The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Business

December 26, 2012

Snow day or no way?

Whether or not to call in employees in inclement weather

ANDERSON, Ind. — When she heard Wednesday’s forecast called for central Indiana’s most significant winter storm in nearly four years, Tari Franklin knew she’d be busy.

Her Jeep has four-wheel-drive, so the driving wind and piles of snow are no contest.

The trouble is, “my office knows that,” said Franklin, who works as a home health aide. She spent the morning covering for her snowed-in co-workers.

With hazardous weather conditions, businesses must choose between calling in their employees and calling it a snow day.

That’s a toughie, said county emergency management spokesman Todd Harmeson.

“It’s really up to the employer to make the call,” he said. “But obviously keeping them (employees) safe is most important.”

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for many central Indiana counties, including Madison. That was downgraded to a winter weather advisory at about 3 p.m., but not before much of the county was blanketed in at least 4 1/2 inches of snow.

Law enforcement advised staying home, if possible.

A long list of business and government offices played it safe and closed shop, like Mounds Mall and the Madison County and Anderson city government buildings.

Others, like Art’s Pizza in Anderson, worked through the storm.

“As long as we have power, we’re making pizza,” said manager Michael Carter.

He said employee safety is paramount. But since most of the shop’s workers are family, it’s no trouble to dig out someone who’s snowed-in or lend a ride, if they’re stranded or don’t feel safe driving.

Employers risk legal action if they force workers to drive against inclement weather, according to the Employment Law Resource Center at the Alexander Hamilton Institute. They could be “hit with a civil lawsuit or perhaps even criminal prosecution,” if employees are hurt trying to come to work, it said.

For employers like Art’s who don’t hang the “closed” sign, there are options, the Center said.

“Allow employees to use paid leave or take an unpaid day off,” if they don’t feel safe driving, it said.

Or, instead of “punishing those employees who don’t come in during inclement weather, reward those who do make the extra effort to show up,” it said.

Order lunch for the office, give them an extra personal day or let them leave early without docking pay.  

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter, or call 648-4250.


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