Workplace requires travel during level 3 snow emergency

Hello, I’m an employee at Kirchhoff Automotive in Waverly, Ohio which is located in Pike County. Last year, the company introduced a new rule in the policy stating they will no longer excuse absences if there is a level 3 snow emergency as long as the plant is open. ODOT says, ‘All roadways are closed to non-emergency personnel. No one should be driving during these conditions unless it is absolutely necessary to travel or a personal emergency exists. Those traveling on the roads may subject themselves to arrest.’ I’m wondering if this is legal for them to make such a policy especially since we’re not emergency personnel, and in case of an accident and/or arrest, is there anything I can do about it? I know it’s only October now, but Winter is fast approaching and I figure now would be a good time to ask. Thank you for your time.

Asked on October 16, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

As unfair as this seems, it is legal. The fact is that absent an employment contract  or union agreement to the contrary, a worker can be required to report to work in a snow storm, even if a state of emergency is declared. Further, if you are ticketed or have an accident on your drive in, you and not your employer will bear responsibility since you chose to drive during the emergency. This is true even f you are threatened with termnation for not showing up. Again, unfair but legal.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

If you don't have a written employment contract guarantying or protecting your employment, you are an employee at will. An employee at will may be disciplined, even terminated, at any time for any reason--including refusing to come in during a snow emergency. Unfair or unjust reasons for termination of employees at will are still legal. So you could suffer consequences for not coming in. At the same time, if you do choose to drive during an emergency, the law view that as your voluntary choice, since are choosing to prioritize your job over your safety; therefore, you and not your employer, would be responsibe for any tickets or accidents.

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