Workers’ Rights in Emergencies in California
This provision of law does not apply to first responders, disaster service workers, employees required by law to render aid
By Chris Micheli, April 2, 2023 8:52 am
Labor Code Division 2, Part 3, Chapter 11 provides for workers’ right in emergencies. Labor Code Section 1139 defines the following terms: “emergency condition” (not a health pandemic) and “a reasonable belief that the workplace or worksite in unsafe.”
In the event of an emergency condition, an employer is prohibited from taking or threatening to take adverse action against any employee for refusing to report to, or leaving, a workplace or worksite within the affected area because the employee has a reasonable belief that the workplace or worksite is unsafe.
However, this provision of law does not apply to first responders, disaster service workers, employees required by law to render aid or remain, employees and contractors of health care facilities, those providing or aiding in emergency services, employees on military bases or in the defense sector, employees working on nuclear reactors, employees involved in energy and water, those in residential care facilities, employees at financial institutions, transportation employees involved in evacuations, fire prevention services providers, and those assisting the public to evacuate.
In addition, an employer is prohibited from preventing any employee from accessing the employee’s mobile device or other communications device for seeking emergency assistance, assessing the safety of the situation, or communicating with a person to verify their safety. This provision also applies to public sector employees. However, this provision does not apply to employees of a depository institution, correctional facility, or those actively operating equipment.
When it is feasible, an employee is required to notify the employer of the emergency condition requiring the employee to leave or refuse to report to the workplace or worksite prior to leaving or refusing to report. If it is not feasible, then an employee is required to notify the employer of the emergency condition that required the employee to leave or refuse to report to the workplace or worksite after leaving or refusing to report as soon as possible.
Finally, in any action by a current or former employee that could be brought pursuant to the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004, the employer must have the right to cure alleged violations.
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