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?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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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


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

Answered 5 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.

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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