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Employees who evacuated for hurricane: know your rights

While specific employment decisions generally don't make national news, there are times when an employer's decisions seem so unwise or controversial that they become a topic of national interest.

For instance, recently a Pizza Hut made headlines after the location's manager threatened to discipline any employee who didn't show up to work in the days surrounding the recent hurricane. 

A spokesperson for the massive chain reportedly stated that in this case, the manager went against company guidelines by dictating when employees can leave and when they must return in the event of a disaster. The franchise owner and manager evidently addressed the situation.

However, Texas employees should know that in this state, employers cannot terminate or discriminate against any worker who participates in public evacuation processes. In other words, you cannot be fired for evacuating in an emergency, like a hurricane.

In other situations, employers are within their rights to terminate workers who do not show up for work. To avoid confusion and/or consequences in similar situations where you feel unsafe showing up for work, employees would be wise to communicate clearly and as soon as possible with their employer or Human Resources representative.

However, if your employer has made policies or requests that put your life or safety in danger, then it can be crucial that you understand your rights. For instance, you can report unsafe workplaces, and you can refuse to engage in unlawful practices; your employer cannot legally fire or otherwise retaliate against you for engaging in these kinds of protected activities.

With all this in mind, we want readers to understand that the line between lawful and unlawful termination can be seem very fuzzy, especially in the wake of a devastating situation like a natural disaster. It is not always clear what -- if anything -- can be done to protect an employee's rights, though there are numerous federal and state laws in place that provide critical direction.

Because of this, you would be wise to consult an attorney to discuss your case and examine your legal options if you have questions or concerns about termination or adverse action in the wake of missed work.

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