Forced to Work During Level One Snow Emergency?

By Megan Trent

February 3, 2011 Updated Oct 24, 2013 at 7:25 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - It may be wrong, but is it legal? Do employers have the right to fire you if you don't come to work because of a Level One Snow Emergency?

It depends on where you work, what you do, and what your employee handbook says. Fort Wayne Attorney Charles Davis says, legally, there are shades of grey.

Although Indiana is an "employment at will" state, meaning employers can fire people with little or no explanation, they aren't allowed to fire you for refusing to break the law. That's retaliatory termination, although it's never applied towards weather emergencies before.

We also got lots of viewer emails about employers making them take vacation or sick days. Davis says a violation of employee wage and hour laws could be a legal strategy in that instance, but it likely wouldn't be worth the cost of taking it to court.

It all depends on what's outlined in your employee handbook, because employee rights vary greatly from company to company. Furthermore, a judge would probably take your profession into consideration as well. If you're essential personnel, it might be a difficult case to win.

Davis says, "The best thing to do in any potential dispute is always to attempt to document the dispute. Send your employer a text. Send your employer an email. Just don't do it over the phone and expect it all to be resolved."

He says most employers keep their employees' safety in mind during Level One Emergency situations. Personally, he believes employees are an asset, and if you abuse or destroy your assets, you're not going to be in business long.

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