Skipping work for bad weather can mean dismissal, lawyer says

Employees playing hookey from work because of bad weather could find themselves unemployed, accor


Employees playing hookey from work because of bad weather could find themselves unemployed, according to a local labor attorney.

New York is an “at-will employment” state, meaning employers can fire workers for any reason, provided they do not violate state and federal Civil Rights laws or are prevented by contract from doing so, said attorney Phillip G. Steck of Cooper, Erving & Savage in Albany. The caveat is that the employer has to show cause if the employee belongs to a union, he said.

“There is no law of wrongful discharge in New York. An employee has no right to his or her job,” Steck said.

As such, the employee needs the employer’s consent, either by the granting a personal day or allowing the use of a vacation day, to stay home in bad weather, even if law enforcement issues a road advisory, Steck said. “Snowstorms do not insulate you from termination,” he said.

Joe Morrissey, of the state Department of Labor, said employees cannot claim snow days under state labor laws. “It is up to the company whether it wants to pay workers for snow days or not,” he said.

Morrissey said “at-will employment” is a common law principle that every state adheres to in some capacity.

Donna Evans, spokeswoman for Ellis Medicine in Schenectady, said if an employee decides to stay home because of bad roads, then that is the employee’s judgment and the employee must use personal time to cover the absence.

“Schools close, hospitals don’t,” she said. “We expect our staff to come to work and they do. Come hell or high water, they find a way. They are dedicated and resourceful. They figure out ways to get here because we have to take care of the public.”

Evans said the hospital will help employees come to work when road conditions are poor. “If they can’t get to work, perhaps we can get out to them,” she said.

Tom Mailey, spokesman for Stewart’s Shops, based in Saratoga Springs, said the company’s policy is to stay open in all situations. “We provide a lot of basic services and needs, and we make efforts to have staff at the shops,” he said.

The National Weather Service in Albany has issued a winter storm warning until 7 tonight. The service is predicting snow and rain with an uncertainty of how much snow may accumulate before rain mixes in. Freezing rain is in the forecast as well.

Categories: Schenectady County

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