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You Can Be Fired If You Stay Safe From The Storm

Posted on September 5, 2008

We are in the middle of hurricane season in Florida and most of us are keeping an eye on the latest storm, Hanna, heading offshore of North Florida, soon to be followed by Ike.

Forcasters and the Florida Highway Patrol have the same mantra, “don’;t go out on the roads unless you have to.” 

That’;s fine, but what if you have to?  What if you risk losing your job if you decide to stay home with your children, whose school has been cancelled and to follow the recommendations of safety officials?

Here’;s where the disconnect comes in.  While it’;s advised that you stay home, the simple answer is yes, you can be fired if you don’;t.

Florida is an employment-at-will state. That means the employer generally holds all of the cards. Without a written contract that specifically states you can stay home during a tropical storm or hurricane, you have no protection.

You can be fired for a good cause, a bad cause or no cause at all. The only areas that are protected are age, race, sex, national origin or disability.

So let’;s say the employer wanted to fire all Caucasians over the age of 60 who decided to stay home.  You’;d could have an action.  

Some plaintiffs have tried to challenge Florida’;s at will policy. They argue the personnel handbook specifies that termination can only occur for a good cause. The courts have ruled in favor of the employer saying that employment is at their discretion. 

Your only protection is an employment contract that specifies under what conditions you can be fired, or gives a definitive term of employment. That contract is not terminable at will. If violated, the employee may file a breach of contract lawsuit.

Short of that, the concept that a satisfactory job performance should be rewarded with job security and some understanding in the face of a storm- is just not something you can rely on, at least legally.