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Sep10

Temporary Healthcare Staffing

We staff a facility in Florida that sent an email that if agency staff doesn’t come in during the hurricane they will be placed on a do not return list. Are they allowed to do this?

There is no law in Florida that protects employees from disciplinary action including termination who refuse to work due to a hurricane.

However, there are a couple of federal laws that must be considered including the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA) and the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

OSHA requires employers to ensure employees have safe and healthful working conditions. There are obvious dangers in working during a hurricane. So, an employer forcing employees to work when imminent danger exists may be in violation of OSHA. Such violation would further be supported if evacuation orders were in place or if hurricane, tornado, or similar natural disasters warnings were issued. Of course, some occupations are inherently dangerous and wouldn’t necessarily be covered.

The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave for certain family and medical reasons, including to care for themselves or a qualified family member with a serious health condition.  For example, a mother or father who needs to administer refrigerated medication to their child during a power outage has the right to FMLA leave to care for the child. Failing to allow a covered employee to take qualified FMLA leave or retaliating against an employee for asserting his rights under the FMLA is unlawful.

Most employers are concerned with their employees’ safety and will be lenient with employees who are unable to get to work due to a natural disaster. Of course, some workplaces have to remain staffed like hospitals and similar healthcare settings. In this situation, it’s best for the employer to be clear about which employees will be expected to work both during and after the hurricane. More employees than what is normally required should be assigned with the expectation that some may not be able to make it. Threatening employees with disciplinary action for failure to show to work may be legal in most cases but simply not good business practice.

HTH!

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 10th, 2017 at 6:47 pm and is filed under
Attendance Management, Labor Laws, Termination, Workplace Health & Safety.
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