Table of Contents
In an ever-changing world fraught with natural disasters and other emergencies, employee safety is of paramount importance. Some situations might compel you to refrain from reporting to your workplace or even make you leave your workstation. However, in some cases, you might be worried about the reaction of your employer, which is totally normal.
If you reasonably believe that your place of employment poses risks and there is an emergency condition, there should be no adverse job-related action taken for your decision to prioritize your safety.
Senate Bill 1044
The introduction of Senate Bill 1044 ushers in a new chapter to the Labor Code aimed at prioritizing and protecting workers’ rights, particularly during an emergency condition. This legislation asserts that employees possess the right to refuse to report or can leave an environment deemed unsafe while an emergency is ongoing.
When this occurs, there’s an obligation on behalf of employees towards their employer. Ideally, they should provide prior notification if they are planning on leaving or refusing to work. However, given that the bill is directed at emergencies, it’s understandable that this may not always be possible, as these situations are often evolving.
In this case, employees are allowed to inform employers as soon as possible afterward — this highlights worker safety while keeping in mind an employer’s needs.
What Is an Emergency Condition?
You might be wondering about the term “emergency condition” as used in Senate Bill 1044. Essentially, it refers to a catastrophic event that may result from natural phenomena or wrongdoings by individuals — like criminal activity — and can lead to dangerous circumstances necessitating evacuation orders.
However, there’s an important caveat you should be aware of regarding this bill’s use of the term “emergency condition.” Despite their potential for significant disruptions and implications on work environments, health emergencies are deliberately excluded from this definition. So even though something like COVID-19 demands urgent attention and creates unexpected situations at workplaces, it would not count as an emergency condition under SB 1044.
Worker Needs To Have Reasonable Belief of Emergency Condition
A key concept driving this bill is the term “reasonable belief.” In simple terms, it means that if you choose not to go into or decide to leave the workplace during an emergency, it should be based on a sincere understanding of facing imminent danger.
Here, “imminent danger” refers to threats that realistically could result in loss of life or severe injury.
It’s absolutely crucial for you to feel safe at work. However, also important is following legal protocols, ensuring your decisions are protected.
Employers Cannot Prohibit Access to Cell Phones
If you’re an employee in a public agency or anywhere else, SB 1044 is here to ensure your right to access your mobile device during emergencies. This law prohibits any employer from stopping you from using your communication devices for emergency help, assessing safety conditions around you, or checking on the safety of another person during an emergency.
This important piece of legislation recognizes the critical role our personal devices play in staying safe and connected when facing unforeseen crises. So, remember, if danger strikes while at work, an employer cannot retaliate against you for using your mobile device to get help.
Employees Excluded From This Bill
While this bill gives most employees the right to refuse or leave work under emergency conditions due to safety concerns, this privilege doesn’t extend across all job categories. Certain roles and professions are exempted from invoking these rights.
Specifically excluded from this provision are first responders such as police officers, firefighters, or paramedics who provide immediate assistance during crisis situations. It also does not apply to disaster service workers who have duties tied closely to managing emergencies on the ground, transportation crew members assisting in emergency evacuations, and anyone entrusted with the responsibility to help the public evacuate amidst these trying times.
Similarly, healthcare personnel — especially those providing direct patient care within medical facilities — are required to continue their work regardless of emergency circumstances.
What Is an Adverse Employment Action?
Adverse employment action refers to a negative alteration in the terms and conditions of a person’s job. This could present itself in various forms, like direct termination, reduction of benefits received by an employee, demotion impacting your professional rank, or even decreased opportunities for promotion.
It’s important to note that not every minor workplace slight or difficulty qualifies as adverse employment action; it must be a significant change affecting the employee negatively.
Demonstrating an Adverse Employment Action
Demonstrating that an adverse employment action has significantly impacted your work experience might require a bit of work. The way to do this is by analyzing and comparing conditions both prior to and post the adverse action was taken. Elements such as differences in salary, alteration of working hours, alterations of benefits, or even changes concerning job title carry considerable weight.
If you suspect you have been a victim of an adverse employment action as a result of retaliation, it’s highly recommended to seek legal counsel. An experienced lawyer can provide effective representation to prove the detrimental change in your work and will help you get the justice you deserve.
How a Lawyer Can Help With Workplace Retaliation
Securing the services of a lawyer when you’re facing retaliation at work can be immensely helpful. First, your legal counsel can give you sound advice on how to document and compile evidence of any incidents that suggest unfair treatment or victimization in response to the protected actions under this bill.
A lawyer understands the intricacies surrounding employment laws, allowing them to navigate through these complex regulations and interpret them for your specific situation. As this bill is new, you may not know exactly how it will be applied. Fortunately, a lawyer will help in ensuring that you are fully aware of your rights and protections under the law.
If necessary, an attorney will assist with filing a formal complaint with relevant bodies such as business commissions or human resources departments, helping to draft comprehensive reports detailing each incident so it’s clear that the retaliatory action has occurred.
Additionally, if further action is required, like taking matters before courts or arbitrators, having a knowledgeable employment lawyer on board increases the chances of winning your case. They will build strong arguments based on facts collected throughout the investigation, ensuring that they build the strongest case possible for you.
Among other tasks they undertake, lawyers can also help negotiate settlements too. If you’ve been retaliated against, you may be entitled to compensation. In many cases, settling is cheaper, less stressful, and quicker for everyone involved. Having a lawyer who is experienced in this practice can be immensely helpful.
Understanding your workplace rights and obligations can often seem intimidating, but it’s critically important. The need to identify and respond effectively when faced with emergencies or adverse employment actions is crucial, which means you must learn the specifics of laws like Senate Bill 1044.
If you believe your rights have been violated, never hesitate to consult with a legal professional. Contact Gomez Trial Lawyers today for a free consultation by calling 866-TRIAL LAW (866-874-2552) or by contacting us online.