Can an employer force me to work during a state of emergency?

I work for a non-profit in Georgia, which requires me to sit outside, either inside a
tractor trailer, or with no cover at all. Georgia governor has declared a state of
emergency for every county due to Hurricane Irma, yet my employer is insisting I
come to work, and sit outside for over 5 hours tomorrow. Dept of labor is closed.
Dept of transportation is closed. Schools are closed. Govt offices closed
excluding essential personnel. Public transit system is closed I don’t have a car.
Can my employer take action against me if I refuse to come in?

Asked on September 10, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Georgia

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Yes, this is legal. The declaration of a state of emergency does not prevent a private employer from expecting workers to show up for work. Further, if the they cannot show up to work due to travel restrictions (such as when a state of emergency is declared), they may be fired. That is so long as doing so does not violate the terms of an employment contract or union agreement. That is due to the fact that in the absence of a contract, they are at will" workers and as such they may be fired (or otherwise disciplined) at any time, for any reason, with or without notice. Bottom line, an employer can set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit (absent some form of legally actionable discrimination).

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Yes, this is legal. The declaration of a state of emergency does not prevent a private employer from expecting workers to show up for work. Further, if the they cannot show up to work due to travel restrictions (such as when a state of emergency is declared), they may be fired. That is so long as doing so does not violate the terms of an employment contract or union agreement. That is due to the fact that in the absence of a contract, they are at will" workers and as such they may be fired (or otherwise disciplined) at any time, for any reason, with or without notice. Bottom line, an employer can set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit (absent some form of legally actionable discrimination).


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