As we’ve all heard for over a week, there is some brutally cold weather headed our way for the next few days. Since this part of Texas is generally not prepared for this sort of weather, most of the roads used by agents to drive to/from work will not be treated with salt or anything else to effectively prevent ice from forming.
The “weather” in weather and safety leave is designed for this exact scenario. Article 14, Section I, of the CBA and 5 USC § 6329c allow for agents to be granted weather and safety leave for a day, or part of a day, during which such conditions prevent an employee from reporting to work. However, to be eligible, you must provide your supervisor with evidence that you “made every reasonable effort to report to work, but that such conditions prevented” you from doing so.
Del Rio Sector, along with some others, has established a procedure by which employees must first request annual leave, and then request weather and safety leave when they return to work. The union does not believe this is the best way for this to be handled, so we are working with the agency to sort out a better process.
In the meantime, here’s what you should do if you cannot safely get to work:
1. Call your supervisor and request weather and safety leave — they will likely tell you that they can only approve annual leave. Fine, so be it.
2. Gather any evidence you can showing that you made “every reasonable effort to report to work, but that such conditions prevented” you from doing so. The key word is reasonable so, for example, take pictures or videos of icy roads, closed road notifications or signs, weather reports indicating dangerous conditions, pictures of vehicles in ditches, an explanation of how you made it part of the way to work, but the roads continued to get worse, etc.
3. If your primary route to work is closed, check other routes, but be reasonable. If an alternate route is open, but it’s going to take hours to get to work, or those roads are likely just as dangerous as the primary road, be prepared to explain that.
4. You will not be granted weather and safety leave if you just wake up, look at the temperature, and then crawl back into bed. You have to do some work to document the unsafe nature of the roadways.
Now, if you happen to live near a station that is not your regular station, they might tell you to report for duty at the closer station. However, if road conditions still prevent you from getting there, you will have to explain that all over again.
For example, if you live in San Antonio, but work in Carrizo Springs, it’s probably not reasonable for you to report to Uvalde, but you will have to show why it’s not possible to report to Uvalde. However, if you live in Uvalde and work in Brackettville and the roads are closed or dangerous, it’s likely you could make it to Uvalde Station to work. The key to all of this is effective communication with your supervisor.
We’ve asked Del Rio Sector to send guidance via the Emergency Notification System because, as we write this message, it seems that nothing has been pushed out to the workforce.
If you are able to get to work over the next couple of days, be extremely careful when you drive, particularly on the roads that aren’t heavily used. Ice can sneak up on you and the last thing we need is someone getting into a wreck because they were driving too quickly for the road conditions.