Oh the weather outside is frightful and workplace strains are not delightful. With global warming (or freezing) comes that quandary about what to do about telecommuting and various requests related to bad weather. Although many workers are at will employees and can be disciplined for failing to show up for work, which employer wants to open itself up to potential theories under negligence and workers’ compensation laws that attempt to pin liability on the employer for a worker’s slip and fall or automobile accident due to draconian policies? Besides, it’s just plain bad business.
This underscores how important it is to have an emergency policy with just the right parameters to ensure business can proceed in spite of seemingly ever more frequent disruptive weather. As reported by Tracy Turner and Marla Matzer Rose in Telecommuting Prevents Icy Slips, it simply isn’t good business to discipline an employee for failing to show up for work when the weather is extreme. In fact, more employers are instituting policies allowing employers to telecommute in such circumstances. Absent a policy, there will inevitably be situations where the employer can’t effectively deal with various employee requests and some of the questionable motives that might underlie them. The icy road of “you accommodated Mr. Smith and not me” and the “you are simply retaliating against me by requiring attendance” is not one employers want to navigate if avoidable.
However, as reported by Joyce M. Rosenberg in Try out telecommuting when weather’s frightful: Employers have mixed feelings on out-of-office work, there are some positions that simply demand that an employee’s presence at the workplace such as factory workers or restaurant employees. Even with these employees, employers are best advised to have a policy allowing flexibility such as delaying the start of the workday and encouraging employees to consider safety first.