Is it illegal for an employer to force an employee to return to work when they are unable to be in the area due to an emergency evacuation?

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Is it illegal for an employer to force an employee to return to work when they are unable to be in the area due to an emergency evacuation?

There is a recent emergency evacuation due to the Oroville Dam flooding. My family has been displaced due to this evacuation and I am no longer close to the town I work in. My employer let me leave early during the evacuation to gather my family and some belongings, but is now stating that I have to return to work or I will get in trouble.

Asked on February 14, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Actually, your employer can do this, even if a state of emergency has been called. The fact is that most employment is "at will". This means that a company can set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit, which includes when or whether an employee must come in to work. This holds true so long as this action does not violate the terms of any applicable union agreement or employment contract. Also, it must not constitute any form of legally actionable discrimination.


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