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In my last diary, I discussed the recent blizzard two-inch snow that paralyzed metro Atlanta's roads and highways. Now, state and local officials have received a great deal of criticism for their horribly delayed decisions to ask people to stay home, and rightfully so. What hasn't gotten so much attention is something I mentioned in one of the comments but deserves its own discussion:

"If an employee chooses not to come in, that will be a vacation day. Working longer other days or working a weekend day to make up time is not an option... If an employee leaves work early due to inclement weather, and the [employer] is still open, that is vacation time."
That was an official work email sent to a friend of mine the day before the storm. She's a librarian.

There is no excuse for this. None. If the weather or other civil emergency poses a clear and present danger to one's being able to commute to work or school, then he or she deserves the right to stay home without receiving any retribution or retaliation. Even if we accept this ridiculous notion that a corporation is a person, and that it allegedly has the right to attempt to make a profit, a civilized society must place human rights on a higher pedestal.

We need laws at the state and federal level to protect this right. Call it the "Right to a Safe Commute Act" or something. It should give protection to employees, their children, and school students any time that:

1. There exists a clear and present hazard at the affected person's place of residence, work, school, or the routine commute between the two; (This can include anyone who travels while at work.)
2. That could reasonably be expected to disrupt that person's ability to work, be in school, or commute to or from work or school; i.e., is not a hazard that would be reasonably expected to be accounted for and dealt with; (The actual law would probably need lists of examples and specific cases. More on this clause in a bit.)
3. That is not initiated by, nor a result of negligence or recklessness on the part of, the affected person;

Then he or she should receive immunity from any kind of retribution, punishment, or retaliation for that danger's causing the affected person's to arrive late at work or school; for declining to perform any duties related to traveling or that otherwise pose an imminent threat; or, if the danger does not subside, for staying home.

Here's the idea. This needs to be written in a way that doesn't account for ordinary troubles--traffic jams, non-severe and non-flooding rainstorms in an area that is used to rain, etc. But any time there's a tornado warning, or a major snowfall, or a civil disturbance, etc., people should have the right to come to work late or not at all. And if you get broken into, your home catches on fire, etc., you deserve the next day off to regroup (it almost always takes far longer than that, but at the very least, one full day).

Obviously this is just a draft and is well away from any final form. First of all, we'd have to close any loopholes that are big enough to drive a truck through Part (2) in particular would require clarification to ensure that while workers' and students' rights are protected, instances of people taking advantage of this to take the day off for trivial reasons should be rare. And that is where you guys come in. I'd love for as many people as possible to write their own versions of this. Please don't forget to reference this diary, but beyond that, it's all yours. The more progressive contributions we can get to "Right to a Safe Commute Act," the better.

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