The Connecticut Board of Mediation and Arbitration recently ruled that a municipal employer may not be required to pay workers who are asked to remain home during a winter blizzard. In February 2013, the mayor of the Town of Wallingford, after 40 inches of snow fell on his town, decided to suspend non-emergency services and to close town hall.

The town did not pay department heads and managers for the day that they did not work. The Union filed a grievance and argued that the municipality had violated a past practice, because workers who previously had went to work and were sent home during the day due to weather were paid for the entire day. The arbitration panel rejected the Union’s argument because no evidence was presented that the town had previously closed town hall, before the work day started, in the past 30 years.

Absent contractual language to the contrary, the panel noted that “when an unprecedented, emergency situation is presented and an employee cannot safely open for work, there is no work and hence no pay.” Given the number of severe weather days that have hit Connecticut in the past few years, towns and boards of education should be prepared to address similar claims from its bargaining groups.