Winter storm Jonas has dumped up to 40 inches of snow onto East Coast cities. (Photo: Google Images)
Winter storm Jonas has dumped up to 40 inches of snow onto East Coast cities. (Photo: Google Images)
Winter storm Jonas has dumped up to 40 inches of snow onto East Coast cities.
(Photo: Google Images)

It’s official. Winter storm Jonas (#Jonas) has hit the East Coast leaving the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast covered in up to 40 inches of snow. Many local governments and businesses have closed but some like the Giant food chain has decided to remain open for 24 hours in some cities in order to be of service to customers. What does that mean for employees?

Dana Sparks of Demand Media has written an article on employee rights during inclement weather. Can you tell your boss, “No” if he or she insists that you drive into work even though your city has imposed a curfew? Do you really have to stay until you’re snowed in at work? What does it mean to be essential personnel? Should employers provide food and shelter if you are required to report to work? Some businesses may have a staff rostering system that they can use in situations like this so that the business isn’t left in trouble due to an employee not being able to make it into work. If they try a staff rostering app they would be able to slot in someone else for that shift and reschedule the roster, so that the business remains efficient in the winter season.

Check out an excerpt from her article below:


The last thing your employee may want to do during inclement weather is to get on the road, even when driving is part of his job description. The question then becomes whether or not you have the right to insist an employee drive after he has expressed concerns regarding his personal safety. The challenge in finding a definitive answer is that one group of employees enjoys a right to refuse, while all others work under a cloudier set of guidelines.


The Occupational Health & Safety Administration states that a motor carrier employee cannot be fired, disciplined or discriminated against for refusing to drive when that employee has a fear or serious injury based upon conditions that she considers to be hazardous. Each state has its own definition of what it considers to be a motor carrier, but generally, motor carrier drivers are those who operate any vehicle designed to transport passengers, a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials or a vehicle that transports cargo for business purposes. The gray area arises when one questions if the same OSHA protection that applies to motor carrier employees extends to workers in other fields.

National Labor Relations Act

The National Labor Relations Act states that employers cannot retaliate against workers who refuse to work due to unsafe work conditions. However, three criteria must be met. Workers must act in good faith, honestly believing that it would be dangerous to drive under current conditions, and the refusal must involve more than one worker. Finally, the refusal to drive cannot be part of a work stoppage designed to get around a “no strike” clause in a union contract. In spite of these clarifications, there is no clear answer for a small business with a single driver.



For more information about winter storm Jonas (#Jonas), check out the Weather Channel.

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