When is it too cold to go to work? Your rights explained

WINTER'S chilly temperatures and inclement weather could snare the work commutes of millions of Americans around the country in just a few months.

Although some employers expect workers to endure dangerous commuting conditions, you could legally be able to stay home from work if it's too cold.

So when is it considered "too cold" to go to work, and what about your right to stay home?

When is it too cold to go to work?

There's no exact temperature that is legally deemed too cold to work.

If temperatures dip into sub-zero territory or if the wind chill is bellow -17 degrees, experts say you should probably stay inside, according to Yahoo! Finance.

Employees with outdoor occupations should not have to report to work if temperatures fall between -20 and -24 degrees Fahrenheit and winds are blowing 20mph, according to OSHA regulations.

But under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employees are entitled to a workplace that are "free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm."

That includes extreme temperature stress disorders from cold or heat, which can cause shivering, slurred speech, and even memory loss.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that employers keep office thermostats between 68 and 78 degrees, regardless of business size.

Could I get fired for refusing to work in bad weather?

Employers can't retaliate against workers who refuse to work due to unsafe working conditions, according to the National Labor Relations Act.

But three criteria must be met:

  • Workers must act in good faith
  • They must genuinely believe that it would be dangerous to perform under current conditions
  • The refusal must involve more than one worker

Unless an employer agrees the weather is too harsh for employees to commute, you could be fired for not finding a way to make it in to work.

OSHA states that a motor carrier employee cannot be fired, disciplined, or discriminated against for refusing to drive in conditions they consider to be hazardous.

Although each state differs in their definition of who falls under this employee category, motor carrier drivers are generally considered as those who operate any vehicle designed to transport passengers.

Workers who drive vehicles used to transport hazardous materials or one that transports cargo for business purposes are also considered motor carrier drivers.

What is the minimum temperature required in the workplace?

OSHA recommends a minimum temperature for indoor workplaces of 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Regulations become more stringent when temperatures are so severe that they can cause heat stress, hypothermia, or other dangerous conditions.

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