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Offer of hotel before snowstorm leaves some out in the cold

Posted by Peter Post  January 20, 2011 07:00 AM

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Q. I work for a financial services company in a large metropolitan area. One day, we received an e-mail from human resources reminding us that despite an impending snow storm, the following day would be business as usual.

When we came to work after a gruesome commute, we found out that some people in the division had been selected to stay the night in nearby hotels at company expense so they would be able to come to work on time. The condition was that two people had to share a room. In my group two unmarried persons had been selected to stay in one room.

The rest of us are feeling slighted since all this was done in secrecy so we were not extended the same offer. I am annoyed as well as irritated by how this was handled, and I don't believe the "top" bosses would look on this favorably.

Your assistance in this matter will be greatly appreciated.

- Anonymous

A. The company should not single out certain people for the privilege of staying at a hotel while others were expected to travel in from home and be at work for “business as usual.”

I could see the situation where certain people might be given the option because their job required them to be there “on-time” - an IT person whose responsibility is to keep vital servers up and running, for instance. This frequently happens at hospitals with critical personnel. The problem with your situation is the company provided this perceived benefit to some employees without any explanation and consequently caused ill-will with the others. And that is a mistake.

If the two people in your group who were selected to stay in the hotel were of the same sex, then the requirement they share a room is reasonable. In these economically challenged times many companies that once offered employees a room to themselves are now requiring sharing arrangements for employees of the same sex.

If the two people were of the opposite sex and are not involved in a relationship, the situation is different and even asking them to share a room is unacceptable. Even if they are in a relationship, asking them to share is presumptuous of the nature of their relationship. It’s possible that the unmarried couple volunteered to share a room. While this may seem fine on the surface - two consenting adults - it does blur the line between a romance and office life.

Final take on this? Note to managers: Clear up that overnight stay policy pronto and look at better top-down communication of weather emergency expectations and procedures.

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