Florida attorney: You could be fired for skipping work during a storm

Florida Work Policy During Severe Weather Events

As Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida, it is a stressful time as residents worry about their safety.

But what happens if your employer requires you to work? Does safety first override job security?

Mark Edelman, an attorney for the Morgan & Morgan firm, said there is no specific law that dictates how employers and employees should handle the possibility of a Category 5 hurricane, WTVT reported.

“Oddly enough, in a case like this, we won’t really know until it happens,” Edelman told WTVT.

Edelman 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.

“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,” Edelman told WTVT. “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 refuse to go to work and the hurricane does not make a major impact in your area, “you’re doing it at your own risk,” Edelman told WTVT.

Florida is a right-to-work state, and "unless you have a contract that states otherwise, an employer can reprimand you for failing to appear for a scheduled day of work," Erik DeL’Etoile of the DeL’Etoile Law Firm told WTVT.

However, DeL’Etoile said when facing a potentially destructive storm, a person 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,” he told WTVT.