Although Minnesota businesses were not at risk, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma were major reminders that employers have certain legal obligations to employees when natural disasters occur. As such, employers are responsible for having a plan in place when natural disasters could occur.
When preparing for a natural disaster, employers are required to use caution when asking employees to assist with getting the business ready for it or cleaning up after it. Even if the business has sustained damage, employers are still required to ensure that the employees are properly trained to perform the work that the employers are asking them to do. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does have a guide for employers to help with determining how to handle hazardous conditions while preparing for and recovering from a natural disaster.
Employers are not required to grant requests of leave from employees immediately before and after a natural disaster. However, there are certain situations where an employee may be eligible for time off under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Family Medical Leave Act. Employers should also be understanding of the fact that employees may need to take leave after a natural disaster to deal with the stress, potential injuries and damage to personal property that may have occurred.
Although employees are often vital in getting a business back up and running after a natural disaster, they still deserve to work in an environment that is safe for them. People who are injured on the job after working in hazardous conditions may want to have an attorney’s help in seeking appropriate benefits under the company’s workers’ compensation insurance coverage.