Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Do you have a severe weather policy?

I laugh at the east coast’s ongoing snow woes because (a) I grew up in Philadelphia, (b) my family is still there, and (c) last week notwithstanding, Philly’s winters don’t hold a candle to Cleveland’s. In fact, just crowned Cleveland as America’s worst winter weather city. (We’re also number 4 on the list of America’s most miserable cities – we’re nipping at your heels Chicago).

As I cleared my driveway this morning, I decided to share the following thoughts for drafting a severe weather policy for your workplace.

  1. Communication. How will your business communicate to its employees whether it is open for business or closed because of the weather? Are there essential personnel that must report regardless of whether the facility closes?

  2. Early closing. If a business decides to close early because of mid-day snowstorm, how will it account for the orderly shut-down of operations? Which employees will be able to leave early and which will have to remain to ensure that the facility is properly closed? Is there essential crew that must stay, or is there an equitable means to rotate who must stay and who can leave?

  3. Wage and hour issues. To avoid jeopardizing exempt employees’ status, they should be be paid their full salary when a company closes because of weather. For non-exempt employees, however, it is entirely up to the company whether to pay them for a full day’s work, for part of the day, or for no hours at all. Will employees have to use vacation or other paid time off if they want to be paid for the day, or will the company consider it a freebee? If your company closes but an employee does not get word and reports to work, will the company pay that employee anything for reporting?

  4. Attendance. Will the absence be counted against employees in a no-fault or other attendance policy, or defeat any perfect attendance bonuses?

  5. Telecommuting. If your area has frequent bouts of severe weather, consider whether you want to allow employees to telecommute. Even if your business does not typically permit employees to work from home, exceptions for exceptional weather could potentially save you lost productivity.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or