I am in house counsel to a cell phone company with 300 employees in 8 states. Our corporate office is in Oklahoma. Recently the sky opened up and freezing rain soon coated our lovely red dirt and open plains with a lethal layer of ice. I commute about 100 miles between the corporate office and my home and was lucky enough to be caught on the road when the ice began to fall. I was frantically avoiding jack-knifing semi’s when my cell phone rang.
The question of the day: should we put salt down on the doorsteps and front walks of our 45 stores in Oklahoma? Common sense dictated that this would be a good idea. But, then my little employment lawyer brain began to churn. What if one of our employees slips and falls while putting down the salt? Several of my store managers argued that it was worse to put down salt, because it gave customers a false sense of security. I grappled with the pros and cons of salting. At about that time, I pulled into Target to buy provisions to endure the storm. I scrambled out of my vehicle, and as I stepped onto Target’s front walk, the elderly woman in front of me slipped on the ice and bashed the back of her head on the ground. After calling for help, I made one more call- back to the corporate office - instructing them to have each store put down salt, and lots of it! Of course, I also dictated a brief email communication asking for employees to use extreme care when putting out salt, to wear appropriate footwear and to contact their manager if they did not feel comfortable participating in this activity. This is one of those times that common sense was the order of the day. (I’ll keep you posted on the worker’s compensation claims.)