Natural Disasters and Workers’ Rights

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Though thankfully not frequent, natural disasters, when they do strike, can affect one’s ability to work to get to work. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, wildfires, and more can all either cause enough damages to prevent one from doing one’s job, such as if the power is out or if part of the building is destroyed, or render it unsafe for one to commute to work. In any scenario, understanding the rights of workers who do have to work under conditions of natural disasters is important to understanding what your rights are should disaster strike your area.

Firstly, it is important to note that any absence from work due to inclimate weather is considered an absence for “personal reasons,” under the US Department of Labor. Due to this fact, an employer is not technically obligated to pay hourly employees for that lost time unless they have paid time off that they can use. For salary or salary-exempt employees, the rules are a little bit different, as they are not required to work a certain amount of hours. For these kind of employees, companies are still required to pay them for their full salary amount, even if the business was closed or was temporarily inaccessible.

There are a few uncommon scenarios that may impact workers during natural disaster. If the employee is “on call” during a disaster time, such as is common for maintenance workers, they must be paid for the time they are on call even if they are not actively working. Volunteer workers must also be paid if, and only if, their duties are the same as if they would have been working normally. All kind of disability or similar leave rules apply following a natural disaster as they would any other time.

Natural disasters are trying times for all, but if workers’ rights are infringed upon, it can be even more difficult for those individuals and their families. If you feel your rights as a worker are being violated, we at the Franco Law Firm are here to support you and see justice for you and your family. To schedule a free consultation with us today, please call us at (813) 872-0929.