Missing Work Due to Bad Weather

Created: 02/19/2014 5:41 PM
By: Brianna Long

(ABC 6 News) -- People who work in a different from where they live are often left with dangerous commutes when the weather turns bad, like it will Thursday. And sometimes, they're left with the decision of driving through the storm, or staying home from work. But what if your employer doesn't take 'bad weather' as an excuse for not showing up? What are your rights as an employee.      

Every day, John Bacigalupo commutes to his job as an EMT for Hayfield Ambulance.

"Under bad weather, especially in the open areas, it takes me as long as 40 minutes to get down here," said Bacigalupo.

And because of the work he does, not coming in, even on bad weather days, isn't an option.

"I do have a place to stay here. Most ambulances around the area do have a place for crew members to stay," said Bacigalupo.

But what about people who don't have the option to stay at work? Can their employer fire them if they don't come to work in a blizzard.

We posted the question to our ABC 6 Facebook page, and got a lot of feedback. Some saying their employers are flexible, others saying, they're required to come work. So we went to Mark Stephenson, a Rochester attorney, for the answer. Its an answer that's pretty simple.

"Can they fire you? Yes," said Stephenson.

That's because of Minnesota's employment laws.

"We're an at-will state, which means that the employer can fire you for no reason, any reason, but they can't fire you for an illegal reason," said Stephenson.

Illegal termination includes things like gender discrimination, or firing someone because of a disability.

"But blizzards don't come into that definition of disabilities of discrimination," said Stephenson.  

So for those people who do have to battle the weather and hit the roads, John just says he wants everyone to be cautious so they, and he, can make it home safely.

"What we really want to emphasize to people, is only call 911 in true emergencies, to not travel unless they absolutely have to, because when we have to go out on the road, if you can't see, we certainly can't see it either," said Bacigalupo.

Stephenson says he's never had anybody come to him who actually got fired for this reason.