What could happen to your job if you flee a hurricane’s path because of a mandatory evacuation order? What if you’d rather be safe than sorry? Many people in Florida who evacuated are considering this very question currently, and are concerned about their employment status when returning to their home.
Escaping your comfort zone in order to save your own life; and being uncertain about the status of your material things that will greet you upon return, is something most people would prefer not to experience. The stress of finding out if you will be penalized or even fired for abiding by a mandatory evacuation order is an additional insult to injury.
Surprisingly, there is currently no Florida law that protects employees who choose to evacuate, even if there is a mandatory evacuation. According to Marc Edelman, who is an attorney with Morgan & Morgan, it may be considered “unlawful” when requiring employees to work and travel during weather events that are dangerous such as during a hurricane, but “oddly enough, in a case like this, we won’t really know until it happens.” This info won’t necessarily ease worried evacuees who left their jobs behind.
Following Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas, many residents of Houston were forced to evacuate their flooded homes ,or if they couldn’t physically get to work without risking their lives. Unfortunately, this resulted in some Houstonians losing their jobs. In nearly all U.S. states, there isn’t job security for this type of situation, “people can be fired for good, bad, or no reason at all,” stated Paul Secunda, a professor of law at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who assisted workers affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Some Floridian businesses made the tough choice to keep operating during Hurricane Irma, and expect their employees to brave the potentially deadly weather for a noble cause, such as serving or cooking food.
— Jeff Piotrowski (@Jeff_Piotrowski) September 8, 2017
— Fight For 15 (@fightfor15) September 9, 2017
Some Floridians went on Twitter to vent their frustration:
I have to work during hurricane Irma.
What….. the fuck, chief?
— 🅱rice ➡️⬇️⬅️ ➕👟👟 (@TitsOfSteeI) September 8, 2017
Disney is staying open during Irma and I work all weekend :’)
— shelbae (@ShelbyMcGoun) September 8, 2017
My bff was told that she wouldn’t have a job next week if she refused to work at the shelters during Irma. She can’t evacuate or anything.
— Lil Sunny (@AndreaWroteThis) September 9, 2017
Both municipal agencies+private businesses threatened to fire employees who don’t show up for work during Irma
And, it’s perfectly legal
— Nightengalejml2 (@54nightengale) September 9, 2017
@olivegarden You’re really keeping the Leesburg, FL restaurant open during Irma?? My friend is required to get to work
— Meg (@vtmeg04) September 9, 2017
Just had a conversation with my mom that went “Since I have to work during Irma, sue XX in the event of my demise.”
— Blake (@BTL_Bailey) September 9, 2017
Even though there’s federal funding ready for persons who’ve faced job challenges as the result of a natural disaster, the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program just adds one additional thing to the already full plates of people affected by these disasters.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), mandates that employees have safe work conditions, but does not specify any regulations when working during potentially fatal weather, such as hurricanes. While lawyers suggest that affected employees could make a legitimate case in the sense that going to work and/or working during a life-threatening disaster violates their right to a safe work environment. Assuming that affected employees have the time, means, and funds to do so is impudent.
When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has access to intelligent tools for predicting the path and severity of events in the weather days ahead, there is not much reason to require employees to risk their lives for the benefits of making a profit and capitalism. With many major natural disasters hitting the United States this year, the disregard for human safety and mind set of profit over people should be scrutinized.
During any major natural disaster or weather event, victims are left to pick up pieces of their broken lives, lost possessions, and destroyed homes. Unfortunately, many of those affected will also be forced into searching for work elsewhere, or file legal claims against their lesser in understanding employers. As climate change increases the odds of major disasters such as deadly hurricanes and huge wildfires, it may be time for lawmakers to consider protections for workers affected by these devastating events.