I feel pressure to drive to work in dangerous weather. What should I do?
Many employees find themselves asking this question during severe weather conditions, whether from ice and snow in the winter or flooding and hail in the spring. We know the roads of Cincinnati can get dangerously icy when the snow begins to fall and when the temperature drops.
For a quick look at your legal rights under federal employment laws in this scenario, check out our related page, “Can you refuse to go to work when roads are dangerous?”
Aside from your legal rights, how exactly should you approach the situation? For the regular workforce—i.e., for workers who aren’t motor carrier drivers and don’t have to operate a vehicle for their job—you may not be able to fall back on employment laws when your commute is dangerous because of the weather. Here are a few things you can do:
Know Your Company’s Policy
Many companies have policies in place for when the weather gets bad. The policies might allow employees to work from home or use an unplanned vacation day. However, some policies may apply only if a state of emergency is declared. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your company’s policy in advance.
Ask about Informal Policies
These unwritten rules can offer some guidance on how your manager views the situation and how your co-workers deal with a dangerous commute to work. Keep in mind that these unwritten rules may not offer legal protection if you decide to stay home from work, but they can give you some insight into how your company views situations like this. For example, if your co-workers typically ask to work from home when road conditions are bad, it would probably be reasonable for you to ask to do the same.
Safety is your number one concern. However, it’s also important to be realistic about weather conditions. There’s a difference between a) staying home because you’re nervous that the roads might be icy by the time you get off work at night, and b) staying home because you have two feet of snow covering your driveway and street. Your employer may not like it, but if you physically can’t get to work, there’s not much you can do. Unfortunately, you may still lack protection under employment laws in these instances.
Companies and managers should prioritize safety when weather conditions are less than desirable, and you should too. Deciding whether or not to brave the roads to get to work is not always easy, but it is always important to be smart about driving in bad conditions. If you believe you have been wrongly punished for the way you handled dangerous weather conditions, or for help with any other employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact the employment law attorneys at Robert A. Klingler Co., L.P.A. in Cincinnati, Ohio.