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Can Florida workers take leave to deal with a natural disaster?

Although we are far away from the area most seriously affected by Superstorm Sandy this fall, many of us here in South Florida do have family or friends on that part of the East Coast. Those who do not have any personal connections only have to turn on the news to see that much of the area is still reeling months after the storm.

Among the havoc that natural disasters wreak are employment problems. Those who live in the path of a storm may need time off to deal with the wreckage afterward, and even those who are far away may want to take a leave to give a friend or family member a hand. Are there any employment leave rights that apply in times of disaster?

While many employers might be lenient when it comes to such issues, there is little in actual employment law statutes that provide workers with leave rights due to natural disasters. Under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, an employee of a covered employer would be able to take a disaster-related leave if it is necessary to care for a serious health condition of him- or herself or an immediate family member. However, if the leave is needed to help out a friend whose entire home flooded, for example, an FMLA leave would likely not be granted.

In some cases, however, an employee might incur a diagnosed stress issue due to the disaster that would be so severe that one would be able to take an FMLA leave for that reason

Workers may do better to talk with their employers about taking paid time off or unpaid leave for a short period of time in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

The Family Medical Leave Act is very complicated. Those who feel they may have been wrongly denied a leave may benefit from legal counsel.

Source: HL.BLR.com, "FLMA: In a disaster, what about employee problems?" Jan. 10, 2013

  • For more information about employment law rights in South Florida, take a look at our employment law firm's Employee Representation page.

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