How lenient is your workplace when the storm hits?

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Question: "Because it officially never closes, the company I work for makes me take a vacation day if I can't come in due to bad weather. While everyone above the admin level can just telecommute in comfort on those days, admins of course do a lot of work with physical materials, so it's either head out into the snow or lose that time. Does this seem unfair to anyone but me?" - Henry, Claims Assistant

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie January 1, 2014 at 7:07 pm

It’s not an issue about Admn versus other employees who can do work from home. It’s a function of the type of job you are classified as through the Department of Labor, exempt or non-exempt. Most admin types are classified non-exempt, therefore you receive over-time pay if you work over 40 hours. Exempt employees do not receive overtime pay, but can work from home or take extended lunch time without being docked in their pay. You can read about exempt and non-exempt rules on the DOL website.
For the record, I’m an executive assistant.

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Cathy P December 19, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I believe it is unfair in extreme weather not to give you paid day off and not count towards vac/sick leave you accrue. As said before, some can work from home but many admin assists can not. If you did not have time accrued or were a temp employee and the office closes, it is paid time you lose at no fault of your own. The last time one of our universities did not close down, a faculty member tried to come in as required and was killed by a falling tree on his car in his driveway. This is a major city and it was shut down tight. I can tell you there were repercussions from that incident that happened years ago so that 2 wks ago when we were hit unexpectedly, the same university this time did not hesitate to close. My university did the same. (BTW, when I worked for a nonprofit but at the university the company had us coming in under dire circumstances or take vacation until the incidence happened I just related.) Since I now work for the state, it is mandated that on unscheduled closings we get paid since it is not our fault for not coming to work.

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JoAnn Paules December 20, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Why should the company pay you for for time not worked? It’s not their fault that extreme weather prevents you from coming into work. I don’t think you should be required to use vacation or personal time off either.

And on a related topic, why is it that so many women are afraid to drive in the snow? Honestly, I’ve never heard a guy so “I had my wife bring me to work because I don’t like driving in the snow.” I was single for many years. Either I drove or I didn’t have money to pay bills. I pulled up my big girl long johns and went to work.

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Cathy P December 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm

JoAnn, no it’s not anybody’s fault when extreme weather hits, but by not closing business and paying employees for lost time a company opens itself up to allegations of unsafe work conditions and possible lawsuits. On a more humane point, I believe a company should care for its employees enough to pay at their own expense and not employees at such times. You probably would not get this discussion any other place in the world. It up there with supplying employees with benefits.

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Donna December 5, 2013 at 2:41 pm

So, if you get sick, or your child gets sick & you stay home, do you grumble about it not being fair because you have to take pto or go unpaid and you had other plans for your pto? To me, if you are not going to work you should either take pto or go unpaid. How is that not fair, just because you didn’t plan on it???

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Kay December 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Donna, You are missing the real issue here: if others in the office are given the choice to stay home on a day that is too dangerous to drive safely, why should admins not be extended the same privilege? We aren’t talking about sick days here. I think there are better ways to deal with this issue, and Teresa’s employer got it right. For those who simply can’t come in, they don’t get the extra day.

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JoAnn Paules December 6, 2013 at 6:56 am

I agree with you. Sometimes things happen and we have to make a tough choice. I could do most of my job from home however we have strict computer policies here and cannot access most of my work files from home. Bad weather doesn’t normally sneak up on us so if I suspected I wasn’t going to be able to come in and there was a task I had to do, I would ask my manager if I could do it at home and charge the time to the company. The worst he can say is no. And if I have to be honest, if that task was important enough I would probably work on it anyway and not get paid. Bad idea but it’s my choice. My mananger knows me well enough to suspect that’s what I’d do – but not *expect* me to do it.

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Lee November 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm

We have a policy that the company is open for business no matter what the weather. One time the state closed the highways and we were still open! Yes, I agree it is unfair some people can “work from home”. Some Admins can’t do that as someone said due to the paper-intensive nature of their job. I would like to work from home sometimes but that would not go over very well in my area.

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Karen November 22, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Our company bases pay on whose decision it was to not work. If the roads are bad enough to close the office, we all get paid. If the power goes out for any reason, requiring them to close the office, we all get paid. If it is a personal decision to not drive in the snow, but the office remains open, it must be taken as a vacation or sick time. Different people have different tolerances for driving in bad weather.

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Lisa November 25, 2013 at 6:25 pm

This is what our company does, too. If the office is officially open (even if the weather is bad) but you choose to stay home, you have to use a vacation day. I don’t personally agree with this policy. I’m not a wimp when it comes to driving in bad weather, but don’t think people should be docked pay if they feel uncomfortable.

I like the solution from Teresa’s company: “Instead of making those people take a vacation day, they’ve reversed it – those of us who manage to make it in are allowed to take an extra day without recording it against our vacation.” That seems like the perfect solution to me – don’t penalize those who are unable to come in, even if the office is officially open. Reward those who do brave the elements by giving them an additional vacation day!

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Karen November 27, 2013 at 4:32 pm

That does sound like a good idea!

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g November 22, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I’m in HR and I just had to refresh myself on our policy. You come no matter what cause we’re open. If you take off you have to use time off unless it’s excused by your boss (which I didn’t know and haven’t never heard happening) which in case it would be an unpaid day. The issue I have is that hourly are those most effected it’s most like come to work or take time off (which uses up your bank). Exempt can work from home if they have computer access at home. I think it should be a safety policy too but who knows.

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JoAnn Paules November 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

I am fortunate because the company I work for has a safety first policy. If I don’t feel that I can make it safely to work, I stay home. It’s up to me to decide if I want to use vacation or go unpaid. The same goes for snow that starts after I’m here. I can leave early if I want/when I want. The company has paid us for a full 8 hr day if we leave early but it is not a guaranteed situation. I generally do not use vacation – I prefer that for days that I *want* to take off.

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Lisa November 22, 2013 at 9:29 am

I work at a public school. When the students have a snow day, we do too! It is nice because we know first thing in the morning whether we have to get up and ready for work. On the other hand, if school is not cancelled but just delayed, we are expected to go to work when we can safely do so. Management does not doc us if we are late on inclement weather days. I believe management has employee safety in mind and that is why they have these two policies.

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Sara November 22, 2013 at 7:49 am

There have been times when I have driven into work against my better judgement, only to find that half the office had decided against coming in altogether.

We don’t have an official policy for this situation. We get kudos for showing up but don’t get any extra time off or get paid time and a half. However, we are not required to use vacation time. If I’m late or have to take off for any reason – be it weather or sickness (we don’t get sick days either) – I simply make up the time by coming in early, working thru lunch, etc.

I tend to agree that if you aren’t working you shouldn’t get paid unless you want to use vacation or pto. If people are working from home they should get paid for working. So it’s a simple formula: Work, get paid; don’t work, don’t get paid.

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Madeline November 22, 2013 at 7:26 am

Unfortunately, the team I was with, the manager was spineless and had no back bone. Considering where they lived in NJ, and most of us had to commute via other means, he was afraid to ask his boss about leaving early. When the team was outsourced, it was worse, the company made us take p.t.o. in order to leave earlier.

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Deb November 21, 2013 at 4:52 pm

It really depends on what your job in admin is: Unless you answer the phone all day, most admins have enough work on the computer these days to fullfill at least one day. If you can remote into your phone system, you can check calls periodically and pass on the msg via e-mail.

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Teresa November 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm

We have the same issue in our company. It is extremely rare that we close officially, but thankfully we have reasonable managers. Even if we’re not technically closed, they recognize that some were just physically unable to get into the office due to weather. Instead of making those people take a vacation day, they’ve reversed it – those of us who manage to make it in are allowed to take an extra day without recording it against our vacation. That way, they leave it up to us as to whether or not we brave the elements to make it in that day. This is mostly for the admins because it’s expected that folks above that level have their laptops at home and are actively logging in, checking email/voicemail, etc. Is there a way you can approach your management about handling things this way?

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Kay November 21, 2013 at 4:38 pm

My opinion is that it is not fair and because this is a safety issue, perhaps it should be presented to Risk Management or HR as such and inquire about how much responsibility the company is willing to take on the days that it is too stormy to drive safely. If definitely is not fair that admins should be expected to give up a vacation day when the weather is completely out of their control, especially when this privilege is being extended to others in the company. If an admin happens to be paid by the hour, isn’t it enough just to give up a day’s pay in order to play it safe? Eliza got it right: what kind of message are they sending about your standing in the company?

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Donna November 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I don’t see it as an unfair problem. You are getting the day off. Those who are getting paid for working are actually working (or should be). If they aren’t working from home but saying they are, that’s a different issue. You’re not working that day, so it should be a vacation day. Relax and enjoy your unexpected day off.

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Virginia November 27, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Donna, I think the problem lies in the fact that Admins are having to take PTO (or not get paid!) when they may have had other plans for their PTO. My company is very fair about this, so I personally can’t complain, but I do understand the viewpoint.

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Donna December 5, 2013 at 2:43 pm

So, if you get sick, or your child gets sick & you stay home, do you grumble about it not being fair because you have to take pto or go unpaid and you had other plans for your pto? To me, if you are not going to work you should either take pto or go unpaid. How is that not fair, just because you didn’t plan on it???

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Eliza November 21, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Of course it’s not fair. And, it sends a negative message to you and others like you, as to where you stand with regard to the company. While executives do enjoy some benefits admins might not, safety should not be exclusive to those in ‘higer level’ positions. I’d say this can’t do much for morale…especially when you know there are different standards. Stay Safe!

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Shelly November 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Our company has a similar policy regarding taking personal leave if there is inclement weather. I had never thought of it as an issue before since I was able to work from home in the past. However, I am no longer allowed to work from home so this may end up being a problem for me should we have a snow storm. I do think it would be unfair for those who are allowed to work from home to do so while the rest have to take personal leave.

That being said, our current executive is pretty good about closing the office when necessary, and I suspect that if there were a bad enough storm to create issues for lots of employee to travel, he would just close the office.

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Anne November 21, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Yes, it is unfair. Several years ago our agency, because of its educational nature, made the decision to close when all or most of our school districts who are affiliated with us are closed in our count due to inclement weather. One of the topics that came up when discussing this new policy had to do with the fact that some people can work at home, while others cannot. The people who seemed most affected by this were admin assistants and other clerical personnel. I’m not sure there is a clear path around this one anymore, as technology has enabled so many to work from home. But companies should be aware of the unfairness of the situation and should be addressing it.

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Bennie Bennett November 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm

My company has been very lenient offering aministrative leave [paid time off] for non essential personnel. For those who brave the storm or just didn’t get the message [''we're closed''] are sometimes paid time and half.

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