Pennsylvania employers whose workplaces are in areas where a natural disaster happens are still bound by the laws of the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers should keep this mind when they are making disaster preparedness plans and should have clear policies in place.
In general, an employee cannot work for an employer without pay. During a natural disaster, laws about overtime pay remain in place. There might be problems if an employee is unable to use an employer’s timekeeping system or if records are destroyed.
If an employee is on FMLA leave and a business has to close because of a natural disaster, in most cases, the employee’s leave cannot be docked for that time. A natural disaster alone is not reason enough for an employee to be granted FMLA leave, but if a disaster exacerbates the medical condition of an employee or an employee’s family member, the employee may be eligible for leave.
FMLA leave is generally granted for employees who have health issues or whose immediate family members have health issues that require longer term care. One situation that could arise is that an employer might try to deny an employee’s FMLA request if a disaster has caused extra work for the company or if the company is short on staff as a result of the disaster. However, an employer is still not permitted to deny FMLA leave for these reasons or retaliate against an employee who asks for FMLA leave. A loss of records resulting from a natural disaster might also result in a denial or delay in granting FMLA leave. An employee who encounters problems of this nature may want to speak an attorney about how best to handle the situation.