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Can you refuse to drive in dangerous conditions?

If you have to drive as part of your job, you may run into a situation during the winter in Pennsylvania where you just don't feel safe being on the road. When a big snowstorm blows in and the roads are coated in ice, can you tell your employer that you're not going to drive because you think you could be injured?

Under the Occupational Health & Safety Administration's regulations, you absolutely can do this if you work as a motor carrier. You must have a real fear for your life and health because of the hazardous conditions. If you do and you decide not to drive because of it, your employer cannot legally fire you or punish you in any other way.

The National Labor Relations Act also gives you some protection. It says that your employer can't retaliate since unsafe conditions are what caused you not to work. Just as you can't be forced to work in unsafe conditions in an office building or a warehouse, you can't be forced to go on the road.

It is important to note that there are three criteria that have to be met. First, as noted above, you have to honestly think the conditions are too dangerous to drive. Also, under this act, multiple workers have to be involved—thereby showing that the dangerous conditions are obvious to everyone. Lastly, you can't refuse to work if you have a no strike clause as part of your contract and you're just trying to get around that clause.

If you have been hurt on the job, be sure you also know what rights you have to compensation.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Employee Rights on Refusing to Drive a Car in Inclement Weather," Dana Sparks, accessed Dec. 17, 2015

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