Flooding victims cannot be fired due to disaster

9:39 AM, Sep 20, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - Massive flooding is still disrupting life and business all over Colorado's Front Range.

From school and transportation closures to caring for affected family members, employees need time away from work to manage their personal lives in the wake of a natural disaster. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that their business is remaining compliant with both the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as their employees seek time-off.

"Once we realized how serious the situation was for our employees in affected areas, we started reaching out and telling our people not to come to work if it wasn't safe for them to travel," Kevin Curry, Reed Group's Senior Vice President and National Practice Leader, said. "There's some ambiguity in federal law regarding employer responsibilities during a major disaster. But there are things you can do to prepare, and being proactive in your treatment of employees requesting leave is crucial."

Reed Group recommends that employers take the following actions to effectively prepare for the potential influx of FMLA and ADA claims:

  • Determine how to disseminate clear crisis notifications to the workforce and identify multiple communication methods. Companies should have multiple ways to contact employees and managers should have access to those contacts.
  • Draft recovery and business continuity plans to include modified work schedules, as employees will view their families and homes as their top priorities.
  • Fully understand what the qualifications for receiving FMLA or ADA leave after the event are. For example, an employee who experiences post-traumatic stress disorder after the event may qualify for ADA leave, but an employee who wants to help a family member clean their house will likely not qualify for FMLA leave.
  • Understand the difference between exempt and non-exempt employees. They're treated differently under the law when it comes to required leave, including leave following or during a natural disaster.

Some general guidelines and answers to frequently asked questions about how to handle absence during and after natural disasters is available from the U.S. Department of Labor, Fact Sheet #72: Employment & Wages Under Federal Law During Natural Disasters & Recovery, http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs72English.htm.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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