TAMPA (FOX 13) - When facing the uncertainty of a hurricane, people will understandably worry about several factors, including work. As we wait to see how Hurricane Irma will impact Florida, what happens if your employer requires you to work?
Marc Edelman, an attorney with Morgan & Morgan, joined Good Day’s Ask-A-Lawyer segment on Wednesday to discuss employment rights.
In Florida, there is no specific law that dictates how employers and employees should handle the possibility of Category 5 hurricane, according to Edelman.
"Oddly enough, in a case like this, we won’t really know until it happens,” he said.
It would most likely be “unlawful” to require employees to either travel and/or work in a dangerous situation, which would include facing a hurricane with life-threatening winds and rain, Edelman said.
“Let’s say somebody is working outside, you can’t expect a landscaping crew to work during a hurricane and that would implicate OSHA which is the federal law governing workplace safety,” he said. “Every case is going to be fact specific. We’re not going to know until we endure the situation to know who is right and who is wrong in a situation like this.”
If you can prove you have a medical condition that would render you disabled or unable to head to work due to the hurricane circumstances, then you can argue you have protection under the Americans with Disability Act, or under the Family Medical Leave Act if you are a caretaker for someone who requires medical care.
If you don’t go to work, and the hurricane doesn’t make a massive impact to the area, then, as Edelman said, “you’re doing it at your own risk.”
Erik DeL'Etoile with the DeL'Etoile Law Firm, explained that Florida is a right to work state.
"Unless you have a contract that states otherwise, an employer can reprimand you for failing to appear for a scheduled day of work," he warned.
However, he pointed out that when it comes to storms, you should make the safe choice and seek legal help later, should you need it.
"My recommendation would be to put your safety and well-being first, whatever you feel that may be."