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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.

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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.

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“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.