools and others won’t, and also because OPM can be relied on even when schools are closed for winter break. I wonder if there might be similar government closure alerts in local cities or counties that employers outside of the DC area could follow.

          1. c*

            Back when Barack Obama was president, and there was a snow emergency declared in DC one of his two daughters said something along the lines of: Back in Chicago not only would we have had to go to school, but they would have made us go outside for recess.

              1. Biology Dropout*

                Ranon except today, when it means “move your car, but we’re not actually plowing.”

            1. Eisbaer*

              In Fairbanks, the schools have outdoor recess unless it is colder than -20F. After school activities are cancelled at -40F. There is no set temperature for cancelling school itself but I have seen it closed a handful of times due to bad road conditions which usually happen when it is fairly warm (above zero).

              1. EmmaPoet*

                I grew up in Fairbanks and don’t ever remember the schools closing (70s/80s). There was one year where we got -60 for a couple weeks, and schools were still open.

          2. Cat Lover*

            In Northern VA they close school for rain sometimes, if it is could enough it *could* sleet. So not the best metric in some places.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              Have you tried Glebe Road in Arlington after even a minor sleet event? Not fun, despite it being a major route. There’s a reason the northern VA districts close at the drop of a hat.

              1. Le Sigh*

                People often laugh when southern U.S. states panic over 2″ of snow, but I don’t think some people realize the issue isn’t necessarily the amount of snow. Quite often what you get isn’t powdery, pretty snow — it’s sleet and ice, which creates dangerous conditions even at 1/2-1″. And places that don’t get much snow might be equipped and seasoned for hurricanes, but they usually don’t have the resources and experience with snow. My school system used to close if the rural roads hadn’t been plowed, even if everything was fine further in town — you do not want a school bus fishtailing on a rural highway.

                1. MarsJenkar*

                  Also, people who live in those areas generally don’t know how to drive in snow. They’ve never had to. (I lived in the Carolinas for a few years, and when the winter got brutal one year, it was fear of other drivers that kept me off the road.)

                2. Splendid Colors*

                  Arcata only gets snow about 1-2 times a century, but it happened while I was in school in the mid-2000s. A whole 1-2 inches up on the hill where most of the faculty lived! Except it melted and refroze into black ice, on a hill, where the houses all had sloped driveways going to the road. We had a lot of faculty calling in for a couple of days until it melted, because a place with snow once or twice a century isn’t going to have road salt etc.

                3. Wintermute*

                  this is very true, I live in the north and I fully acknowledge that 2″ of snow in Mississippi is not the same as it is in Illinois.

                  Not only are drivers experienced with it, and have cars equipped for it, and not only does the city have the proper infrastructure in place (snow plows, salt spreaders for dump trucks, salt stockpiles) but the streets are physically built differently.

                  Dated a girl that went to Mississippi State, they had a road near campus that was at such a grade that any amount of snow made the distance between two stop signs impassible, you would stop at the base of the steep incline and there was no way physically possible to gain enough momentum even with a four-wheel drive car in low gear to climb the slope. In Wisconsin that street would not have had a stop sign at the base of the incline, or it would have been regraded to be less steep, or the intersection would have been moved to the top of the slope on a flat-graded section.

              2. Captain Swan*

                Try reading the comments on the Fairfax County schools social media when they close for weather. It’s pretty good entertainment because folks don’t get that the weather is variable across the county and it’s a really big county.

                I seem to recall a Wednesday night in January (either 2016 or 2017) when VDOT didn’t salt because accumulations were supposed to be less than 1 inch. My 20 minute commute home that night took just about 2 hours. Most of which was spent less than a quarter mile from my house. I was giving serious consideration to leaving my car at the local shopping center and walking the quarter mile. As a former Buffaloian, I was dressed for the weather and could have made it.

                1. Brain the Brian*

                  I distinctly remember that night. I use (and used back then) Metro for my commute, but one of our higher-ups got stuck in eight hours (yes, EIGHT hours) of traffic commuting that day. An utter nightmare.

            2. jojo*

              Mississippi and Alabama will close schools when expecting heavy rain due to threat of tornados.

              1. Clisby*

                Where I live in SC, they’ll close schools when expecting heavy rain because so many roads will flood.

                1. Chirpy*

                  People from southern California have told me they close schools when it rains because people there don’t know how to drive in rain.

                2. Splendid Colors*

                  I grew up in Orange County, CA and also lived in San Diego. I’m not sure about LA, but they only close schools for rain if they’re expecting flooding at major intersections or waterways because people don’t know how to tell their car will get stuck until they’re stuck. I remember we had at least one unfortunate fool get swept away every major rainstorm at a particular spot where the road from a hotel to a shopping center dips down and floods. Not just floods enough to hydroplane, enough to sweep a jacked up pickup off the crossing and down the river.

        2. Colette*

          Around here, schools are rarely closed – but school buses get cancelled when there is expected bad weather, and that wouldn’t be an acceptable reason to miss work most of the time. (Of course, some people take leave to care for children, which is OK, but not just to stay home because the weather is/might be bad.)

        3. 'sno joke*

          Not really. I worked in a school where the public buses from EIGHT different districts dropped kids off (NY where private school kids still get public school bussing). We had to either shut for the whole day or stay open for the whole day because we couldn’t get kids to or from their homes and one district might be closed, another on a 1 hour delay, another on a 2 hour delay, etc.

          So kids were never penalized for not making it in on a snow day, and if the school was open, faculty and staff was expected to be on time. Even if the roads were clearly not going to be safe for hours. And not faculty/staff member could leave early even if the school was emptying out as snow was approaching. One big snow storm 2 people ended up in major accidents.

          And this was snow-country. (Albany, not Buffalo, but still an expectation that you’d drive in mild snow, and the schools would close in heavy snow. But schools hate closing for the day when the snow isn’t supposed to start until 2pm). When you live surrounded by so many districts, school closures can give very differing opinions.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        School closings at least is objective, so far as this employer and employee are concerned. Snow days generally are called if the worst road within the district is judged unsafe for a bus. A car should have no problem on any road a school bus can handle.

        1. KayDeeAye*

          No, not always, at least around here. Schools are sometimes closed because the roads are impassable for buses, or because it’s just too risky to have kids riding in a bus without seatbelts. But just because a road is too risky for a bus loaded with unseatbelted kids doesn’t mean it’s too risky for cars. Also, sometimes schools are closed because they don’t want to make kids wait for the bus when it’s dark, cold and snowy rather than because of driving conditions.

          So my primary indicator is if there’s an “emergency travel only” order in effect. This seems perfectly reasonable to me. My only issue with it is that the organization I work for sometimes seems to forget that while the office is in County A, I live in County B, and other employees live in Counties C-F, and the conditions are not necessarily the same in all counties. They’ve loosened up a lot now that they’re somewhat used to our working from home, though, thank goodness!

          1. Brain the Brian*

            School closings also account for snow day childcare issues, which could otherwise create workplace inequities if parents are allowed to stay home to watch children but nonparents are required to come into the office.

          2. Rain's Small Hands*

            Around here, buses – which are heavy – are far more likely to make it through snow – unbelted children and all – than I am in my little Prius. Earlier this year, some stranger used her SUV to push me up hills and get me home. I’ve done the three hour commute – usually on the way home since that’s when it usually creeps up on you.

            We are more likely to close schools now for cold weather (kids waiting for the school bus with -20 wind chill is not good) than snow. (Minneapolis/St.Paul, Minnesota)

        2. not owen wilson*

          Not always- where I grew up in Wisconsin they would cancel school if we got more than 12″ of snow or if there was a forecasted wind chill of -30, since it would be too cold to have kids waiting outside for the bus.

      2. Brain the Brian*

        Yep — school closings and delays are the easiest metric for most companies. There are exceptions in both directions, of course (for instance, a plow driver would definitely need to be at work regardless; on the other hand, an elderly employee who’s nearing retirement and has slower reflexes might need a bit more grace), but this should be the baseline, IMO.

        1. KayDeeAye*

          Schools close for different reasons than companies do (e.g., perhaps it’s dangerous to drive a bus, but a car isn’t the same as a bus). So at least around here (Indiana), that’s not really a very good indicator. I use the “emergency travel only” indicator.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            School closings also account for snow day childcare issues, though, which could otherwise create workplace inequities if parents are allowed to stay home to watch children but nonparents are required to come into the office.

            1. Colette*

              Generally, parents staying home are using leave to do so. If this employee is burning vacation time because it snowed, I’d be more inclined to let her do it – but I don’t think that’s the case.

              1. Brain the Brian*

                Is it not a workplace inequity to force parents to use leave to stay home and watch their kids during an unplanned school closure when no parents are coming into an open office? I get that it’s not illegal discrimination, but just because something’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right. I still argue that school closures are the best metric.

      3. LCH*

        it’s a so-so metric. here schools close based on the conditions of the most difficult roads for school buses to access, and it’s very hilly, almost mountainous. so 90% of the area could be completely safe, plowed, salted, etc.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Interesting and good that OP left.. (Though someone should have caught on that this guy wasn’t doing an important part of the job for several months!)

        1. Splendid Colors*

          Yeah, how exactly does that work? If some aspect of his duties was affecting patient care, why wasn’t anyone monitoring it?

    5. MissGirl*

      I had a coworker who called out to work every time it snowed. Her reasoning was that she lived at the bottom of a hill and the plowed her roads last.

      Here’s the thing, it snows a lot and I had to cover her work for her. I had to drive in the snow as well and the main roads were fine. At some point, she needed to take responsibility for getting out of her driveway.

      1. lilsheba*

        And if one doesn’t have a car, and it’s a steep driveway out of an apartment complex, I don’t think one needs to risk life and limb just to go to work. Having the main roads fine doesn’t matter if you can’t go down a long steep driveway without falling and breaking something.

        1. Colette*

          If it snows 3 times a year, that’s a reasonable idea. Here it could snow 3 days a week (or more) – it would be unreasonable to skip work every time. You’d be expected to talk to your apartment complex/thow down some salt/get grippers for your boots/get a ride or otherwise solve the problem.

          1. lilsheba*

            Luckily it is rare to have it super icy, but no I’m still not going to risk my life and limb for a job, the problem gets solved by me not going out in that. Especially now that I’m disabled…it’s even more dangerous for me. Luckily I work from home now so it will never be an issue again.

        2. hebrides*

          That’s an issue that one needs to take up with one’s landlord or building association, as it is actively putting one’s employment in danger.

        3. Wintermute*

          if you live in the north, at a certain point you need to do whatever it takes to be able to actually show up to work. If we took every day off that it snowed several inches there would be winters where we didn’t work for weeks straight or spent half the winter not working. At a certain point you just have to figure out a way to make it work, there are lots of options.

          Any given option may not work for you but it is unlikely that NO option will work for you.

      2. Nobby Nobbs*

        A neighbor in that situation used to park at the post office the night before an expected snowstorm.

    6. KatEnigma*

      If they live in a moderately snowy area, maybe- but even then, there are winters where they get tons of snow. And some places (North Dakota) you couldn’t even begin to limit it like that. Grand Forks, ND had 8 NAMED STORMS last winter.

      It really comes down to “use your best judgement” and don’t hire or continue to employ someone with poor judgement.

    7. Manders*

      Yep, agree. I’m a native Californian who moved somewhere where it occasionally snows, and I suck at driving in it. I usually take the bus on those days, but during the pandemic that didn’t feel safe either. Now that I have an AWD vehicle I’m much more confident, but before that I was so nervous about it (and rightly so!).

    8. Natalie*

      My husband’s work uses the local school system to determine whether or not to have a late start, or to have people not come in at all.

  2. Choggy*

    Nope, I don’t go to work when the threat of snow is real and the roads would be trecherous. But I am also able to WFH on those days.

    1. Cold and Tired*

      I think it depends where you live though. I’m live in the upper Midwest, so if I didn’t come in when there was a threat of snow, I’d miss 25% of the year. But if Atlanta has a threat of snow, that isn’t common so it’s more forgiveable to stay home. It seems like LW1 is in more of the Midwest category, so if the job requires being in person on average snowy days, then the employee really does need to make an effort most of the time.

      1. Roberta*

        Yeah, the majority of Canada (except the West Coast where Vancouver is) has snow. We expect that people will be able to get to work despite the snow the majority of the time. The exceptions are when massive blizzards are expected, or ice. But we also have plows, and road salt and sand, and lots of people have snow tires to be prepared.

        Now if this person works in Nashville, for example, it would make sense to not go in on snow days. There is almost no infrastructure present and people are so not used to driving on snow that it is a disaster waiting to happen.

        1. Cake or Death*

          I’m assuming they don’t live in Nashville, or anywhere that doesn’t get regular snow over the winter, as LW says, “We all know snow is part of life here and we plan for it. We get up early, shovel ourselves out, leave plenty of extra time to drive in at a safe speed and then … we go to work.”. Sounds like snow in winter is a noraml part of life for them.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I’m wondering if they’ve moved from somewhere like Nashville to somewhere like Minneapolis! If you’ve come from a “snow is a rare event and we don’t have the infrastructure for it” place to an all-snow-all-the-time place, then some pretty explicit instructions on what’s normal and expected would probably be required.

          Are there training courses or anything you can recommended to a driver who isn’t experienced in driving in snow to get them (heh) up to speed?

        3. Liss*

          Having just lived through Vancouver (plus surrounding areas) grinding to a complete halt for a week due to an unprecedented amount of snow, I’m taking so much joy in this comment. Not on topic, but I’ve never seen an infrastructure + community so amazingly unprepared.

          1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

            Having the infrastructure for “unprecedented” events doesn’t really make sense.

            1. Quoth the Raven*

              Right. I live in Mexico City and the last time we got some snow was one day about 70+ years ago. It was so unusual you still hear about it on the news. If we got snow tomorrow, we wouldn’t have the infrastructure or the training to deal with it (it just doesn’t make sense, and it’s not worth the budget), and the immense majority of us wouldn’t know how to drive in it.

              Now rain and heavy traffic? We know how to deal with those, albeit with varying levels of success.

        4. Ripley*

          Came here to say this. I live in northern BC – we just had a week of below -30C temps and then about 30 cm of snow in 24 hours. I work in healthcare – you get yourself to work. If you live in a place that gets winter, you need to be prepared to get around: have a vehicle that can handle it, plus good winter/snow tires. If you’re nervous about driving in it, you can take winter driving lessons.

          1. Morgan Greez*

            What if you don’t drive and rely on transit? In some places transit pretty much shuts down when it snows.

            1. Divergent*

              Also in Northern BC, and there isn’t much transit out here. You walk or you drive. I think there is one town in the region with a couple buses. In places where there’s regular snow I’d imagine the buses run during the regular snow though.

              1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

                Seattle, which has snow maybe two weeks out of a typical year (tops) has special snow routes for buses that avoid the worst of the hills. With my mobility problems I would not count on being able to access all of those reroutes, but when I worked in Seattle my management was pretty good about dismissing us all early if it looked like there was going to be a weather event. Since they knew about my physical limitations as well as my commute, I got a little more latitude for leaving early. That said I was basically the only one who made it in during one of the Snowmageddons, since I relied on the express bus; I was only a little late and I wound up covering the main building instead of my usual place because nobody else really had a good handle on the snow.

                Fairbanks AK has a pretty good gravel distribution situation (no salt, there’s too much snow to salt away and it’s too cold and the only thing it would accomplish is car damage) and city buses only run in town where it’s mostly flat. School buses either have to put on chains or use automatic chains. There are still places you shouldn’t drive (there’s one particular hill near an elementary school with a 4 way stop with poor visibility and a really steep climb) but there are often longer reroutes to get around problem points.

        5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          The first year I lived in the Seattle area, they closed not only the public schools, but several COLLEGES for under an inch of snow and my Midwestern-born-and-raised self was appalled. Until I learned that the 10,000 person town where I grew up in Central Michigan had more snow removal equipment than the ENTIRE THREE COUNTY AREA containing three of the four largest cities in Washington State, AND at some level of government (I forget whether it was state or local), salting roads was banned, sand only was allowed. (That was also the first time I ever saw tire chains on a vehicle.)

      2. Burqueno*

        No kidding. If there is like even a dusting of snow in Albuquerque the entire city freaks out and we have a snow day.

        1. lost academic*

          I moved to the Midwest from the south and … it’s the same here. I thought I was coming to this magical place where there were plows and salt and people with Experience Driving In Snow – certainly they all said they had it and acted that way whenever there were news reports of snow and ice in the south. And yet…. the traffic, the accidents, and the sheer number of people refusing to drive when there’s a hint of snow is staggering to me. The traffic here looks just as bad as it did back home. I just don’t buy it anymore.

          1. nona*

            It’s early in the season. Even us Midwesterns have to re-learn how to deal with snow again each winter. And the past few weeks have been a lot of snow to have this early in the season. By January everyone is a little more seasoned to it (and are dealing with a bit more cabin fever) that the risk/reward calculation changes. And some people never learn.

            There’s also the calculation of whether the big stuff is going to hit during rush hour/commute times, or will there be time to plow/clear/treat the road surfaces.

            That being said, early in the season can also mean closer to freezing and that means freeze/rethaw and ice on the roads is a different situation than snow on the roads.

            1. turquoisecow*

              I live in the NJ/NY area and the first snowfall of the season means traffic, delays, accidents, general chaos, even if it’s barely inches. By the second or third or more storm, we know what we’re doing and it goes much more smoothly. But since we don’t usually have snow from about May to October (or longer), there’s a long stretch in there where people don’t remember how to handle icy patches or that they need to slow down on that curve. Or they’re overly cautious because of that, so go significantly slower even if it’s only light flurries. We figure it out eventually though!

            2. Divergent*

              I live somewhere with snow 6 months of the year, and we drive in it regularly. A graph of accidents peaks during the first couple snowfalls, levels out over winter, and peaks in spring again. It seems to be partly driver acclimatization and partly that just-about-freezing slushy slippery mess (if you haven’t been in deep cold: when it stays very cold the roads are nice and grippy, and snow blows right off)

        2. Tinkerbell*

          Same here in Alabama (I’m originally from Wisconsin), but there’s kind of a reason for it. The city manages to keep the highways and the immediate area around the hospitals clear, but a lot of side roads just don’t get tended to. The school busses don’t have engine block heaters so the diesel turns to jell0 when it’s too cold even when the roads are clear. Most businesses don’t keep salt and sand on hand to make sidewalks safe. And – most importantly – nobody knows how to drive in snow, and even if you do, the guy in the next car might not. It’s just safer to stay home!

          1. turquoisecow*

            My husband is from NJ but moved to Georgia for a year. As he was getting ready to move back, he was shipping things north. He went to a UPS store or something like that not long after a small but significant storm. They did have salt to put on the sidewalk, but the employee literally just opened the bag and dumped the whole thing right at his feet in one pile. The manager was yelling that he had to spread it out and the employee was arguing that the salt would spread itself out. (As a northerner, my husband was laughing.) So even if they have the right stuff, they might not know what to do with it!

          2. Wintermute*

            Hey! I’m From Wisconsin too! and you’re dead on, but not only that, but the DOT physically plans roads differently.

            In Wisconsin, especially in Kettle and Moraine geography areas with lots of small valleys (Kettles for those unfamiliar with glacial deposit landscapes), and steep hills (the aforementioned moraines) they will regrade roads or follow contours of the terrain rather than have a 30* slope which would become impassible four months out of the year. They don’t ALWAYS do that (Lookin’ at you, Dodge County) but especially in cities and more trafficked routes they often will design and route roads to ensure they are passable and safer in winter.

            In the south they are far more comfortable having steep grades, stop signs at the base of hills, and other features that northern city and road planners avoid

        3. DannyG*

          UNM graduate, several of my New England & Mid-Western friends and I would sit on the wall of the computer science building, where multiple streets come together (just north of Hokona Hall) with placards with numbers on them and rate the clueless drivers who would come up to the intersection, slam on their brakes, and slide into traffic (e. g. 9.5, 9.3, 9.4, and 8.7 from the “East German judge “)

    2. HR Friend*

      “Threat of snow” and treacherous roads aren’t at all the same thing though. If this employee’s expected to be in the office and is calling off because an inch or two of snow falls overnight, it’s totally reasonable for their manager to tell them that’s unacceptable.

      1. Artemesia*

        This is someone who doesn’t want to work so any excuse apparently is his excuse to stay home. If everyone else is driving to work then he needs to figure out how to get to work — get an uber, take the bus, drive — his responsibility.

      2. Doreen*

        It’s one thing not to show up for work when the roads are terrible – but I had a coworker who wouldn’t come to work if there were snowflakes that were melting before they hit the ground. She was annoyed because she had to use vacation time – but that was because she was out 5-6 times every winter when there would maybe be one bad storm a winter.

      3. Mr. Shark*

        Right. People are bringing up extreme circumstances as an argument that the employee shouldn’t be driving in the snow. I get that. I live in CO and once drove in and one my side of town, there was hardly anything on the ground. Get to the side of town for work, and the snow was coming down hard, and I had to decide to drive in to work or turn around. I drove in, but ended up leaving in my friends 4WD and crashing at his house for the night because I couldn’t have made it back home safely. He was closer and had a better car.
        But in general, even if it’s snowing here, you are expected to make it in to work.
        The other thing that it seems like from the letter is that on-site support is necessary, and this is not a situation where the employee is allowed to WFH or can WFH, since him not going into work is causing disruption and other people have to pick up the slack.
        So the WFH isn’t a good argument here.

    3. PsychNurse*

      I am a nurse and I live in Connecticut. I work in an outpatient clinic (which means that calling out is a little more acceptable than in a hospital) but I have zero tolerance for the people who see an inch of snow and decide to stay home. It’s New England! We get snow for half the year. I’m from the south originally and I am very nervous driving in snow, but it is a fact of life here so I have to man up and deal with it.

      1. rrr*

        That’s good for you. I live in Connecticut too. I’m not a nurse, don’t get paid like a nurse, and do work that can absolutely be done the next day (or the next week) if it snows (or you know, from home, if my employer wasn’t insane).

        I won’t risk my vehicle or you know, my life, driving to work just because other people think I should deal with it. I’m generally very reliable, and get a ton done. I’m also usually the only person where I work to be willing to do any overtime at all. So, just like some people have to leave or stay home for other reasons, I stay home when it snows. Frankly, it stresses me out figuring it it is safe or not. If I’m unsure, I stay home.

      2. Emma*

        I’m a nurse in a hospital (Chicago). We have to come in, no matter the weather. The hospital does have several hotels around it and they negotiate a rate for employees to stay in if they have a long commute. They have a very limited number of sleep rooms as well for people to stay in. I am fortunate I walk about a mile in. I have never missed for any weather. Staying home would be lovely, but sick people in the hospital need care. Shout out to not only first responders, but also people who keep the hospital running that aren’t clinical staff. Our EVS, food services, lab techs, facilities services, everyone who works really hard in the hospital and we couldn’t run without them! We don’t get to stay home and it’s a 24 hour job.

    4. Antilles*

      How often does it snow where you’re at though?
      Refusing to drive any time there’s the threat of snow is viable in a place in the South where you might get one or two days with light flurries per year. It’s NOT a viable stance to take in an area where (direct quote) “snow is a part of life and we plan for it” and it’s considered “routine winter weather”.

    5. Cake or Death*

      LOLOLOL if I choose not to go to work just because of the “threat” of snow, I’d be out of the office for 5 months.

      Some places get snow every winter. Some places have roads that stay snowpacked through the entire winter (*raises hand). Refusing to drive because of a chance of snow, when you live in a place that gets snow regularly, as is the case in this letter, is pretty silly and not really defendable.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I love somewhere snow is just a part of winter. But we can get buried (especially when two storm systems meet). When I had to drive or take the bus, I refused to go in when the buses stopped running. If a city bus can’t make it, neither can my car, & I am not doing emergency services any favors.

        Now I live close enough to walk to work in that case, but I now have a WFH option.

        Our bigger issue the past few years has been a few days with dangerously low wind chills, when people are strongly encouraged to stay home where it’s warm

        1. Cake or Death*

          We actually have more closings due to extreme low temps than snow! a couple of years ago, our entire city was on a “run water” order to keep the cities water pipes from freezing.

    6. Choggy*

      Eh, I live in NE, and yes, I stay home due to the threat of snow, I have a long commute on a busy highway that I’ve been stuck on for 3 hours in the past. It’s all situational, I realize that, but what I used to do when I was younger, I am not longer willing to do now.

      1. HigherEdAdminista*

        I think this is an important factor to keep in mind. The city where I live seems to have become increasingly unprepared for snow, where now even in a small amount causes chaos. My guess of why is that we are running below the threshold for what we need for services on a good day, and so when there is an emergency things break immediately.

        Last time this happened to me, it was about 2 inches of snow, but every single bus was late. The roads were icy. People and businesses hadn’t shoveled or thrown down any salt. Ubers were impossible to get and charging hundreds. It took my hour plus commute and turned it into a 2.5 hour ordeal, most of it spent on packed full buses or standing in the freezing cold.

        If people can work from home, even a little snow should mean being encouraged to do it. It leaves the public transit and the roads clearer for people who cannot work from home and puts less strain on a system which isn’t functioning well to begin with!

        1. Bankerchick*

          Yes! As someone who can’t work from home and lives in an area with frequent bad weather, I welcome schools closing and in turn, many people who would go to work staying home and working from home. Less traffic allows the plows to move more freely and allows people like me to take my time getting to and from work.

      2. Lanky_Panther*

        Same- NE, long commute, very busy highways. I know there are plenty of jobs that require being in person, but now that WFH is such a regular thing for a lot of us, I’m not about to make the 45-mile commute to work that could end up being 6 hours of my day when I’m more productive at home anyway.

      3. Sorrischian*

        Length of commute makes a HUGE difference here. I have a 10 minute commute on mostly residential roads (highest speed limit 35mph), so unless there’s huge drifts or bad ice, I trundle on into work. But I don’t at all blame my coworkers with hour+ commutes on the highway for not wanting to risk it.

  3. Artemesia*

    I had a boss who was an excruciatingly slow talker and it just drove everyone nuts. He was wordy and so sloooooooow that people were often tempted to finish his sentences. Reflect on whether you are concise or excessively verbose since you say it is happening with more than one employee. Make sure your instructions are not verbose but are to the point. Then ask them privately not to interrupt.

    1. Random Dice*

      I have a boss who hates interruptions, but he also talks slowly and has long pauses so folks think he’s done. It’s really hard!

      1. Pine Tree*

        Ugh, this is one of my coworkers, and she gets really upset if interrupted. But she has long pauses, and also will just go on and on an on so eventually you have to interrupt her. It’s an ongoing battle to decide if the fallout is worth the interruption (e.g., we have 5 mins left in a meeting and are still on agenda point 2 of 10).

      2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Ugh, people who feel like they permanently own the floor are a pet peeve of mine. It’s not interrupting if a reasonable person would think they were done talking!

    2. Jenna Webster*

      Same! My first thought was that if multiple people are ending your sentences, you are either talking slowly or using way too many words to express your thoughts. I had a boss whose answers would start out on point, travel through multiple (often unrelated) stories before she finally got back to talking about the topic at hand for several minutes before actually answering a question or making her point. It’s excruciating, and I had to train myself to not interrupt or scream suddenly.

    3. Prefer my pets*

      Ugh. I had a coworker who was like this. He talked sooooooo slowly I (along with most people) literally could not follow what he was saying…the average person’s brain was making grocery lists by the time he got to the end of the sentence. We did everything we could to force him to just email anything he had to say and to keep him out of group meetings.

    4. turquoisecow*

      Yeah that was my thought, the OP is a slow talker and the employees are anxious to get on with their work. I have a coworker who not only talks slowly, he tends to over explain and go off on tangents, so a simple question could take like ten minutes for him to answer, and then if you need to ask clarifying questions (which is often), it takes even longer. (And then he gets grumpy af if he’s cut off, making you have to sit there longer.)

      If OP was my boss and we had a good relationship (which this coworker and I do not for unrelated reasons), I would definitely be interrupting to finish sentences. “Yes, I know the llama report has to be color coded so they can easily see which llamas need grooming, you don’t need to explain that again. Just tell me what colors you want.”

      1. English Rose*

        Yeah but this isn’t always the case. I have someone in my team who finishes everyone’s sentences, regardless of how quick or slow they talk.
        Discussing it with them after a senior manager complained, they say it’s a cultural thing related to where they were born, when not conversing in this way is seen as the person not being engaged in the conversation.
        They are really trying to actively listen rather than what is seen as talking over others, but it’s an ingrained habit they’re struggling to break.

  4. Eether Eyether*

    Can he work from home on “snowy” days? Just because he lives in a snowy part of the country doesn’t mean he is comfortable driving in it. I’ve been in southern California for 19 years and when I go back to New England, where I’m from, I definitely won’t be comfortable driving in the snow. And, I used to drive in all kinds of nasty weather there.

    1. Katy*

      That’s the thing, though – when you lived there, you did drive in the snow, because that was the expectation, and you got used to it. I had never driven much at all when I moved to interior Alaska, but I learned quickly, because every day from mid-October to the end of May is a snowy day, and if you can’t drive in the snow you just can’t drive.

      1. Snowy driver*

        My MIL, born and raised and still living in New England, hates driving in the snow. She used to have my FIL drive her to and from work. She freaks out if there’s anything.

        Some people really just aren’t comfortable with it, no matter what. I wonder if carpooling could be possible in that case n

        1. Katy*

          My cousin, born and raised in interior Alaska, just hates driving, period. So she bikes, even in 30 below, and she takes the bus. She knows that she lives somewhere with snow on the ground 6+ months of the year, and she takes responsibility for getting herself to work. If you live in a snowy place and can’t drive in the snow, you need to have a backup option ready for getting into work. Your solution can’t just be to call out every single time.

          1. Joielle*

            Same here – I hate driving and live in a place with snow on the ground 5-6 months of the year, so I’ve taken a lot of steps to make sure I can still get everywhere I need to go. I chose to live in a neighborhood where I can easily take the bus to work and walk to the grocery store, I intentionally looked for a job with flexibility to WFH in bad weather, I keep my bike tuned up and have snow tires, etc.

            I totally understand people not being comfortable driving in the snow, but realistically, if you live somewhere that has a lot of snow, you have to factor that into your other choices.

      2. Mim*

        I’ve lived in cold climates most of my life, and the problem isn’t my ability to drive in snow. I can and do, and have a good feel for my car’s limits in various conditions and on various types of roads. The thing that often keeps me off the roads in snowy weather is the other drivers. They are scary as anything, and I’ve seen an *alarming* increase in reckless driving in the past couple of years, on top of that. (covid brain? people forgetting they live in a society? who knows.) I’m not risking my life for any job. And there are so many places in my part of the country where most drives will involve hills and/or winding roads. Serious hazards if you can’t trust the other drivers on the road to be prepared for and willing to drive safely for the conditions. It doesn’t matter that my car can make it up that hill if I have to worry about someone who thinks their will is stronger than the laws of physics.

        I wait for the plows to make it through, and/or leave work before it gets bad enough that they are needed. And now I can WFH as needed, so don’t even bother driving in if there is a question about the weather or road conditions. Bad drivers aside, the fewer folks on the road in less than ideal weather conditions, the safer things are for the people who don’t have a choice. Happy to help myself and others.

        1. I need a new name*

          This! People seem to be driving with a death wish. I’m born and bred New England, so I am used to driving in the snow, but I do NOT trust other people. I was trying to get from CT to PA during one of the ice/snow storms of…2015? I was driving carefully and appropriate to the conditions and nearly was run off of I-95 by some dude in a huge pickup truck with an empty truck bed. As he whipped around me, he began to slide and skid with the back end going out of control–he didn’t wind up off-road but he was danged lucky. Then, when his tires caught purchase of the road he sped off again. I decided that discretion was the better part of staying alive and got off the roads until they were cleared.

          My job is now 100% remote (and has been since the before times), so it’s a non-issue, but I wouldn’t drive in a lot of winter weather anymore without a dang good reason. And putting my hinder in an office chair is not a good enough reason.

        2. Mid*

          Same! I grew up far more north than where I currently live. I am, frankly, excellent at driving in the snow/ice/bad weather. I avoid driving in snow/ice/bad weather more than anything because of the large number of people who are overconfident in their abilities, unprepared to drive in that weather, or are criminally reckless in their driving.

          I’ve had two very scary accidents, neither of which were my fault in any way, while driving in the snow in the last two years. One was someone who decided to fly down the road at 75mph (in a 55) without lights on, with low visibility on the road, and slammed into my car from behind so hard all the glass on my car shattered. The second was after it had rained all day and then went well below freezing, and the person decided to fly around a curve, spin out of control across, hit my car so hard we both bounced back across 4 lanes of traffic, into the median and back across the 4 lanes again. (I was in the far right lane, was hit by the car, bounced across to the far left lane and hit the concrete median, and back again into the far right lane.) It was very slick out, and the person was once again going at least 75 mph in an area with a speed limit of 55. The entire axel of my car was snapped in half by the impact.

          I live by a major intersection, and have seen 4 severe accidents this year alone in the snow, caused by people being reckless and inattentive, speeding excessively, trying to slam on their brakes on ice, etc.

          I straight up refuse to drive in icy conditions unless it’s a true emergency now. And I mean actual life threatening emergency.

    2. curmudgeon*

      My question is if you’re a transplant from somewhere it doesn’t snow what do you? How do you learn how to drive in the snow? Are there classes?

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        You can look for classes or lessons, but some of it is just practice. Find a big empty parking lot and drive around.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I think the first snow of the season works as a refresher course for everyone. That’s why the driving is so much worse at the beginning of the winter. You have to readjust.

      2. Antilles*

        With the modern Internet, yes, there are classes and online written tutorials and YouTube videos etc.

        But by and large, I think most transplants learn the same way everybody else does: A combination of watching others/osmosis and experience.

      3. Markie*

        I always wondered about this. I once was seriously considering a move to a northern state. I was not prepared. I have never had to think about the cold.

        Driving in snow? Freezing plumbing? Frozen engines? Never a consideration

        Is there a book called “So you’ve never seen snow? – How not to die: a southerner’s guide”? My big plan had been to move and then pester my new coworkers about basic winter survival skills.

            1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

              Lesson 3: always have a shovel and sand/gravel/kitty litter in your car. Maybe a couple boards or cardboard.

              Look at any road and go “so when I get stuck, how am I getting out of there?” If you don’t have an answer, don’t go down that road.

          1. GasketGirl*

            And a good quality winter coat. Yes, it may cost you a couple hundred dollars, but it’s worth the investment and should last a long time with normal wear. I have a Columbia one that is really two coats in one, where you can either wear it zipped together for really cold/bad weather, wear the outer part as a lighter weight jacket or the inner part as a heavier weight coat. I’ve had it for almost 20 years and it’s still going strong.

            1. Chinookwind*

              I second a good coat. If you are broke, check out the second hand stores and tell the staff you are looking for one. They also go on sale in about February (end of season) so if you don’t have one this winter, you can invest in them for next winter. And I guarantee that this is an investment – you can wear these for decades and, even if you buy a new one, the old one will be in the back of a closet in case someone else needs it (unless you donate it first).

              1. Splendid Colors*

                One of my first purchases when I moved from Orange County to Arcata (almost Oregon) was a full-length American-made wool peacoat. That was 2004, and I am still wearing it in 2022. It still looks fabulous and makes me feel like the hero of a BBC action show.

            2. Joielle*

              Yes! I take the bus a lot in cold weather and have a SUPER heavy duty Columbia coat (which was deeply discounted in an end-of-season sale, so not necessarily a massive investment). I’m pretty hard on my coats and my first one still lasted 10 years. Look for a long (at least thigh length) puffy coat with a fur-lined hood. It’s worth it!

        1. SomebodyElse*

          I once had a person who was born and raised in CA and who had moved to an upper midwest state ask in me in such earnestness “HOW do you keep track of your hat and gloves… I’m on my 4th pair of gloves and my 2nd hat and it’s only the second month of winter”

          Everyone at the table giggled and I explained “You stuff your gloves in your hat and your hat in your coat sleeve. If that doesn’t work, we will run a string through the arms of your coat and attach it to your gloves like we do our little kids :)” She managed with the stuffing technique and we didn’t have to resort to the string.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            My mom used to buy special clips to clip our gloves/mittens to our sleeves. But the string method also works.

        2. Again, why is it asking again?*

          Funny thing during the attic blast people in the Deep South were dripping their faucets for days. Up north people don’t do that all winter long. Their homes and plumbing are designed to survive temperatures below freezing.

          1. jojo*

            Down here in Mississippi outlawing areas can be without water after a freeze because when it thaws their pipes will burst. And the store has run out of pvc pipe so need to get a shipment in. Not only not insulated. But not metal.on the other hand the pvc is inexpensive to buy. I have only had one pipe freeze and break in 25 years

        3. Chinookwind*

          Honestly, when you get there, get to know your neighbours or coworkers and tell them that you are not prepared. 9 times out of 10, you will be given more advice (and probably some hand me downs) than you know what to do with. We will point you to what you need, what is nice to have and what is a gimmick. We may chuckle at your questions but more out of sympathy as we than anything else.

          And my tip – when driving, always dress as if your car was going to stop working in the middle of nowhere. That means gloves, warm boots and warm jacket and a phone (to call for help – so make sure it includes numbers for a tow truck and the non-emergency police line). I don’t care if it is just a quick trip to the store – you never know when someone might slide through an intersection into your car and suddenly you are waiting for a tow truck in the cold, regretting your wardrobe choices.

      4. Anon for this*

        Usually the first snowfall everyone has to relearn how to do it. There is a knack to it. You definitely need to slow down. It can be helpful to talk to people who have been in the area a while and to figure out from them what you need. Depending on your car, snow tires might be advisable. I have a small shovel in my trunk and a snowbrush with an ice scraper. They never leave the car. Some people swear by kitty litter. What you need probably varies by location.

      5. Divergent*

        I took some very helpful classes in a skid car (the back end swings way more than a normal car, like grocery cart wheels in all directions, so we could go in slow motion and still have the car skid and learn to correct for it) with a gentleman who used to be a race car driver. We also practiced emergency stops in icy/slippery conditions and using the ABS system to its full potential.

      6. Divergent*

        I was also informed the local priest would take me out to the airport parking lot and teach me by doing doughnuts, if I wanted.

    3. Cake or Death*

      Yeah, but he’s not someone who lives in a warmer climate visiting a cold climate. He lives there. He needs to figure out a way to live his life, including going into work, in the place where he lives. If he doesn’t feel comfortable driving in the snow, then he needs to figure something else out.
      Also, i assume that if working from home was an option, the LW would have just done that. Not all jobs can be done remotely, and it appears this is one of those jobs. Maybe he needs to look for a remote position at a different company, if it’s too debilitating for him to drive in the snow. But it’s not unreasonable for an employer to expect someone to come into work even if there is a “THREAT of snow” when you live in a snowy climate. Snow is to be expected, so employee needs to figure it out on his end.

      1. mlem*

        | Also, i assume that if working from home was an option, the LW would have just done that.

        Well … maybe. This was originally a pre-pandemic letter, and many companies have very different answers about whether a job “can” be done from home than they used to. (My SOFTWARE company didn’t have sufficient VPN architecture for everyone to WFH during severe weather, so non-customer-facing divisions were explicitly instructed NOT to try to do work if they closed the offices. That changed with a quickness in March 2020.)

        The job in question might in fact still require always being in person! But it’s worth prompting folks to make sure they’ve visited the question recently, because sometimes the answer changes.

    4. Emily*

      LW mentions that his frequent absences are affecting clients, so I’m guessing he needs to be in the office to serve clients and working from home is not an option. Not every job can be done remote. If he’s not comfortable driving in the snow, that is something he needs to work on, and he shouldn’t be making it his employer’s problem.

  5. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’d say that unless someone has a disability/health condition that means snow and ice are exceptionally dangerous OR there’s been a severe weather warning from the Met Office asking people not to drive then it’s not really an excuse.

    I can’t really get in when it’s icy or snowing but that’s due to mobility issues.

  6. curmudgeon*

    Unless you live somewhere where snow is a common occurrence AND the employee earns enough to afford snow tires, I commiserate with the employee.

    I don’t live in a commonly snowy place but when it does snow, I’m absolutely stuck. I live in a very hilly neighborhood. If the roads aren’t cleared (& we’re usually one of the last neighborhoods to be cleared), there’s a high risk of sliding down into a major highway or getting stuck halfway up one of the hills. No buses run in my neighborhood, so unless I want to walk 2 miles to the nearest bus stop (assuming the buses are even running) I don’t have a lot of options.

    Unless you’re in emergency services or some other absolutely vital role, calling out bc of inclement weather should be a valid excuse. But if you’re tired of this person’s inability to show up, just fire him already.

    1. Malarkey01*

      Yeah I also live in an area where 90% of people have big ole SUVs. They could drive through the apocalypse but my low car can’t handle 3 inches or more.

      Without knowing if this is Michigan or somewhere that might get 3 snowstorms a year this wouldn’t be a big deal to me.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        This, and it’s entirely possible this employee lives on a steep hill or has a steep driveway that makes it more dangerous even if other people’s commutes are fine. May not be the case, but it’s worth taking into consideration when the LW speaks to them.

    2. Sabine the Very Mean*

      I realize this is an old letter but we really need to push back on “I drove here and so should you”. I really hate that we risk our safety for our jobs in our society.

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        Exactly this. It’s not the “pioneer, walk through Kansas in a blizzard or we’ll all die” era. Too many businesses think it’s necessary to be open when it’s not.

      2. Colette*

        It sounds like this employee has a higher-than-average threshold for unsafe.

        Having snow on the ground is not intrinsically unsafe, and if you live in a place where snow is common, you have to be able to get around in it to get to work, get groceries, and generally live your life. This means managing the risk – winter tires, snow brush and scraper, travelling slower, allowing more time to stop, and staying home in extreme conditions.

      3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Once they made me go into my shitty retail job during the snow. No customers came and I nearly died doing an ice slide!

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      I have lived in snowy areas my entire life & never had snow tires. Or an SUV. (They have clearance below but less stability.)

      1. Splendid Colors*

        What’s your take on AWD station wagons? I have an old Audi with 4.2″ ground clearance but AWD. So the bumper gets stuck on curbs, but it has a very low center of gravity. Would I just need to get snow tires? (The “all season” tires I have are great in the rain but reviews say they’re not much good for snow or ice.)

    4. desdemona*

      This was along the lines of my question/thinking.

      When I was a kid, my parents house had a long driveway up a VERY steep hill (driving up the hill to leave the house).
      So there were days where there was snow, it wasn’t that bad & the streets were plowed, but my mom was late because we had to shovel the entire driveway out before she could go anywhere. I think there was more than 1 time when the driveway got shoveled, but our hilly, more remote area of the neighborhood hadn’t been plowed.

      Eventually, my mom got fed up and bought an SUV to better circumvent the problem.

    5. Missb*


      Our city has limited snow plows, because it just doesn’t snow here that much. I live at 500 feet elevation; generally if it snows, it’ll snow at this elevation with substantial accumulation. My neighborhood goes from this elevation down to pretty much sea level, so it’s super hilly and there are narrow two-lane roads with a gulley on one side and a hill on the other. I live on a particularly treacherous stretch of road; we generally just sit in the dining room and watch cars slide by or bumper-car the edges as they go downhill. Some of them drop into the gulley but generally at low speeds so no damage. One year we had six cars stuck on the road in front of our house for days and days.

      I grew up in Alaska. I can drive in snow. However, my fellow city-dwellers down here in my lower 48 state cannot drive in snow, therefore, I would not go into the office when it snowed.

      A few years ago, I worked from home when we had an ice storm hit right before rush hour traffic. The city was a mess for hours – cars were slipping all over the major roads and getting stuck. School buses with kids were stuck. It was just a huge mess. If I’d been at work – I would’ve been in that mess. Just because I can drive in it doesn’t mean that I can navigate around the folks that block the roads.

      I didn’t mind being the person that didn’t go into the office when it snowed, or left early during a threat of snow. I either took leave or worked from home. My boss never complained.

      Now that I’m 100% remote, my only concern is whether we have power or not. Generally I’ll take my laptop out to the living room and sit in front of the fire with a cup of cocoa. Happily.

      1. cncx*

        You touched on my point. Just because someone can drive in snow doesn’t mean everyone else can. My stepdad was from Vermont, he was more than capable of driving in snow, but we lived in a place where it snowed only a few times every couple of years. Hills and ice and a majority people who never have to drive in it don’t mix well no matter how good a driver one is and especially in places without the infrastructure to clear streets or salt etc. I know op said snow was common enough and other people drive, I feel like this employee has hit BEC stage with the letter writer and the snow isn’t the real reason or main reason. But all that to say, I can see winter weather situations, even normal ones, where it wouldn’t make sense to come in.
        I have poor mobility and I would have a very bad time walking to the train station in an ice scenario. One that happens too frequently where I live is that streets will be plowed and what moisture is left is turned to ice. I walk much better in snow than on fake skating rink, so I could see myself more likely to call in on a clear but icy day rather than active snowing day.

        1. Alwayz*

          LW1 certainly seems to be making a lot of judgement calls about the employee’s reasons for not coming into work not being good enough reasons by their definition.

          This isn’t a great characteristic for a manager, and I don’t agree with Alison’s advice on this, either. Questions like can this person work remotely, whether all or part of the time, need to be asked.

          1. cncx*

            Yeah, this manager is treating the employee like BEC. He either needs to manage this employee fairly or manage them out but complaining about stuff that could be reasonable isn’t it. I just quit a job where a boss made these weird value judgements about me and like, these weren’t work problems, he just didn’t like me.

    6. allathian*

      I’m in Finland, where snow tires are mandatory when road conditions warrant it, which is basically every winter. I wouldn’t venture out on an icy road without them!

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I’m in Germany, and winter tires (not sure if that’s the same as snow tires) are mandatory. People generally use them from october to march, and btw, they are not just for snow, but generally better for any conditions under 10°C (50°F). Using both sets of tires half as much will make them last twice as long, so the main expense is changing and stocking them.

        If you have an accident and not the adequate tires, neither the police nor your insurance will be happy with you, and you WILL get at least partial fault no matter what happened, and insurance may refuse your claim. Not a good situation to be in.

  7. GirlintheWalls*

    As other asked, can he work from home on those days where he feels the weather is bad enough that he’s not ok driving in it? We all have different tolerances – and cars! I missed a fair number of work days in the winter in MA, even having grown up there and supposedly being “used” to winters. But I drove a small car and couldn’t afford snow tires, and the roads were full of SUVs who didn’t think they needed to change their driving habits in poor weather, and, well, my job wasn’t worth my life on those days. But I always felt HORRIBLE calling in because of snow. Luckily, after a few years, WFH was an option for those days.

    I am MUCH happier now that I have moved to AZ and don’t have to make that call!

  8. Turingtested*

    As a manager I always let my employees make their own assessments about snow. It seems unreasonable to make someone do something they think is unsafe. I’m all for PTO, unpaid time off or WFH but I don’t think it’s possible to assess whether they’re ok to drive or not. Their tires could be bald or another vehicle issue, there may have been a traumatic past incident.

    That said, I feel comfortable driving in basically all conditions and have missed work once due to weather. (A few inches of water on a few inches of ice is my limit.)

    I’ve managed in customer facing and back office positions and haven’t wavered.

    I understand this guy has a pattern of unnecessary absences but that’s a separate issue from making him do something unsafe. If he’s overly cautious so what it’s literally his life on the line.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      My standard is I walk out onto my street, which is a cul-de-sac with a slight grade. If I can surf down the road, I turn around and go back in. With significant snow I may be late to the office, depending on the plough situation, which is usually quite good.

    2. Office Lobster DJ*

      I tend to agree with this take. How far can you push someone to do something that they’ve stated feels unsafe to them? What happens if he were to get in an accident coming in because he felt that his job was threatened otherwise?

      If he’s out a lot and it’s disruptive to the business, that’s absolutely something to address, but I wouldn’t try to establish specific weather-related limits or expectations.

      I’d also point out that LW says the employee’s absences improved immediately after their last conversation and the improvement was sustained until this single incident. I understand judging based on past experience, but in my opinion, the guy hasn’t established a new pattern just yet.

      Fwiw, I say this with full acknowledgement that the guy could just be taking advantage and not actually feeling unsafe, or be using the weather as a convenient excuse to get a bonus break from whatever other stressors LW says he had going on.

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Interestingly there was an update to this letter (search “updates: employee won’t work when it snows, boss hates me, and more”) and it turned out the employee had some fairly crippling anxiety and was easily paralyzed by any sort of difficulty, which came to a head when he one day walked into the LW’s office and confessed he had been quietly ignoring one responsibility of his job for months because it “gave him anxiety.” LW didn’t specify what the task was or how he’d concealed for so long that he wasn’t doing it, but said that patient care had been compromised by his neglect. LW ended up leaving that job because her own boss protected the employee and even gave him a merit raise after all this.

        It’s interesting to me because the whole time reading the debate over whether or not to indulge someone’s fear of driving in snow I kept thinking of the phrase “major life activity” and how disability diagnoses usually hinge on whether whatever adverse condition impairs the patient’s ability to do them, and how it would seem like someone who lives in a snowy region but can’t figure out how to get to work when it snows because they’re too nervous to drive, and either have no other means of transportation or are also too nervous to be a passenger, certainly would seem to have a condition that interferes with their major life activities. And indeed, it turns out this guy likely did have a disability, but had no diagnosis and was not couching his request to stay home as a disability accommodation. I wonder how it might have all gone down much differently if he had sought treatment and had a medical professional to advise and support him on pursuing an accommodation or finding another job that could accommodate him if this job couldn’t.

  9. Wisconsin*

    I live in Wisconsin where there is often snow on the ground for 6 months of the year. I can handle driving in snow but I also work from home when there is more than a couple of inches in the forecast. I have the ability to work from home and there is no reason to risk driving when it’s not great conditions. Unless the employee needs to be in the office for a specific reason, I would lean towards not pushing back on this and letting them work from home.

    1. Two Dog Night*

      His frequent, last-minute absences or sudden departures halfway through the workday began to have a negative impact on our clients.

      Sounds like the employee does need to be in the office. I mean, clearly the guy shouldn’t be driving during a blizzard, but for minor snowfalls, he needs to figure out how to get to work. And calling out the day before because of possible snow in the forecast is a bit much. I do sympathize with him, because I don’t much like driving in the snow, but at some point he needs to either drive, find alternate transportation, or get a job where his absences have less of an impact.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        There isn’t anything that says the clients are in person, though; lots of people have clients the only engage with via email/phone.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Also, people who live in snowy areas pay a lot of attention to forecasts. If a significant snowfall is expected, there will be conversations about it, including giving others a heads’ up if they might be in late or absent altogether.

        And the grocery stores after work are always packed. Get your milk & beer before you’re buried!

  10. Tigger*

    I don’t have a subscription so I can’t read Allison’s answer.

    I think we are too hard on people who don’t like driving in snow (or bad rainy weather, in the dark, ect). I think it’s similar to coming into work sick. Can you do it? Sure, but it’s probably better to stay home in some cases, you don’t know what their issue is. I get panic attacks driving in the snow, even small amounts because I’m so worried about crashing. I take a long time to drive to work when it snows, where it would have been better mentally for me to just stay home.
    Even if it’s a little amount a snow, if they have the vacation/sick time to cover it, I’m not sure why it’s an issue. And especially now, work from home can be an easy answer.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yeah there’s a lot of “suck it up and deal with it” here, but I think there’s a larger snow day picture people aren’t considering that definitely includes non-drivers. Did your bus stop running? Is your tram stuck because the overhead wires froze? Do you normally walk but the sidewalks haven’t been plowed and won’t be for three days because your city sucks? It sucks for drivers, but the commute sucks for everyone else too and “suck it up and deal with it” isn’t always within your control.

      1. Samwise*

        Has school been cancelled and now you have to take care of your kids?

        Around here, school would get cancelled because it was not safe for buses on all streets (a number of unpaved roads in the county).

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      In the dark? Depending on latitude, in the winter months you will be driving in the dark either coming to work or going home, and possibly both.

      1. straws*

        Speaking as someone who has issues driving in the dark – it’s a pain! When I worked in person, I could only do so with an 8-4 schedule. Otherwise, it would be unsafe for me.

        1. Pine Tree*

          I’m at a high enough latitude that it’s still dark at 8am here, and dark again at 4pm. I think that’s Richard’s point. Some place it would be impossible to drive to and from work in the daylight year round.

      2. I need a new name*

        I have real difficulty driving in the dark–a combination of astigmatism and just being light sensitive. Add to that the newer very bright and almost blue headlights everyone seems to have, I get dazzled then can’t adjust when the light is gone. I live in MA. I spend a lot of winter not driving anywhere. Sucks for me, but that’s how it goes.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          My coworker once had medical advice not to drive in the dark while she had a condition under investigation, and the eventual outcome was that she worked adjusted hours that winter so she didn’t have to (her drive was about 20 miles) – our manager at the time wasn’t happy about it but because it had been doctor’s orders she had to lump it.

    3. Cake or Death*

      “And especially now, work from home can be an easy answer.”

      I am so so so sick of people saying this. Not every job can be done remotely. There are literally thousands of jobs that cannot be done remotely.

      The LW states, “His frequent, last-minute absences or sudden departures halfway through the workday began to have a negative impact on our clients. I advised him that we valued him as an employee, but his ongoing pattern of being unavailable to work was affecting the functioning of the organization.”

      Do you think that LW is just letting the clients and organization suffer because it never occurred to them that the employee could work from home?

      The LW also said that, “he might not make it to work tomorrow because of possible snow in the forecast.” Possible snow. In a place where snow is a regular part of winter.
      I’m sorry if this sounds insensitive, but if you live in a place that regularly gets a good amount of snow in the winter, you have to learn to deal with it somehow. Whether that means riding with someone else, taking public transportation, taking a taxi, or even getting a remote work position at another company. But the employer shouldn’t have to be short-staffed half of the winter because of this employee.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        “Do you think that LW is just letting the clients and organization suffer because it never occurred to them that the employee could work from home? ”

        Honestly? Yes. It’s 2023 and so many jobs that *can* be done from home 100% still aren’t because management isn’t open to it or hasn’t considered it, so at the time that this letter was written, I’d fully bet they weren’t even thinking about it as an option if it’s a job that could indeed be done from home.

            1. Emily*

              It was pretty clearly implied in the letter, even without the update, is that the person needed to be onsite to do their job. Other commentators have addressed this, but the assumption that was getting made way too often in the replies is that the job can be done from home.

              1. JTP*

                I didn’t read “healthcare position” from the original letter. Clients could be retail customers, social service office, etc. If OP had said patients instead, it would have been a lot clearer.

      2. Me ... Just Me*

        100% agree. It’s winter. Expect winter weather. If you have a job that requires you to be at work, then you need to be at work or find another job. I guarantee you that 99% of his coworkers would rather be home taking a “snow day” but they knew they had a responsibility to come and get the job done.

        1. Emily*

          Thank you! I think it’s great to be supportive of workers, but sometimes I feel like people take it too far and try to make excuses for people who clearly aren’t doing their job.

      3. Free Meerkats*

        “Not every job can be done remotely.”

        This commentariat is very office centric and many don’t seem to realize there are other worlds out there. You want running water, to flush your toilet, electricity, to have the road plowed (eventually, around here), the firefighters to show up? Those jobs can’t be done from home.

        I live near Seattle and we don’t have the equipment for lots of snow – because it’s not a good use of taxpayers’ money to spend a million dollars on adequate equipment for the extreme case that will have to be maintained and the operators get trained on regularly for the once in 10 years we need it. However, our water plant is in the mountains and before anyone is hired there, there is a very explicit discussion that they will be expected to get to work in all but blizzard conditions. And if the roads to the plant close and they are on shift, they are there working until the weather clears. If they can’t or won’t agree to those things, they don’t get hired.

        1. Cake or Death*

          To me, the “well, can’t they just work from home?” response is becoming like the “well, can’t you just adopt?” response that people give to people who are unable to have children. It gives (to me, anyways) the impression that 1) you’re not in touch with reality enough to know that all jobs aren’t capable of being remote and 2) that you think the person you’re speaking to is an idiot. Like “surely, this person hasn’t thought of this completely obvious solution!”
          Rant over, lol

        2. Ima Goodlady*

          My husband is a mechanic. We or the conpany would have to spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, building a new structure onto our house full of lifts and specialized equipment and then stocking it with parts like brake pads, batteries, tires, etc. Never mind insurance costs or zoning issues or the fact that many things he does require more than one person to do them. Or the fact that clients will have to find us.

          He was considered essential all through lockdowns because doctors and nurses and everybody else essential are all useless if they can’t get to work! I can’t imagine his job being okay with him saying “can’t fix engines today, the local weather we always have is weathering again.”

          So yeah not every job can be done by plopping down a laptop on the nearest available flat surface and logging in and it’s getting beyond exhausting to keep hearing that.

        3. filer of data (hopeful ex librarian)*

          while i in general love this website and the commentary it provides, i do wish that it wasn’t so office-centric. that others realize that a lot of people, probably even the people reading this blog, don’t always work in a typical office setting.

      4. PsychNurse*

        As a nurse, freaking thank you. I am ALSO sick of hearing that “everyone was remote in March-May of 2020.” No we weren’t. And not just nurses– hundreds of thousands of other people were working too. And even if you stayed home, huddled in your house, and ordered your groceries, it wasn’t shipped or delivered by elves.

        1. Cake or Death*

          Yeah, to me it makes people seem pretty obtuse when they talk about how “everyone” was working from home, while in the same breath talking about how they had to have all their groceries delivered. Like, CLEARLY, every job isn’t applicable to remote work, and you have an example of it RIGHT in front of your face that you are oblivious to.

        2. Ima Goodlady*

          People were either still working in-person… or they were laid off. How quickly we forget how many people lost jobs because they were non-essential and they couldn’t “just work from home”.

    4. Momma Bear*

      Secondarily, doesn’t OPM have “unscheduled leave and telework” or similar phrasing? If people can at all be set up to work remote, it might be worth looking into on an emergency basis only.

      I’d go back to the issue that he’s taking a lot of unscheduled time off at short notice. What’s the usual protocol for that and how is he following/not following it? He may certainly not be comfortable in snow, but then he needs a backup plan – bus, carpool, etc. If it’s impacting the office all winter and seems excessive then something has to change. Either he learns to adapt or this isn’t the right job for him.

    5. I should really pick a name*

      If you live in a region where it snows for several months of the year, avoiding coming in when it snows is impractical. No one would have enough vacation/sick time to cover it.
      If someone stayed home when it was actively snowing where I live, they would have used at least 5 sick days in December, and 10-15 if they stayed home when there was significant snow on the ground.

      If your job can’t be done from home, you have to get there somehow, and people clearly do it successfully so it raises eyebrows when someone can’t.

    6. Allonge*

      Why is it an issue?

      Let me give an example: let’s say you are a coworker of this person who lives close enough to get in no matter what. Every week once or twice he does not come in. His job needs to be done because some things cannot be delayed. So every week once or twice you do the job of two people.

      Or the company collapses because of all the delays. Or clients go without the services.

      I would say that is an issue.

  11. StellaBella*

    Can he work from home effectively? I think after 3 years of WFH for pandemic this could apply to snow days too.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      This letter was published originally on JANUARY 19, 2018 so there had not yet been a pandemic or an explosion for WFH opportunities because of it.

      Also there was an update to it that you can search for in the AAM archives.

    2. DisgruntledPelican*

      For many people, threes years of the pandemic including going into work every day like normal.

      1. Courageous cat*

        Yes. This is driving me crazy in this thread, and in this blog at large. The inability to see past one’s own experience feels very privileged here. Original commenter was (and I was) *privileged* to be able to work from home and keep ourselves safer as a result. Soooo many other people weren’t and no one seems to be acknowledging this. It is very office-centric.

  12. Caramel & Cheddar*

    This is one of those letters where I think the answer is really different pre-pandemic vs now. Assuming his work *can* be done at home, this feels like something where instead of losing a day to this guy calling out, he could be productive by staying home. How often the boss wants to let him do that is up to them, but in 2023 a lot of this feels like “I can only manage you if I see you in person.”

    I live somewhere snowy and I understand the “You should be used to the weather and get comfortable commuting in it as a result” attitude, but at the same time we’ve re-calibrated our work expectations in so many other areas over the last three years, and I’m not sure why this shouldn’t be one of them when the work isn’t required to be done on premises.

    Obviously if this is a job that must be done in person, then that’s a whole other thing, but I think this is something that bosses in, say, an average office could perhaps be more lenient on.

  13. Nea*

    Handshake person – I think covid has given you the perfect out for your sweaty palm problem. Just say you haven’t shaken hands since the pandemic and do something else.

    1. Pine Tree*

      Yep – I’m definitely a fist or elbow bump person now. Covid helped with that becoming more normal, but I also don’t want a cold, flu, or RSV. I also didn’t like shaking people’s potentially germy hands before covid, but now it’s more “normal” to offer the fist or elbow.

    2. autumnal*

      Exactly my thought. Handshakes are over for me, says the person who just recovered from covid. Certainly anyone I met between the time I was infected and when symptoms appeared would agree.

    3. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

      The death of the mandatory handshake is one of the delightful benefits to COVID.

      I haven’t shaken hands in almost three years and I hope never to have to again.

      As a woman who wears a ring with stones on my right hand, I can’t tell you the number of men who have bruised my fingers or caused the stones to cut me by gripping my hand like it’s their lifeline to salvation. And yeah, I could stop wearing that ring on that hand, but I like it, and it’s pretty, and if people don’t shake my hand like they’re trying to squeeze me to death, it’s not a problem.

      Interestingly, no woman has ever shaken my hand that hard.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Ugh, the people who confuse “firm” with “bone-crushing”. Honestly, if someone apparently can’t control their strength, and isn’t aware they can’t control their strength, or thinks it’s funny, I’m just going to assume they’re a toddler in other ways too.

    4. DannyG*

      If handshake is a must/unavoidable part of the corporate culture a low dose (e.g. propranolol 10 mg) an hour before the interview can help. Check with your PCP if this might be helpful.

  14. Canadian Girl*

    I am sorry but I have nothing helpful to add other than laughter about calling out due to snow. I live on the Canadian prairies where it is routinely -40*C with 70-100 kilometer winds and lots of snow. I am giggling at my desk as I am watching the snow continue to come down and it is currently -21*C with 35k winds. I made it to work today, and yesterday, and everyday since it started on Oct 1, 2022. The only acceptable snow excuse here is when they close the highways down (lots of rural staff drive into the city for work). Otherwise management pretty much says you need to be here. Good luck!

    1. Cake or Death*

      While I don’t live as north as you, I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and I found the idea of calling out due to potential snow pretty funny too. The only time we call out here is when we get a couple feet at once and the streets haven’t been able to be plowed yet. The snowpiles on the sides of the roads here get to the height of a truck and you practically have to pull into the road to se if there are any cars coming. Also, rolling stops here are totally acceptable here in winter, as stopping all the way means you’re likely to get stuck in the intersection LOL.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        The night before I was going to take the car in to have the snow tires put on, there was a huge wet snow. Plowing hadn’t been completed and this one major road was covered in six inches of snow. The light was already yellow, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop, so I leaned on my horn as I slid through the intersection.

        I had just moved to Milwaukee from the south and was really concerned, but thank goodness it was like everyone was on the Yooper wavelength.

    2. Dr. Rebecca*

      Counterpoint: your location has the infrastructure to deal with it (I assume). Plows, salt, well maintained roads, other drivers who are experienced navigating snowy paths? Yes?

      So, in a situation where others might (and often do) die, you’re well suited to be fine. Congratulations. But please do acknowledge that others might (and often do) die. Cold weather, icy conditions, and snow in a situation where there’s not proper resources to deal with it are all very dangerous conditions; please can the laughter at people doing their best.

      1. Cake or Death*

        “your location has the infrastructure to deal with it (I assume). Plows, salt, well maintained roads, other drivers who are experienced navigating snowy paths? Yes?”

        You mean like the LW’s location?

        “We all know snow is part of life here and we plan for it. We get up early, shovel ourselves out, 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 dangerous conditions, but in routine snowy weather everyone else manages to get here except him.”

        “We all know snow is part of life here and we plan for it”

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          The LW is speaking for themselves, not their employee, who as mentioned in many other comments may be a transplant from somewhere else, may be dealing with phobias, may be dealing with poor car quality issues, we just don’t know, and freakin’ SERIOUSLY?? Right now, when there’s a major movie star in the hospital because of a snow related incident, we’re going to LAUGH at people who are (may be overly) cautious?

          Okay, fine, I’ll cut the equivocation that was in my first response: laughing at caution around dangerous or potentially deadly circumstances is callous and rude. Cut it out.

          1. Dr. Rebecca*

            PS: I live in the midwest where snow is a part of life, and we plan for it; doesn’t make it less dangerous or deadly, particularly with below zero windchills, and cities that seem to think that salt should be used like gold leaf.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              Even salt has its limits… I reported to work on foot several times for my last job because the street it was on is heavily shaded, and even the plows couldn’t get through the ice after a few days of alternating snow, rain, and nights below 5F.

              1. Dr. Rebecca*

                *nods* Yup. My state habitually underbuys salt due to, idk, being in denial about the fact that we’re a flat plains state, but you’re right–there’s somethings it just can’t do.

              2. Emmy Noether*

                I’ve seen salt make it actively worse. Just enough salt to make the snow melty/slushy, but not run off, and then the temps drop further overnight… hello ice.

                You’ve got to know when to plow/shovel, when to throw gravel/sand, when to throw salt, and when to just wait it out.

            1. Cake or Death*

              To be fair, calling what happened to Jeremey Renner a “snow-related” accident, is like calling someone who gets run over by their lawn mower a lawn-related accident.
              Yes, he was out plowing snow, but the issue wasn’t caused by the snow, it was the fact that this heavy piece of machinery, which has multiple safety features to prevent the equipment from moving when no one is inside, failed.
              If the safety features on your lawn mower that prevent it from moving failed, and your lawn mower ran you over, no one would be blaming the lawn.

          2. Cake or Death*

            Oh, ok. So now it’s not what you wrote in your original comment, it’s something else. Now it’s not “your location has the infrastructure to deal with it (I assume). Plows, salt, well maintained roads, other drivers who are experienced navigating snowy paths? Yes?
            So, in a situation where others might (and often do) die, you’re well suited to be fine.
            Now it’s not about infrastructure, it’s about the personal situation of the employee. So sorry to have responded to what you wrote instead of being a mind reader and interpreting that you meant something else. I always appreciate having someone jump down my throat for replying to what they actually said instead of things they were only thinking in their head.

            “The LW is speaking for themselves, not their employee” uhhh…they live in the same place?

            Yes, Jeremy Renner is in the hospital right now due to his huge piece of heavy duty snow removing equipment having a complete and utter safety failure and ran him over while he was outside of the vehicle. He wasn’t injured because he was in a “snow accident”; he was injured because multiple safety features of a piece of heavy equipment failed . It’s no more the snow’s fault that he was injured than it is the lawn’s fault if someone gets run over by their lawnmower when the safety features fail.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              I dunno, if my yard is all California native plants and NO WATER WASTING INVASIVE SPECIES-FILLED LAWN I am not going to get run over by a lawnmower.

            2. Dr. Rebecca*

              Maybe you should just admit that you think the employee in question, and people who think/behave like them, is being ridiculous; you’re all up and down the comment section implying it, go ahead and get it out of your system. Most of us don’t agree with you though. *shrug*

        2. Kesnit*

          I can only speak for my own experience with snow…

          The neighborhood I used to live in was always one of the last to be plowed. Our driveway was short, but what was the point of backing down the driveway when the road was unpassable without a truck or SUV. (Neither my wife nor I drive either.)

          Where I live now has its own problems. The main road gets plowed, but is a twisty downhill. Trying to drive it risks me (and my little car) being in a ditch. Going out the alternate way (up the hill) means I have to go down a different hill.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Yea. I live in the upper Midwest, but my employer’s home office is in Dixie. A half-inch of snow there is terrifying in a way that two feet of snow at home cannot even aspire to be.

    3. AJ*

      My BIL lives in MN and in one living situation of his, snow and winds meant his 1/4 mile driveway would be packed with snow. I mean packed. Once it took a crew of four eight hours to dig him out. He missed his shift. The next morning his driveway was impassable again. He was a postal worker, so driving in snow didn’t faze him. Sometimes you just can’t.

  15. Asenath*

    I live in a snowy part of Canada, and where I worked, there was an official and well-publicized policy. Paraphrasing, it could be summarized as: Stay home if the highways people/police closed the road or the workplace was closed down. (It had to be really, really bad for anyone to close the roads, and “recommend you stay off the roads” rather than “close the roads” did not count.) Under any other conditions, you would not be paid if you did not turn up. (Working from home was not an option, partly because it wasn’t really a thing, and largely due to the nature of the work.) I thought that was fair – although I moaned like the others when I got to work, only to be sent home after two hours. To be fair, managers generally tried to decide if the weather was likely to justify closing before we left home. I had about the furthest to go, and was sometimes on the road when I got the news of a closure. But when someone (a newish employee) stayed home when she should have reported in, she lost her pay, so they took the whole thing seriously.

    So, after all this – set a company policy about what conditions you will accept for employees staying home due to weather, and enforce it like any other policy.

  16. BTDT*

    LW3 – I feel your pain. I have severe hyperhidrosis. (Remote interviewing was the best change in the world for me.) If yours is also severe i’d urge you to look into all the Rx options again b/c some are not pricey at all. Drysol is less than $5 if you shop around. I’ve also tried the handshake to “fist bump conversion” thanks to covid, but I know that can be awkward.

  17. Angstrom*

    I grew up and work in northern New England, so “normal” snow isn’t a big deal. I still try to WFH on the really big snow days because on those days folks tend to get in late, spend half the morning talking about the weather, and leave early anticipating a slow drive. :-)
    If the employee is nervous about driving in snow *and* traffic, could shifting hours on those days to avoid rush hour be an option?
    Maybe talk to employee and find out more specifics? Is it getting the driveway plowed, distance, snow driving skills, etc. Carpool in with a more confident driver on those days?
    But if there’s a good business reason for them to physically be in the office, and that was clear when they were hired, it is reasonable to expect them to be there.

  18. Corrigan*

    I’ll play Devil’s advocate on the snow situation. Not all roads are plowed equally! So someone living in the same down is no guarantee that their circumstances are equal. Granted I live in the south where snow prep is very different, but I currently live on a road that is pre-treated and plowed (in the rare event where plowing is needed down here). So I’d be fine. In my last neighborhood, one town over, the street was maybe treated but never plowed. The entrance to the neighborhood was hilly and shady so it was a complete downhill sheet of ice to get out. If I could have gotten to the main road, I would have been fine, but many neighborhoods around here really are impossible to get out of.

    I grew up in the Northeast where my parents still live, so in an area quite used to snow. They can get 2 feet of snow and their one block dead end street really may not be plowed for a few days. So it can happen, even in an area you’d expect to be prepared for snow.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I don’t even think this is playing DA to plainly state the challenges here. Ottawa has famously failed to budget enough for snow clearance in the past, so they’ll run out of plow budget by January if they’ve had a particularly snow-heavy November or December. When you remember that Ottawa is both a capital city and the second coldest capital on the planet, it’s unsurprising when so many other places struggle. Similarly, Toronto took nearly two weeks to dig itself out of a giant snow storm last January, and various sections of the city struggle to get sidewalks cleared because the snow clearing machines are too wide for the sidewalks in some neighbourhoods.

      1. Pine Tree*

        Anchorage is doing a spectacularly terrible job of snow removal this year. Granted, we had some snow records broken in December, so I would have given them a few extra days to get it together, but it’s now been weeks and main city roads that are supposed to be 3 lanes are still 1.5 lanes. The schools closed for a record 6 days in December. “Back in my day” schools never closed, but that was before drastic budget cuts to snow removal.

        As a result, it’s been much more normal this year to have snow be an excuse for not making it to work or somewhere else. But this is not usually the case. Snow up here is usually more of an annoyance but doesn’t stop activities.

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*


      I live in a residential subdivision. Pretty sure we are in the last 1% of streets that are plowed by the county, and as the municipality in which I live has passed the buck to the county for this, I’m literally stuck. As a neighborhood, we tried to get a quote/contract for snow removal and maintenance, but guess what? We are not a privately owned road – so nobody will even look at it, as its under the jurisdiction of the county.

      We joke that it takes a school bus driver refusing to come into our neighborhood to get the roads cleared. Based on the condition of things during school breaks, I’m not sure its an actual joke.

      And I’m in a state where Winter is fully an expected thing and we all learned to do donuts in empty parking lots, taught by our parents in the hope that we would learn how to handle the situation if it ever (and it does) came up outside that parking lot and not be ki!!ed.

    3. WS*

      Yes! I live in a rural area and we’ve had floods this year. Most staff could get to work, but some days, depending which side of which creek they were on, they were completely cut off from work unless they took a 6-hour round trip. I looked up the laws about this one, and it turns out that if the business is open but the employees can’t get there, we don’t have to pay them, which seems guaranteed to cause risky behaviour on the roads (and there’s no public transport here). So we paid them, but I was quite shocked that we could just…not, during a declared natural disaster.

    4. FridayFriyay*

      This is my situation too. I live in city limits of a mid size city in a part of the country that regularly gets snow over many months during the winter and our street is often unplowed for days and due to our location we’d need to negotiate an unplowed hill and several unplowed or poorly plowed adjacent streets to get to a main road that is absolutely fine and safe to drive on. It really is a major hassle and isn’t workable even though we are very prepared for snow in general and capable of planning ahead when weather is expected. My wife is a city employee and is often considered essential to report to work when the weather is bad and the city often sends a snowplow driver for pickup or allows for remote work because they’re aware that the resources just aren’t there to prioritize our street for plowing and salting.

      1. Grace Poole*

        Ditto on this. I live in the city, and if you can get down the hill I live on and drive a mile south on the main road, you can see where the border to the adjoining suburb is based on the snow clearance. The city does okay on snow clearance, but you do have to know your limits and that of your transportation. I’m glad that working from home is now normalized.

    5. Wishbone Ash*

      Yep! I live in the south and our previous place was in the county (not the nearest town) so the county roads didn’t get brined, salted, or plowed until days after the snowfall. SO you’d have to travel about 2 miles to get to passable roads. Add to this multiple steep hills and sharp curves on that road, it was impossible to get out if ice or snow above .5″ happened.

      I get it, people from the north, you’re ready for it and so is LW. But it doesn’t mean the rest of us are ridiculous or inept. We just live in a different place without that infrastructure.

    6. Samwise*

      When I lived in Chicago, our street was plowed and the sidewalks cleared ONLY when the mayor lived in our neighborhood. Before and after that: we just walked, because it would take forever (and sometimes be almost impossible) to dig out the car, get it out of the parking spot, and then get it down our street to the treated and plowed streets. (Couldn’t park on those streets, snow routes had to be kept clear). Sometimes we were parked for weeks. We’d use the car again in the spring…

  19. Mehitabel*

    Weather is getting worse/more unpredictable all over the place. I feel pretty strongly as an employer that I need to do everything in my power to make it possible for people to work remotely during inclement weather. I live in an area where snow and ice are once-or-twice-a-year events, my city therefore does not have a giant fleet of snowplows, and I personally am extremely leery of going out on the roads during snow and ice events. It’s simply not safe, and I am loathe to try to force others to drive on roads I myself don’t feel safe driving on. So if a snow event is in the forecast I ask people to be ready to work from home. I know that for some employers that’s not an option because of the nature of their business, but if it is an option I think it should be handled that way.

    1. Alwayz*

      This is the perfect approach. Thank you!

      I personally disagree quote strongly with Alison’s advice on this one. LW1 seems to find it inconvenient that he employs humans rather than robots. Is it possible to let the employee work from home?

  20. DivineMissL*

    Hm, I think it depends. My town is kind of on the “snow line” between the Atlantic Ocean and the inland metropolitan area, and my workplace is closer to the beach. If the storm is approaching from the ocean, my workplace gets hit hard but my own town doesn’t get as much. If the storm approaches from the metro side, my town gets hammered along the city but my workplace may just get a dusting. Our employees come from all directions to get to work. We generally will have a paid “late opening” or “early dismissal” in bad weather to accommodate safe travel. We also let employees use vacation or personal time if they still don’t feel safe based on their individual circumstances; but I suppose it’s possible that OP’s employee might abuse that.

  21. Daisy*

    Just because other workers can make it in doesn’t mean your employee can, especially if they live in another part of town. I’m near a weather pattern break, my house may get 5 inches of snow but 4 miles down the street they may barely get a dusting. Local topography can have a big impact on drifting snow also, there are 4 spots before I get to a main road that will often have 4-6 foot high drifts while the rest is swept clean by the wind.

    Our school system has “boundary days” where the rural route busses don’t run and it is an excused absence for rural students but those that live in town still need to attend.

  22. Lady_Lessa*

    My snow experiences. When I lived in North Carolina, they often called off schools due to threat of snow. I actually got stuck in snow while there because of getting in deeper than I should have to avoid an oncoming car (that took a side driveway GRRR). Also, in the South, freezing rain often precedes the snow, and most folks can’t drive on ice.

    Now, I am in NE Ohio, and am comfortable driving in snow. BUT, on Christmas Eve, I decided to drive around the apartment complex to make a decision about whether to attempt church. Due to lack of plowing, I got stuck twice in 1/3 of a mile. I am grateful to my neighbors in helping me get unstuck. (I skipped church especially since I was planning to watch on line at 11 pm.)

    So, I can appreciate why someone wouldn’t want to drive, since it depends upon both experience and road conditions from home to work.

  23. Beth*

    LW #3: get some nice cotton or linen handkerchiefs. They’ll be better than your clothes for discreetly wiping your hands pre-handshake.

  24. EngGirl*


    I get the idea of “we live in a snowy place so you need to make reasonable preparations” however I absolutely hate the reasoning that if everyone else made it in from your town you should too.

    I live in New England. I drive a car with reasonably good snow ratings. If the plows don’t come through my roads (as I don’t live on a main road) and if my apartment maintenance team doesn’t plow out the parking lots (they interconnect and I have to drive downhill through multiple lots to get to the road) I’m not getting out.

    I think it’s worth discussing that side of things with your employee. I have one direct report who told me on his first day of work that he lives on the outskirts of his town and sometimes they get stuck for hours.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      ^^ +1000 to discussing.

      I’m in the Midwest along Lake Michigan. We get snow. We get ice. We get high winds. We get power outages. My workplace also has a lot of transplant employees that legitimately have never seen snow or negative temperatures before. We usually will go over what our workplace snow plans are to remove snow/ice from campus, any low spots we know stay icier, any problem intersections by the sites, and how to buy a winter jacket. Every year we send out a communication on winter weather hazards.

      Do we have a good chunk of panic every first snowfall? Yep. Does most everyone figure out a best method for them? Absolutely. Do we extend WFH as we can? Yep. Is there almost always still that One Person who takes advantage of flexibility? Sure is. Shoutout to the one person that really wanted to come to work only on an electric scooter and tried doing that for far too long (several rescues were needed).

      Talk about the impact and what could be done to mitigate the impact. Don’t make assumptions.

    2. Samwise*

      Yeah, I live in a place with a lot of rain (including tropical storms and hurricanes) and while flood control is pretty good around here, there are streets that flood from quickly-rising creeks and they are NOT safe. The governor says, do not drive through standing water folks! Before covid, the university almost never closed or let us work from home even. So folks would come in, because they needed to save their leave or didn’t have enough leave, or because their boss said we are OPEN and you WILL BE HERE.

  25. cheap old car*

    I was this employee, and here is why: I was among the newest, youngest, and therefore lowest paid employees at Company. So, I drove a cheap old beater of a car that did not handle at all well in bad weather. I could not afford a car payment on anything that would have been snow appropriate. The owners and senior managers all drove big SUVs and thought nothing of criticizing me for being a ‘nervous driver’, which was not the case at all. I am an excellent driver; I just know my vehicle. We had different resources to work with. If I wrecked THAT car, you won’t see me at work at all.

    1. k8*


      at my workplace, the bosses pushing us to come in after the snow are ones who make enough money to 1) live close to where we work, 2) have a car that is appropriate for snow, and/or 3) live in nice areas that are plowed well and promptly. they’re making a three mile drive on well-plowed residential roads in an AWD vehicle, then being confused why anyone would feel unsafe.

      1. curmudgeon*

        Amen. I used to drive an old Civic. I loved that car but it was not designed for snow.

        One time it snowed and I told my manager I didn’t feel comfortable coming in. She said she’d come pick me up in her SUV bc the roads “weren’t that bad.” Her Jeep then got stuck in my neighborhood because hilly roads are the last to get treated/plowed around here.

        She got out safely but damn was it satisfying to watch her eat crow.

      2. D'Arcy*

        My tiny little Smart Car handles slick, icy conditions *shockingly* well due to the combination of rear wheel drive, active traction control, and the fact that as a former EMT, I have formal training in adverse condition driving. I’m still not coming to work in *significant* snow, because small wheels and limited ground clearance means I *will* get stuck in anything more than 2-3 inches.

    2. River*

      +1 Agreed. I can totally sympathize with you. When I worked part-time I remember an instance where I had to drive to work in what essentially was a blizzard (high winds, snow blowing everywhere, reduced visibility, semi-clean roads) and being part-time and in retail, it wasn’t worth driving with my POS car for a 4 hour shift. I thought that no one else would show up and being the responsible person that I am, I risked my life to go sell those t-shirts and clothing. Well I get to work and my manager is closing down for the day. He never called me to tell me NOT to come into work. So yes, being paid barely above minimum wage, having a crap car, not enough to make monthly payments for a decent car, yeah I totally agree with this comment!

  26. Someone*

    I’m (probably irrationally) annoyed when this LW or my supervisor say “We get up early, shovel ourselves out, leave plenty of extra time to drive in at a safe speed”. If you have school age children, bad weather means you start your day later and *then* drive slowly. If you don’t have children, it’s still safer to wait until after the roads have been plowed.

    1. Ginger Pet Lady*

      Exactly. Around here, schools often delay start times during a storm to clear parking lots an sidewalks first.
      Either OP has no kids, or he has a wife who bears that responsibility alone.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Most places I’ve worked make exceptions to any tardiness/attendance policies based on school closures/late openings in the employee’s area of residence. That makes sense to me.

      2. Cake or Death*

        “Either OP has no kids, or he has a wife who bears that responsibility alone.”

        What are you even talking about? ???

        What do school delays have to do with this letter? Is there anywhere in this letter that has anything to do with this?

        The employee is calling out the day before due to “possible” snow in the forecast…wth does it have to do with kids getting to school and why are you making such a rude assumption about LW? Not to mention, assuming LW is a man.

        There is nothing in this letter to make any sort of assumption that LW doesn’t understand that employees who have school-aged children might come in later due to school delays…you’re basically making assumptions about the LW that aren’t based on anything.

        1. JTP*

          Right in the letter:
          “His frequent, last-minute absences … I advised him … his ongoing pattern … he would need to be at work consistently”

          1. Emily*

            This tells us the person LW is writing about is a man, it does not tell us if LW is a man or not.

    2. Cake or Death*

      I have two school age children, live in the northern midwest with plenty of snow in the winter, my city side street doesn’t usually get plowed unless we get more than 6″ at a time, and I make to work by 7am every day, all winter. Plus, I drive my oldest to school on my way to work. Which means I get up earlier so I can shovel and have time to drive safely. It’s just what you do when you live in a place that has snowy winters. It takes longer to get places and you have to be much more careful, but that’s just par for the course in a snowy climate.

      1. Someone*

        I live in Minnesota and school age childcare opens late on snow days. I can’t just leave my kids outside the building for an hour to wait for it to open.

        1. Cake or Death*

          Ok, but that doesn’t really affect anything that LW said. Even if you do have children that have a school delay, presumably you will still have to get out and shovel yourself out and give yourself extra time to drive.

          And it doesn’t really factor into anything LW said. LW makes no mention of employee saying he’ll be late to work because school delays mean he can’t get into work later; he’s calling into work the day before because there is “possible” snow in the forecast.

          LW’s statement of “We get up early, shovel ourselves out, leave plenty of extra time to drive in at a safe speed” has nothing to do with people having to come in late due to school delays, so I’m not sure what this comment is about. I don’t get why what LW said irritates you, since it’s…true? Whether you have kids to get to school or not has no bearing on being able to get yourself to work at some point. And it really has no bearing on this letter, since OP is talking about their situation and their employee who’s calling out has nothing to do with kids getting to school. If OP had made this statement in regards to an employee calling in saying they were late because their kids’ school was delayed, then your comment would make sense.

          1. Someone*

            I guess I’m just trying to say being late for snow (vs. planning to leave home extra early) isn’t completely irrational, and I wish more employers were okay with it.

            This particular employee sounds flaky in other ways and if I were their manager, I would focus on other, more obviously inappropriate, absences.

            1. Cake or Death*

              Yes, but being late due to snow because of school delays has nothing to do with not planning for snow. You don’t have control over the school delays and often, you usually don’t find out until the morning of.
              However, if you don’t have kids or school delays to worry about, and there is snow in the forecast, you SHOULD be planning on getting up early to shovel yourself out and have extra time to drive. Saying, “well, there’s snow, so of course being late is acceptable” isn’t really reasonable. In some cases with really heavy snowfall it is, but normal snowfall like you get every winter? No. It takes longer to commute to work in a snowy climate, and if you live there, you have to learn to accommodate your schedule to it. Like, in the summer if your drive to work takes 20 minutes, but it takes you 40 in the winter, then you have to leave 20 minutes earlier, not show up for work 20 minutes later.
              That is what LW is referring to in the letter; that snow affects commuting to work , and when one lives in a climate that regularly gets a decent amount of snow over the winter, then “I can’t come into work because it might snow tomorrow” doesn’t fly.

              1. Ima Goodlady*

                It’s really unfair to everyone else who has to cover for him. The snow isn’t some special problem only he has, he doesn’t get to decide he can’t come to work at all when everyone else has to. Being late is different than not showing up at all without even trying.

  27. Rainy*

    For #1, I’d definitely need to know more about the employee’s neighbourhood situation. I used to live in a large Midwestern city on a very steep narrow street that was unplowable. Occasionally the city could get a sand truck down it because they had some sand trucks that were basically pickups, but anything wider than a standard pickup was too wide to fit, and they frequently didn’t even sand if their smaller sand trucks were sanding elsewhere. I was a stone’s throw from a completely clear arterial and could literally heave a brick onto a completely plowed highway in the other direction, but in bad snowstorms or ice, I couldn’t get out onto either of them safely.

    I now live in the mountains, and a few years back we had to abruptly cancel a planned Thanksgiving trip to see my parents because we woke up to a couple of feet of unexpected snow and couldn’t get out of our parking lot. The snow was too deep and because it was Thanksgiving in a college town, nobody plowed. Anywhere.

  28. Marna Nightingale*

    I live with one partner who grew up driving in the Spokane Valley and on mountain roads, and one who got their licence late and is still a cautious driver who has a strong reluctance to drive in certain kinds of weather because they don’t think they’re particularly good at it. They’ll drive backroads in snow, but in traffic? They would very much prefer not to.

    So for myself, I wouldn’t encourage an employee to drive when he think he shouldn’t drive.

    But if there are other employees in the same area who are getting in just fine, I would strongly encourage him to talk to them about carpooling.

    Actually I would probably encourage all of them to talk about carpooling on heavy snow days. Packing everyone into the best-equipped vehicle, ideally the one with the studded tires, piloted by the most experienced and comfortable drivers, is IMO something more workplaces should do when conditions are bad.

    Safer for them and also if it caught on there would be a lot fewer cars on the road in storms.

  29. Sunflower*

    I’m in the midwest so snow is part of life but I still hate driving in it. Totally scary and I’ve been in a few accidents. It can also take three or more times longer to drive anywhere. Not to mention the threat of black ice.

    But just light flurries is not bad so if this guy calls in for light snow, that’s a problem and he’s just using snow as an excuse not to go in and work.

    1. Sunflower*

      eta: if it’s not an excuse and he has a phobia/fear, then talk to him about ways to arrange a ride to work.

  30. sharrpie*

    There’s no easy answer. Everyone’s comfort level for driving in snow is different. I drive in it, but I HATE it. I’m scared and tense the whole drive and spend the work day worried about the drive home. The only thing I can do is invest in snow tires and drive slowly.

  31. WillowSunstar*

    I live in MN. In the before times, employees were definitely expected to be at work when it snowed, though you might be able to get an accommodation for being late. In times like this week where we got over 10 feet of snow in many places and local city governments were advising no travel, I don’t think most employers should hold it against employees for not being able to make it in. Particularly if you rent and are beholden to your landlord getting the parking lot plowed out, you might not have a choice.

    At least nowadays, many companies have a remote work option. But doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, police officers and such don’t get that choice. So it really depends on your job.

    1. Marna Nightingale*

      “doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, police officers and such don’t get that choice.”

      They’re really, really happy when you do, though. I’m fairly certain that nobody who drives an ambulance has EVER said “If I have to be out here in a blizzard trying to help extract this person from this rollover, I think everyone should have to be out here with me.”

      1. D'Arcy*

        Goodness, yes.

        Speaking as a former EMT, I can say with confidence that we 100% support having as many people as possible *not* trying to drive in snowy conditions. Because that makes for that many fewer accidents on the road *and* makes it that much easier for us to get to the accidents that do happen.

  32. Daughter of Denial*

    Is there any way for this person to be able to occasionally work from home

    I don’t drive in the snow. Even before the pandemic, if snow was forecast I made sure to bring my laptop home and would work from home those days. Luckily I was able to work from home with no drop in productivity. I also leave work early if it starts to snow.

  33. El l*

    LW1: Let’s leave WFH aside, and my perspective as someone who lives and works in Minnesota:

    In general, you can play that card about 2-4 times a winter. If there’s a foot of snow, and the weather service bulletin says “Reconsider travel plans”, that’s understandable. If there’s 2 inches of snow, then they need to cowboy/cowgirl up.

    And I think in general that as their manager, you can be sensitive, give them leeway, and let them leave early and arrive late if they’re clearly trying…but remember that most of the time exceptions boil down to lifestyle choices, and you are not responsible for those. For example, if you’re a homeowner who can’t get out of your driveway, and that happens more than about twice a year, that’s a problem that goes beyond your work to making necessary trips. And it’s on you to figure out solutions where it doesn’t happen more than in extreme cases. Similarly, if you live a long way away, that’s just a risk you run if you choose to live far from your job.

    So TLDR, yeah, if it’s once it’s okay, but if it’s a pattern you should probably take a harder line.

    1. Shan*

      Yeah, I agree with this… I understand people have different levels of comfort, but the reality is, if you live in a place that gets a lot of snow/has long winters, you need to find out ways to function in it.

  34. RJ*

    This was indeed a pre-pandemic letter, but snow wasn’t the only issue causing the employees to be constantly absent from work as the update linked upthread shows. In many companies now, snow days turning into WFH days wouldn’t be as big as concern. Everyone’s comfort level at driving through snow conditions varies. I personally, am not nor will ever be comfortable driving in snowy conditions.

  35. Leslie*

    My stepmother, who was a much-valued employee, refused to drive in any snow. When she started her job, she told her boss she would use almost all her vacation days for snow. She did that for forty years, and both she and her boss were perfectly happy with the situation.

  36. Managercanuck*

    I had a boss who, on snowy days, would say that she and the other co-workers who drove to work could work from home. BUT those of us who took transit would have to come into the office. While this was well before the pandemic so we didn’t have much capacity to work from home, it really sucked being stuck on buses stuck in the snow while she was home cosy and warm.

  37. Just Anothet Tired US Fed*

    Old-Timers Guide to Driving in Snow: (40 years driving in Chicagoland winters)


    1. Mid*

      9. Avoid unnecessary driving whenever possible. Best way to avoid an accident is to not be on the roads.

      1. Just Anothet Tired US Fed*

        That goes without saying. My suggestions are for if you must be out there. Avoiding is not really a tip for driving in snow. I would add though, if visibility is low, just pull over or off the road if possible.

        My experience is that the main problem is excessive speed when road conditions are bad.

    2. Katy*

      9. When you are on ice, don’t brake hard, pump the brakes.
      10. Come to a stop slowly at intersections. You need more space to slow down and stop when it is snowy/icy.
      11. Try to avoid coming to a complete stop on ice as it will be hard to get started again.
      12. Clear all the snow off your car roof, and stay well back from cars that have snow on them.
      13. If you are somewhere cold enough that your car may freeze, make sure it is fully winterized and plug it in.

      4b. Good tire treads ideally means snow tires with studs. Regular snow tires work great in snow, but studs keep you from spinning off the road when it ices up.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        If you drive a somewhat modern (like, less than 20 years old) car with ABS, do NOT pump your brakes, go ahead and slam them if needed. The car will pump for you in the optimal way, trying to pump yourself will just mess it up.

    3. Red Light Specialist*

      3a: make sure the windshield fluid is sub-zero. You only have to make that mistake once to remember.

  38. Ginger Pet Lady*

    My area often has lake effect snow which can mean two places 10-20 miles apart can have VASTLY different snow totals depending on wide direction. We also have mountains, which means elevation differences can also make a big difference.
    Until fairly recently, they never, ever had snow days with the schools. Only ever a 1-2 hour late start and that was it. And then in 2018 or 2019 we had a big storm and buses of students were sliding off the roads and in some cases, returned to the school to shelter there. Parents flipped out about the schools’ we never stop attitude. They actually called a snow day in (I think) Jan 2020.
    And now, post pandemic, they “pivot to virtual instruction” when things are bad.
    All of that definitely impacts people’s ability to go into work. Companies need to realize that.
    Several others have also made this point, but I’ll reemphasize: Leaders tend to make enough money to buy cars that are better in snow, while paying others crappy wages that make that impossible. If you are a leader who tells people to “get a snowblower so it doesn’t take as long to clear the driveway” or “Buy a 4WD because we need you here” consider THAT next time people negotiate salaries with you. Because it is not a good look to tell employees to do things that YOU can afford but they cannot. So much classism in that “Well *I* had a heated driveway put in” approach. (Yes, had a grandboss say that once!)
    Outside of emergency services, companies can shut down and skip a day. They really can. Might mean lower profitability, but I’m just so OVER the *money, money, money* over people and lives approach.

    1. Cake or Death*

      “Outside of emergency services, companies can shut down and skip a day. They really can. Might mean lower profitability, but I’m just so OVER the *money, money, money* over people and lives approach.”

      This LW works for a healthcare organization that is involved in patient care. Doesn’t seem like they can just close down for a day.

      And there are many, many, many companies that are not “emergency services” that can’t shutdown for a day for reasons that have nothing to do with decreased profitability.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, I really do wonder what people who are all “everyone can WFH” and “companies should just shut down” here would say if even 1% of services/orgs who really really need workers to be in person would “just shut down”.

        1. Stitch*

          My Dad is a medical specialist with a waiting list months long. He lives in a snowy area of the Midwest. Can you imagine the utter chaos if he didn’t work on snowy days.

          No, people can’t just take lots of days off.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        I work for a 24/7 manufacturing facility. We can shut down for a day – but the shutdown is a day long and start up is longer. Equipment doesn’t “skip a day”; it’ll skip a week. There are very specific sequences to shutdown/startup. This isn’t a profitability thing, it’s safety. We move that slow to prevent injury.

        I will say my workplace *does* have a lot of flexibility for staff to come in late etc., but we can’t just unplug everything and try again tomorrow as a facility. I’m also part of the emergency response team, so I am one of the people specifically called onsite when something bad is happening.

        (As someone who lives in the Midwest with lake effect snow/ice/winds.)

  39. Cruciatus*

    Ahh, snow. I live in the snowbelt and work at a university just under a great lake (where you understand the phrase “lake effect snow”, the other campuses of this university work further south or further east and don’t have the resources my city does for snow, so we often get notices that they are getting snow days while my campus never gets a snow day (well, we got off two days in a row once because temps were below freezing. That was one time in the nearly 7.5 years I’ve been here). We are allegedly allowed to take vacation time to not come in but it would add up quickly if you chose to use it just on threat of snow (and people would be annoyed whether they admit it or not). But I can sympathize with the employee because sometimes I do drive in and think “why am I doing this!?”

  40. Blonde Spiders*

    RE: #3 (sweaty palms)

    I’m guessing this is a very old letter. I hope the OP has discovered the delight of the fist or elbow bump. I haven’t shaken anyone’s hand in almost 3 years now. I can’t imagine anyone would take offense given what we’re constantly dealing with.

  41. JelloStapler*

    I had a former colleague who mysteriously had any variety of issues that would mean they had to call off– every. time. it. rained. It became a joke with the rest of us ‘Whats the excuse this time?” and I think the person honestly did not think we had caught on.

  42. Rachel*

    I live in a very snowy place and the only real excuse I have for not going in is if I’m snowed in – which happens once or twice a winter as my disability prevents me getting through more than about two feet of snow – then if the snow clearing guys come by early enough I go in after that.

    I wonder if he’s new to snow? Most places I’d lived before here snow was a rare thing and everything would shut down. So I had to learn pretty fast my first winter here!

  43. Student*

    Chiming in that the issue for LW1, driving in snow vs taking an absence, is cultural and may take a bit of a mindset shift to get this fixed, by both the LW and the employee.

    I grew up in the Midwest, where you drive in snow regularly throughout the winter every year. Nobody cancels business and it’s rare to cancel school days. There are rare exceptions for extremely dangerous conditions.

    I have since moved all over the country, living often in places where snow is very rare or much shorter-lived. In these places, it’s considered completely normal and expected that no one would drive in snow. Businesses and schools routinely close, or reduce hours, if snow is forecast. It’s considered to be absolutely outrageous to expect anyone to drive in it. This is the case even for what the Midwest would consider very light snow.

    As a Midwesterner, this was extremely hard to get used to. Eventually, I learned that there are a number of legitimate reasons behind the difference. For the warm-weather areas, a snow day is about as rare as a Midwest “extremely dangerous weather” day (or had been for the last ~hundred years; things are changing), so they end up taking only a few days off for this in a normal year, if any. They don’t have the knowledge and infrastructure support that the Midwest and other snowy areas have to support life-with-snow. Their roads, and sometimes even buildings, aren’t designed to account for snow.

    So, there’s a big cultural difference and there are equally legitimate cultural norms in play. In order to overcome this cultural difference, you need to understand first where your employee’s coming from, and you’ll need to explain to him that he needs to learn to adapt the local cultural norm. He may need you to explain specifically that his behavior is out of step with how everyone around him handles winter weather realities, and that he needs to adjust to the local norm. Then you need to treat it like a learning experience for him, and may need to help recommend resources to him. Connect him to a colleague who can mentor him on the ways of living in winter. He may not know how to drive in the snow whatsoever. He may not own a shovel or windshield ice scraper. He may not understand that there are strategies to safely live with regular snowfall, and that he can learn these strategies and employ them himself, especially if he comes from someplace that treated snow days like a hurricane-level event.

    I assure you, LW – when I first came to non-snowy-areas, I thought the locals were being just as ridiculous as you think your employee is being. I get it. However, I was unprepared to discover that they think we snow-folks are reckless yahoos in turn. It takes some work to get past that huge difference in approach, to see the other person’s side. and then try to bridge the culture gap.

  44. Rachel*

    I am able to work from home during inclement weather and I don’t go into the office even if it’s just an inch of snow or even a possible snow during the day. Any new job, I am very up-front about this as a deal breaker since I usually had a longer commute.

    These days, I am close to the office but still follow that same rule. My co-workers/boss’s kind of joke about it now too.

    That being said, I have worked at the same company for almost 10 years and hardly ever call in sick.

        1. Stitch*

          The problem is LW1 is a healthcare worker (this is explicitly stated in the update). You can’t just decide to telework when you work in healthcare.

  45. KatEnigma*

    We spent the last 4 1/2 winters in Grand Forks, ND- the coldest city in the lower 48. With not the snow they get regularly on the East end of the Great Lakes, but lots of snow that doesn’t melt until April/May.

    My husband was on site, but managed remotely from Utah (not what he agreed to when hired to this new location, but that on site manager to be quit, rather than go to exile in ND) He was the most senior, so was the default team lead. There were a couple college hires that, after the first winter of WFH when you can’t make it in, and “use your best judgement” decided to WFH the second winter anytime there was any snow, regardless of the amount or conditions of the roads. We knew where they lived, as we had run into them while visiting friends, and the road to their apartment complex was cleared long before our small street was- and they were right next to the cleared highway! So management got surprised that my husband (in our minivan and all weather, not snow tires or chains) would make it in to the office and these guys “couldn’t” and the manager had to have a Talk with them, and my husband was directed to have a talk with them, and instead of using their best judgement, they were told that unless they could make a good case otherwise, they’d better make it in to the office anytime my husband did or face disciplinary actions. My husband would just tell the truth, when their manager asked about the road conditions on the way in- sometimes they “had” to wfh when the roads were just wet! This was defense with security clearance, so there literally was part of their jobs they couldn’t do remotely. And snow season ran from October to April!

  46. KellifromCanada*

    How about a standardized procedure, like you can stay home if the busses are taken off the road, or you can stay home if the local University (or some other large, public, non-emergency employer) closes?

  47. François Caron*

    Need to know:

    #1: Location of snowbound employee.
    #2: Type of tires on their car.

    If the location is Canada, skip #2 and fire the employee immediately. They should know how to handle snow. The only exception is extreme weather events where city officials ask people to stay at home.

    #2 is applicable where snow is expected even occasionally. Having proper winter tires makes a huge difference in preserving some road traction. Summer tires are rubbish. All-season tires won’t work if the weather’s cold enough to freeze water.

    1. no*

      So are you gonna give me an extra grand for snow tires? Plus the cost of swapping out the regular tires? And also the storage space to store the tires when not in use?

      1. KatEnigma*

        IF you lived in one of the snowy climates where all weather tires weren’t sufficient (it’s not all of them that get below freezing!) Then chains would be more cost effective.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          But are chains permitted on city roads, though? In California, they are not. Just highways and rural roads.

          1. KatEnigma*

            If you live in an area where they are actually needed, yes.

            If they aren’t permitted, that’s a good indication that it’s not necessary. Despite OP’s insistence.

      2. allathian*

        Depends on where you are. I’m in Finland, where snow tires (with or without studs) are mandatory when weather conditions warrant it. This simply means that people have to factor in the cost of snow tires and their storage into the cost of owning a car.

        We get snow every winter. This year it came early, in early November. When I was at school, I never once had a snow day when I was at school in Finland, although I did when we lived in the UK (West Country) and got about an inch. When I was in junior high, we had a couple “freeze days” when schools were shut because it was so cold (about -45 C/-49 F with windchill).

    2. KatEnigma*

      You don’t live far enough north. When it gets below 0F and stays there, it’s no longer slippery.

      If we managed an hour S of Winnipeg with all weather tires, so can most people.

    3. Pescadero*


      Grew up in a town the gets 110″ of snow on average per year. Never drove anything but rear wheel drive cars with all-season tires, in an area where temps are below freezing for months at a time.

      I never even KNEW anyone who used winter tires… and chains and studs are completely illegal.

    4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      All-season tires won’t work if the weather’s cold enough to freeze water.

      I know that was true at some point, but modern All-Season handle routine snow just fine.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        I bought all-season tires a couple of years ago, and the one downside in the reviews was that this model was bad in snow or ice. We don’t get snow or ice except in extreme cases here (SF Bay Area, Santa Cruz Mountains) but we get some rain, and they did well in rain.

  48. pcake*

    I’d find out whether the employee’s road is regularly snow plowed. I have a friend in a semi-rural location, and they often can’t leave for days at a time as their road is often covered with snow and not drivable.

    Btw, while I wouldn’t drive anywhere in the snow, I live where it doesn’t snow. If I did live in a snowy area, I wouldn’t take a job that required me to come in on snowy days so I didn’t cause any issues due to my not coming in…

  49. Betsy S*

    I grew up in a place where it snows and live now in a place where it snows. There is a pretty big difference between not being willing to drive in a storm, and not being willing to drive when there is snow sitting on the ground on a clear day. In general , in the city, it is reasonable to expect that people will be able to get themselves dug out and to work once it has stopped snowing and the streets are plowed.

    In a bad storm, sometimes side streets don’t get plowed for a few days and those folks are legitimately stuck. And there are people whose houses are extraordinarily difficult to navigate, for example those who live on extremely steep hills. There’s nothing to indicate that this is the case here, though.

    Snow on the ground by itself , on a clear day, should not be a life-threatening situation for a competent driver with a decent and properly-equipped car.

    One external standard *after* a snowfall is: are the schools open ? School districts sometimes make the wrong choice in advance of a storm, but if they’re open the next day, it’s a pretty good indication that the roads are passable.

    I can’t speak for rural areas, I have no experience there. But if you can’t drive in snow period, there are parts of the country where you could be out of work for weeks or months.

  50. MermaidLemonade*

    Canadian public servant here. Those of us who work in government are now working on a hybrid model, so we’re in the office some days and working from home on others. At least on my team, we are absolutely encouraged to structure our days in the office around inclement weather. If it’s going to snow, most of us will go in to work the day before or after and work from home during the weather event. It doesn’t sound like LW’s work has this setup – maybe working from home isn’t an option – but I thought it was worth pointing out. Telecommuting and hybrid work models can actually help improve attendance in cases like this.

  51. catsforbrains*

    From LW2, does anyone have advice on how to course correct a peer or supervisor who finishes your sentences? A former coworker used to finish my sentences constantly (for the reasons the letter described – wanting to stay alert and on top of it, although I also think it was a power thing) and it made me feel like talking wasn’t worth it and contributed to some burnout. (FWIW, I’m not a slow talker.)

    Does anyone have a script for course correcting someone who does this out of habit and/or asking them to consider how it feels when it happens?

    1. Mid*

      It depends on if it’s a coworker vs a report vs your boss, but “Excuse me, I wasn’t finished speaking” is generally okay, and you can add an icy pause if it’s a continued issue.

      You can also talk to them outside of that, saying “I have noticed a trend of you jumping in and attempting to finish my sentences for me. Can you please stop?” And then the next time they do it, point it out as “this is what I had mentioned previously, you’re jumping in before I’m done with my sentence.”

      Alison has also had a few similar questions about this that you can probably find in the archives!

    2. Bird of Paradise*

      I wouldn’t ask them to consider how it feels bc many people who interrupt do so to indicate enthusiasm and engagement–see “cooperative overlap.” If you ask them to consider how it feels, they won’t know how to respond bc when they are on the receiving end, they feel like their listener is enthusiastic and engaged. Instead, just tell them, kindly, not icily, that you prefer that they not interrupt you.

  52. Narvo Flieboppen*

    I can relate to LW1, specifically because digging my driveway out is not a problem, but the town frequently did not plow my street until 30 – 45 minutes after I would have left to arrive at the office for the usual time, at my pre-COVID job. I was not going to be able shovel 1/4 mile of public street beyond my driveway to get out to the main road, regardless of how much they might want it. Nor could I afford to hire a private plow truck to clear the public road every snow storm. This is an example of something beyond my control – no amount of getting early was going to fix it – and I was not going to sleep at the office to be able to cover the first hour or so of the next morning.

    Pre-COVID, I had pushed for remote login access, since I could to 80% of my work by email, and then head in after the town plow trucks came by. They pushed back because remote workers were not ‘trustworthy’ . Then, with COVID, my job moved to 90% remote, with 4 in office hours per week. Seems like remote work was just fine once it was forced onto them. Not an issue now, of course, since they had to shut down and lay us all off.

  53. Who Am I*

    I’ve lived in the upper Midwest my entire life except for a couple periods out west. I got my driver’s license in December when I was 16. I used to never mind driving in any kind of weather at all. Blizzard? Ice? Hey, I have plans – nothing’s stopping me! Now I’m closer to 60 than 20 and my attitude has changed so much it’s almost a 180 (not quite!). I’m very, very careful about the weather I’ll drive in and extremely cautious when I do have to be out in bad weather – and my definition of bad weather has changed a lot as well. The last time I had to drive home from work during severe snow and ice, I left an hour and a half earlier than usual and got home half an hour later. Adventures included sliding backward down a steep hill, trying to find roads around that hill, and driving at least 25 miles under the speed limit on the rural highway home that was already drifted over with minimal visibility. Just because someone lives in an area with inclement weather every year – and used to not mind driving in it at all – doesn’t mean their willingness to drive in it will remain the same the rest of their life. Fortunately, I’ve worked from home since covid and hope it’ll never be an issue again.

  54. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    I used to live in a town where the side streets were never plowed, only the main roads. So the main roads might be fine but depending on the type of car you drive you might not be able to make it to a main road. And it would get worse instead of better with time as the snow melted but turned into slick ice on shady parts of the road. Now I live in a very small rural community. Vast open spaces along the country roads and highways which create drifting. My car has antilocking breaks but is so small that it will slide even if its barely slick out. The stretch of highway I’d have to drive has frequent accidents in good weather. (And yes last snow there was a very bad fatality wreck) Luckily, I am WFH, but there is no chance of my car leaving my driveway until the roads are clear.

  55. Not your typical admin*

    I wonder if the person is from an area that gets little snow? Where I live, just about everything shuts down at even the mention of snow. It happens so rarely we just don’t have the equipment for it. In fact the last “big” snow we had was 9 years ago, and my daughter was born during it. Our pediatrician showed up in his hunting gear to do her check up.

  56. JTP*

    Reading OP #1, I’m greatful that pre-pandemic, my employer would tell us to plan to work from home anytime there was a hint of snowy weather (we’re 100% remote now). I’m in the mid-Atlantic, where the amount of snow we get varies greatly year to year. Some of my coworkers grew up in areas that didn’t get any snow and never learned to drive in it.

  57. Raida*

    I’d maybe have a Safety Meeting for staff where you could go over some snow facts, tips, ask people to share how they deal with snow.
    Show examples of an ‘acceptable’ amount of snow and an ‘insurmountable’ one, of dangerous weather and settled weather.
    Share tips on de-icing a car windshield, efficient shovelling, have staff chat about “ooh where’d you get your tyre chains?” “That de-icer sounds so much better than mine, I’ll have to try it”

    But realistically, if it’s an anxiety thing and not a “I’m not getting up early and putting in the work” thing then the solution is more likely to be “On snow days I expect you to call a cab with enough time for it to reach you to get here on time”

  58. Snow Go*

    Nope. I stay home if it snows or there is threat of freezing rain, and everyone else can just… you know… if they have a problem with it.

    I live in an area where people lose their minds on the road when it rains(which it does, frequently), let alone when it snows. It doesn’t snow very often, and gets icy more readily than snowy anyway… and the area semi-shuts down when it happens. It’s a bit easier, especially with work from home.

    However, I grew up in a snowy area where most people had AWD cars, but not necessarily snow tires. The big difference between there and here is that in Snowy Place… everyone THOUGHT they knew how to drive in the snow. Their AWD made them confident. And then they’d take all that confidence and confidently go skidding out doing 80 on the highway. It would get people killed, and clog up the snowy highways for hours. It’s actually worse driving around with “confident” snow drivers than it is in my new locale, where everyone is nervously driving around in the snow in their sedans on their bald all-season tires.

    So, no. I don’t drive in the snow unless I absolutely have to (and no work assignment rises to the occasion of “legitimate emergency” to me, sorry), because there are too many aggressive people on the road regardless of the weather.

    Is my employer paying my medical bills or my car insurance price hike after I get in an accident? Is my coworker with all the opinions going to? Didn’t think so.

  59. Pammers*

    The word stressors is what jumped out at me. Is that the LW’s word or the employee’s? If an employee said it to me, I would start a reasonable accommodation conversation. Whether or not an accommodation is warranted is unknown but if the employee mentions a health related reason I would start there. Is there an alternative available – we allow employees to utilize unscheduled telework for inclement weather. Maybe there are options to reduce absences and keep employees from traveling in inclement weather. Obviously it depends on the type of business and customer/client needs.

  60. Jessica Fletcher*

    I wish the snow boss were approaching this to gain understanding first. The employee hasn’t had attendance issues for a long time. Now, he’s giving the boss advance notice of a possible absence. The employee thinks this is helpful, since the boss previously complained about last-minute call offs.

    Just because other employees come in when it snows, doesn’t mean everyone can. The employee could have a disability and can’t afford to pay for snow removal. He could live on a crappy dead end street that the city won’t plow. He could live at the top of a steep hill. He could have an ill relative who needs his help when it snows and their home health aide doesn’t show up. So many possibilities!

    1. Sunny Day*

      Yes, this is my take. I don’t think something that is genuinely a possible safety issue is the time to assume the worst about the employee. There can be so many factors that make his differ from the others’ situations, including not just health but location, driving experience, etc.

      I once called out for snow when I lived in a town in the U.S. South and commuted to a nearby city, which incidentally had a lot of fairly recent northern transplants in it, including my boss at the time. We had twice as much snow where I was as he and the office did, for one thing. There were about 8 inches in my town, and nothing in sight was plowed. He said, “I’m looking at the parking lot, and it’s all plowed.” I said, “I’ve got to drive down my road and several more unplowed ones to get to your plowed parking lot, and there are 8 inches of snow on it. I literally can’t get out of my own driveway. I’m not coming in.” So he just had to accept it, and I did WFH before it was much of a thing. Several factors went into our different perspectives–different geographic location, different levels of experience with snow as a thing one can drive on, and lack of awareness on his part of the impact of scarcity of snowplows or even shovels.

      All that said, if it truly snows frequently in the area and the job truly requires in-person attendance, it might be worth a conversation about whether the position is a good fit–a kind conversation, not one that assumes the employee is making up excuses. If it’s three or four times a year and the only thing that makes it an irritant is that he’s the only one, that’s overly rigid, and, in my opinion, poor management.

  61. ds*

    My immediate thought for #1 (snow person) was that of snow-related trauma. Maybe they got in a bad accident during snow or maybe a family member died while driving in the snow. It seems like it’d be something big to make them panic enough the day before to call and let you know in advance if it’s snowy they won’t be in. Is there any way they can work from home those days? Even doing part of their tasks? Paperwork, emails, phone calls, depending on the world, coding, etc can be done from home. Any computer trainings that need to be done that could be done off-site? That could help with part of it.
    The other part is being sensitive to WHY they’re trying to call in. I’m not saying it is related to what my brain skipped to, but what if it was? Just a thing to think about here.

  62. LiptonTea4Me*

    I used to drive to work everyday, had a 17 year old rear wheel drive vehicle. Snow made my vehicle a death trap, so I rode the bus when it snowed. But then the snowfalls got deeper; I couldn’t physically navigate the walk to the bus stop. And I became the OP in this scenario.

  63. TeaCoziesRUs*

    I have to disagree with Alison here, LW1. Yes, it makes sense to set a reasonable expectation about coming in during a light snow vs a blizzard, but is your expectation as an employer reasonable? For every “slacker employee who is enjoying a goof-off day” story, there is another about unreasonable employers threatening to fire people who choose not to brave a blizzard…. and the employees who end up in precarious or life-threatening situations due to management’s idiocy. Both realities are a spectrum.

    If you are a reasonable employer / manager, what are your employee’s reasons around snow? And can you find ways to mitigate the reasons or work with the employee? (For instance, are you paying them enough salary for them to afford snow tires / wheels and the time / money to swap them out? Is it a childcare issue because your work doesn’t pay attention to the local school districts’ delays and closures? Or an adult child having to take responsibility to drive mom or dad to doctors appointments in the snow?) Even if they normally have a customer-facing or MUST be in-person job, are there things they could do from home when it snows? I grew up in Colorado Springs and I vividly remember my mom having a few binders of military regulations, books prescribed by one boss or another, etc. She could take a snow day and work from home (LONG before the US Gov authorized WFH days) if the snow was too bad to get across town. (Also, is the snow substantially worse where they live? Both in Colorado and South Dakota, conditions can range from “We’re fine. School’s open!” to “There is no way on God’s green Earth that I’d leave this house for any reason short of imminent death” in the span of 20 miles.) Could your employee have a similar cache?

  64. ABCYaBYE*

    I lived in an area for most of my life where snow was an issue. I take some exception to the comments that seem to be taking things to extremes. We are supposed to take a letter writer at their word, and it seems like this individual is saying that the snow is not an issue for anyone else on their team. It doesn’t sound like they’re expecting people to come in when the situation is dangerous or impassible. In areas of the country, snow is a very regular thing and people get from home to work, home to the store, to meetings, etc. Compounding that, others ARE able to get in, so it doesn’t seem like commuting from point A to point B is the challenge. If you live in an area that has snow, you plan travel accordingly. I might be more sympathetic if it didn’t sound like this was the latest in a string of reasons (excuses) that the employee is missing work, but it seems to me like they might have landed on snow as a potential reason to miss work. I am not saying that we all don’t have the opportunity to have a bad day or to need to take a day to deal with something. I’m just saying that this sounds like an employee who has a pattern of behavior that challenges the workplace’s ability to function and may be putting others in a position to have to cover for them a lot.

    1. ABCYaBYE*

      One addition: My attitude here comes from the fact that it sounds like the employee is preemptively calling out, too. The “might not make it because it might snow” is challenging. I’ve seen schools preemptively cancel the day before an expected snowfall and nothing happens.

      I am very understanding of not driving when it is not safe to do so, but if the person is working an in-person job, perhaps finding them a hybrid or fully remote position is going to benefit them.

  65. Avgeek*

    There may be cultural differences here too. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where even the rumor of snow shuts everything down for days. Out of college I took a job in Colorado, with a manager from Milwaukee, and was laughed at when I asked if we’d be working from home the first day when snow was forecast. I had to learn that coming in during routine snow events was normal for most of the country, and I’m glad my manager was a straight shooter who pointed that out to me so I didn’t unwittingly suffer negative career repercussions (I did a lot of other dumb stuff out of ignorance that now I look back on in mortification, though! First jobs amirite)

  66. Angelinha*

    I’ve never worked anywhere where the company didn’t decide for the employees whether the weather warranted a snow day or not. If the company was open, you went or used PTO. If they closed for snow, snow day! Most places I’ve worked have aligned this with either the state government’s closures or school closings.

  67. southern gal*

    I wonder if he’s from a place where it doesn’t snow. Here in central Texas, even the threat of snow or ice shuts the whole city down, but that’s because no one knows how to drive in it and we don’t have the infrastructure to make the roads safe (salt, snow plows, whatever) – and it happens maaaybe one or two days a year. But if he moved from somewhere like that to somewhere where snow is normal and frequent and people drive in it, part of the deal is figuring out how to adapt to that.

  68. Ready4summer*

    After a few scary commutes and near misses on snowy and icy roads, I am no longer willing to drive in treacherous weather conditions and wouldn’t expect anyone that works for me in a non-essential role to so either.

  69. Seashell*

    I don’t like to drive when the snow is coming down and sticking or expected to come down when driving home. I’ve had enough experiences skidding that it doesn’t seem worth it. Luckily, I can take vacation time for those days if needed, and my bosses have never given me any grief.

  70. Lunachick*

    As a native Californian I am the biggest wuss when it comes to snow/rain/hurricanes/tornados so this would totally be me if I moved to a snowy town!

  71. Scottish Teapot*

    In relation to the – but other people from the town can make it in – point (not verbatim from the letter but I think the statement I’m referring to is clear). I live in a town where it is not unusual for some of the town to have no snow and other parts are snowed in. Maybe this is more of a UK phenomenon given our weird island climate. But it is feasible that this is the case here. So I’m always very careful not to assume on this one.

  72. ijustworkhere*

    It sounds like this wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the employee had not been calling out for lots of other reasons.

  73. Mark*

    I had an employee call in saying she couldn’t make it through the snow because her street hadn’t been plowed yet. I think she forgot I have to drive right past her house when I drive to/from work every day. I responded saying, “I just took that street less than ten minutes ago. It’s been plowed at least once. Since I have a four-wheel drive, I’ll be at your house in five minutes to pick you up.” No snow day for her!

  74. Long Time Fan, First Time Caller*

    I generally love Allison’s advice, but I depart from her here. Increasingly, weather is becoming less predictable, and our infrastructure (in the States) is getting worse, making travel more hazardous. I often now see road crews tarring highways on 100 degree summer days, or employees being asked to come in before hurricanes, etc., and I wonder why in the world their city, state, and local governments have not passed laws or declared temporary emergencies to protect them. This is what climate change looks like: being asked to work in potentially fatal conditions. We need to start pushing back on our employers *now* so that they cannot further normalize putting their need for labor before our need for our lives as these things get worse.

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