Salt and Shovels aren’t Enough: Don’t Get Snowed in by an Out-of-Date Inclement Weather Policy

  Meteorologists and weather experts are predicting another record-breaking winter season.  If this winter season is anything like last year, that means multiple trips to the store for salt, shovels, and other essentials.  In your travels, don’t forget to think about updating your company’s inclement weather policy. 
  A clear, concise policy (included in your employee handbook) that is communicated to your employees in advance regarding your company’s procedures on a snow day can avoid a lot of frustration on the actual day a storm hits.  In order to best avoid confusion among managers and employees, such a policy should cover the following considerations:
  Making the Decision: An inclement weather policy should make it clear who is responsible for deciding whether to open or close the office because of a storm.  Also, the policy should make it clear the criteria used to make the decision.  Some good examples of objective standards include the declaration by government officials of a state of emergency or a certain number of inches of snow fall as reported by the National Weather Service. 
  Communicating the Decision: Use a consistent method of notification that all employees can rely on.  Email is an easy solution but think about whether or not all of your employees have access to their email outside of the office.  If not, a post on the company’s website, a mass robo-call, or a recording on an answering machine may be a better solution.
  Essential Personnel: Be sure to take into account the different departments within your company.  Can your policy take on a “one size fits all” approach or does it need to be tailored for varying classes of employees i.e. “essential” v. “non-essential” personnel? 
  Wage and Hour Considerations:  Be sure to also take into consideration the type of employees you have with respect to federal and state labor laws.  For instance, if you decide to close the office, salaried employees that are exempt from overtime must be paid for the day off.  If, however, you decide to keep the office open and that same exempt employee decides not to report to work, you can require that they use personal or vacation time for such an absence.  Non-exempt employees, on the other hand, need not be paid but no law prevents you from paying these employees for their missed time if you so choose.
  Employee Tardiness: Finally, a policy should make it clear the expectations around an employee reporting late to work on an inclement weather day.  Whether it is fifteen minutes or two hours, there could be a number of reasons why an employee may be late (i.e. car battery is dead, kids are on a two-hour delay at school, or the road they live on wasn’t plowed).  Does your company pay the employee for that time or do you require they deduct personal or vacation time for such a lateness?
 
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For more information on drafting employee handbooks and inclement weather policies or other employee-related matters, please contact Dominic Marco, Esq. or Randy Ford, Esq. (pictured) at Lauletta Birnbaum, LLC at 856.232.1600 or via email: dmarco@lauletta.com or rford@lauletta.com.