Two weeks after Hurricane Irma left millions of Floridians without electricity and caused significant flooding along the West Coast of Florida, many employees are returning to work and attempting to return to a state of normalcy. For some employees, they returned home not only to find damage to their homes but also to find out that their employment has been terminated due to their inability to return to work while under voluntary or mandatory evacuation.
While the FMLA does not explicitly outline employee rights during a natural disaster, there are some provisions that offer you protection.
When an employee suffers physical or mental harm as a result of the natural disaster, FMLA may be appropriate. Examples include loss of electricity that is vital to operating necessary medical equipment, physical injury resulting from floods, storm surges, or high winds. Mental distress stemming from a pre-existing mental illness or relapse caused by traumatic experiences, and/or the need to care for family members who have special needs associated with the effects of the natural disaster can also be protected under FMLA in some cases.
These medical conditions are not limited to the 3-4 days directly proceeding a storm. They may include the need to evacuate family members or self from the path of a hurricane or may arise in the proceeding weeks when power outages and floodwaters continue to affect or complicate a severe medical condition.
If you have any questions regarding a possible FMLA violation, you can contact the Law Firm of Massey & Duffy, PLLC, for a FREE CONSULTATION. Please contact our Gainesville office at (352) 505-8900.