Can legal action be taken by employees if an evacuation takes place due to a gas leak but 40 minutes after it was first noticed?

In addition, could the fact they did not train a majority of the employees what to do in an emergency/evacuation help with that? No head count was taken after walking through the whole facility, passing multiple emergency exits, to exit through the main entrance.

Asked on July 19, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Connecticut

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Your employer is NOT responsible for conducting head counts of its employees--the employer is not the emergency services (e.g. police or fire).  Also, the employer is NOT responsible for evacuating employees from a condition the employees are aware of, since the employees are free to leave if they feel the premises are unsafe--the employer cannot lock them in or physically restrain them. Yes, the employer may then fire or otherwise discipline employees who leave their posts if the employer feels they should not have done so, but then the employee is making a choice to put his/her job ahead of his/her safety, and the employer is not resposible for the outcome of that choice. I was in a similar situation in '93: I worked at the World Trade Center site at the time of the first bombing (the car/van bomb). My employer did not officially tell people to evacaute--it was hung up in beauracracy--but I simply left anyway, because I was not going to risk for life for my job. Other people made different choices, and we each had to bear the consequences thereof.

As to the issue more generally: IF someone was actually injured by the gas leak, and IF that injury could be traced to the employer's negligence, or unreasonable carelessness in not doing something that reasonable employers would do--then there might be a legal claim. But as a predicate, there must have been injuries: the law only provides compensation for actual harm, not for what "might" have happened. If, as we hope, no one was injured, there is no lawsuit or legal claim.


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