Natural disasters like the kind we recently have witnessed in the flood-ravaged areas of the southern United States raise a host of issues for employers. Some wonder whether they are required to pay their employees during suspended operations; others are unsure whether and to what extent health benefits should be offered. But what about an employer's obligation to provide a leave of absence to employees during a natural disaster under laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act? We cover below some of the more common FMLA-related issues employers face after natural disasters, such as a tornado, hurricane or flood, hit.
An Employee's Right to Take FMLA Leave after a Natural Disaster
The FMLA does not, in itself, require employers to give employees time off to attend to personal matters arising out of a natural disaster, such as cleaning a flood-damaged basement, salvaging belongings, or searching for missing relatives. (See our recent post where a court dismissed an employee's FMLA claim where the employee sought leave to clean up his mom's basement after a flood.) However, employers clearly have the right to voluntarily provide leave in these situations pursuant to their personnel policies.
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