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Staying Home From Work Due To Snow Can Be Costly For Some Employees

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The winter storm gave many people a few days off from work. Some had to use vacation or sick time, while some people did not get paid.

Others were even punished for staying home. But officials said there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Wednesday was another day off for Denise Smith, but not because she wanted it. Smith said she was suspended from her job at Checks-2-Cash because she would not work an extra hour on Monday, when the roads got bad.

"I told her (her boss) I couldn't," she said. "I told her that my husband didn't have a cellphone, and I had already arranged for him to be there at 4," she said.

Checks-2-Cash managers had no comment, but state labor officials said they did nothing wrong.

"It seems a little drastic on the employer's part, but that's certainly not a violation of wage-and-hour laws," said Jim Taylor, of the North Carolina Department of Labor.

State Department of Labor officials said North Carolina is an employment-at-will state, which means an employer can choose to hire a person or not and that person can choose to work there or not. But it is the employer that sets the rules.

This, despite the fact that Gov. Easley urged people to stay off the roads for safety reasons.

"The governor does not declare businesses closed," Taylor said. "He talks about the conditions of the roads and the fact that you're safer off the highway than you are driving. But he cannot say: 'Do not report to work.'"

The Department of Labor said employers can take almost any action against a person that they see fit such as suspension or termination with few exceptions. Some of the exceptions are civil rights laws. A person cannot be fired for issues involving workplace safety and wage laws.


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