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Risk Management Lessons from Winter Storm Jonas: What Should An Inclement Weather Policy Address?

Winter Storm Jonas severely impacted the eastern third of the United States of America in January 2016. As people, institutions and businesses dig out from the storm’ layers of snow, it is a good time to plan a review of your organization’s inclement weather policy. A well-written and comprehensive policy will include operational continuity planning, including an explanation of what will happen to an organization in the event of serious weather emergencies. The preparation or revision of an inclement weather policy is an effective risk management tool by decreasing ambiguity and surprises; promoting thorough consideration of the impact of different weather scenarios on operations; and setting expectation for employees, students and other constituencies.

Generally, an inclement weather policy should, at a minimum, include the following elements:

1.      Define what constitutes inclement weather.

2.      Outline the protocols and procedures that reflects an objective assessment of the organization’s liability, including, but not limited to, the development of measures to reduce risk if the organization elects to maintain operations during inclement weather (e.g., essential personnel protocols, travel protocols or prohibitions).

3.      Include procedures that determine whether the organization closes, operates on a reduced schedule, closes early or delays operations.

4.      Define what are the organization’s essential and non-essential services.

5.      Describe the methodology of how employees’ work responsibilities will be covered during inclement weather.

6.      Note the manner in which employees and other constituencies will be contacted in the event of inclement weather (e.g., phone trees, email).

7.      Explain whether employees would be able to: work off-site; bring the kids to the workplace; and make up missed time.

8.      Outline the protocols and procedures if the local, state or national government declares a state of emergency.

9.      List the requirements for paying exempt and non-exempt employees.

Sources: Eric Markowitz, "How to Prepare Your Office for Bad Weather", Inc.com (January 21, 2014), available at: http://www.inc.com/guides/201101/how-to-prepare-your-office-for-bad-weather.html; Diane M. Saunders, "Effective Inclement Weather Policies—Top 10 Factors to Consider", Best Lawyers LLC (n.d.), available at: https://www.bestlawyers.com/Article/effective-inclement-weather-policies-top-10-factors-consider/339.

Contact Buckner attorney Michael Buckner (+1-954-941-1844 ext. 1; mbuckner@bucknersportslaw.com) for more information on risk management issues.