Surprise Snow Storm Begs the Question of When to Work From Home

by Law Week

A Monday snowstorm was predicted to only bring about 1 inch to the Denver area but ended up dropping between 4 to 8 inches depending on where you look. With plow trucks and commuters caught off guard, streets and highways around town were frozen with traffic.

The Denver metro area sees about 57 inches of snowfall each year according to the National Weather Service. Though local Colorado residents are familiar with rapidly changing conditions, specific law firms have vastly different safety policies on when employees can call out for the day or request to work remotely.

Some law firms have specific rules on when they decide to close their offices and allow employees to work from home. Others play it by ear. There isn’t really one set standard for the industry when it comes to the closure of law offices.

“We take our cue for official snow days from the school districts and courts.  If the courts are open, we are open. When schools are closed or on a delay, we observe a formal late open; but we rely on the good judgement of our lawyers and professional staff to decide if transportation to the office is safe and efficient given the weather,” said Jennifer Evans, the office managing partner for Polsinelli Law Firm in Denver.

Evans also said that the office often supplies hot lunches for employees on snowy days, as appreciation for attendance at the office.

Heidi Culbertson works as the director of marketing for Burg Simpson Hersh Jardine at their Englewood location. She says that the firm doesn’t really have a set policy on working from home when weather is inclement. But, she also said that it really depends on the level of employee and their pre-set arrangements for the day.

If there is an attorney set to meet with clients in person, weather probably isn’t an acceptable excuse for them to work from home unless the conditions are very extreme, like in case of road closures.. But if a theoretical employee was a litigator who could efficiently communicate with the rest of their team while away from the office, that employee would request permission from their manager on a case-to-case basis.

Whitney Kerr is the marketing coordinator at Hall & Evans, LLC. She explained that their company has a very lenient policy on inclement weather.

“We value the safety of our employees and therefore have a policy that allows them to work from home in inclement weather with approval. Because of the trust we have with our employees approval is almost automatic when bad weather conditions create a safety risk,” said Kerr.

The employees at Hall & Evans simply need to call or email their supervisor if they intend to work from home that day. There isn’t a certain number of times per month that an employee is allowed to call out of work for inclement weather. They can all access their work emails and servers from their personal computers at home when the need arises thanks to technology.  Kerr also said that their offices follow the standard of Denver Public Schools. If DPS cancels classes or delays start time, Hall & Evans likely does the same.