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?

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2015

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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