how should companies handle snow days?

It snowed on Friday, and my mail shows it. Today we have four questions about how companies should handle snow days.

1. My company wants me to use PTO when I’m working from home on a snow day

My company is requesting that workers who work from home on days of inclement weather use the day as a vacation day, although sometimes we have deadlines that don’t allow us to actually take the day off so we are still working a full 8-hour day at home. I feel strange using PTO time while actually working.

Yeah, that’s not okay. If you’re taking PTO, you should be getting the day off. PTO isn’t for full days spent working from another location; it’s for days spent not working at all.

It sounds, though, like this may be an issue of your company-wide policy just not being in sync with what’s going on in your department. Your manager should be able to exempt you from this policy on days when you’re working from home due to weather. I’d assume she’ll be reasonable on this until proven otherwise, so I’d start by saying to her, “I need to spend the full day working from home, so can you ensure that I’m not docked PTO for the day?”

If she says that’s not possible, then say, “How would you like me to handle this then? I have work that I need to do today, but obviously I can’t spend a PTO day on it. Should we change the deadline and have me use PTO today, or do we need to keep the deadline and have this be a regular, non-PTO work day for me?”

2. I worked from home on a snow day and then was told to use vacation time for it

I work for a large institution which provides bus service to our off-site office location. A major snowstorm caused the bus service to be suspended today, which I had anticipated, so I brought my laptop home last night. I had been working for several hours today when my supervisor told me that I would have to take the day as a personal day because I didn’t make it in to the office. I’m an exempt employee, and have worked from home in other bad weather situations, so I was shocked when I was told I had to take the day off and use my time. Although there are a few alternative ways for me to get to work, none were viable options today.

I lodged a complaint, and stopped working after letting my colleagues know that they would have to complete the task I was doing and canceling a conference call I had slated for the afternoon.

Do I have any recourse for the time I put in before learning that I would have to use my accrued time off?

Not legal recourse, no. Your company is allowed to structure vacation time any way that it wants, which includes what they’ve done here. However, I’d push back on this with your boss. If you’ve worked from home in bad weather in the past, what changed this time? I’d point out to your boss that you made a reasonable assumption based on what was allowed in the past, and ask why he felt differently about it this time.

You’ll have the best chances of the outcome you want here is if you don’t approach this adversarily, even though you’re rightly pissed off. Approach it from the stance of genuine confusion and trying to understand where he’s coming from so that you’re on the same page in the future, even if in your head you’re thinking he’s an ass.

3. When bereavement leave overlaps with snow days

I get three days off for the death of my brother. I am exempt. The third day, the company was shut down due to weather. Should I be charged for that day or do I get another day off?

It depends on your company’s policy. Some companies would be glad to extend the bereavement leave by another day, and some would consider it to overlap with the snow day (and so wouldn’t extend it). The best thing to do is to simply ask your manager. Say something like, “I’m uncertain how my bereavement leave works with the snow day. Should I count Monday (or whatever the day after the snow day would be) as my third day?”

I’m so sorry about your brother.

4. My manager called me at 6:30 a.m. with snow day weirdness

Due to the storms today, my company had a delayed opening. This is my first delayed opening I had with this company. I figured this would happen, so I ensured we finished the work due today yesterday.

The weather hotline for my company advised at 6:30 this morning that it was a delayed opening, liberal leave was in effect, and if you were commuting from the area I live in to contact your manager because the state said not to be on the road.

A few minutes later, my manager called me. I assumed my manager was calling about what the recording said about coming to work if you live in my area. Boy, was I wrong.

My manager was calling to have me contact all of my staff to see if they were coming in. During the conversation, my manager told me she was unaware of the recording indicating a delay. She still told me to call my staff.

My concerns:
1) Company policies require staff to contact supervisors; there is no department policy advising otherwise. My staff who utilized leave followed this policy perfectly.
2) This phone call took place almost 4 hours prior to our opening. I feel that is too early to assess whether a person can come in. Plows may have not hit all roads.
3) Employees don’t have to contact us until an hour before we open.
4) My manager was completely unaware of what the recording said.
5) On a bitter note, there was no wishing me a safe commute!

Overall, I feel like this was most unnecessary. I would at least like to tell my manager that when there is a delayed opening, calling my staff 4 hours before while the sun is not up will not be useful because people cannot completely assess their situation. Does that sound reasonable?

Sure. But I’d be more focused on the fact that your manager seemed not to realize that the company had already issued people directions on this. The fact that she didn’t know that could explain the whole thing. So I’d focus on that first, saying something like, “In the future, if the company hotline has announced instructions for the day, is it okay for me to follow that and have my staff follow that?”

If she tells you that your department needs to handle things differently than the company-wide policy (which could legitimately be necessary), then work with her to create a policy for your department that meets whatever its needs are. That policy should not include you calling everyone to find out their plans at 6:30 in the morning. If you need to hear from them individually, the onus should be on them to contact you (I’d hope through email, a voicemail on your work line, or another method that’s less intrusive than a crack-of-dawn phone call at home).

You can also point out to her that if your staff needs to make a decision about coming in three hour before everyone else does, people are more likely to err on the side of caution and stay home. If they can wait until later, when they can more accurately assess road conditions, you’ll probably get more people coming in (not to mention being generally safer, if the roads get worse rather than better).

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