How does SB-1044 Affect Employees In Emergency Situations?

SB-1044 attempts to protect California employees in the current world in which we live. It addresses the relationship between employer and employee when circumstances are extreme. 

What is considered an extreme circumstance? It’s when a disaster strikes, either one of natural origin or created by a criminal act – a hurricane, earthquake, school shooting, bomb threat, wildfire, etc. If such an event occurs, an employer can not force an employee to remain at their job if the employee feels that they need to leave for safety reasons. More specifically:

Employers Cannot Threaten or Punish Employers for Leaving Work

Under SB-1044 an employer can no longer be allowed to threaten an employee with discipline or termination of their job if an emergency situation exists. The Senate Bill defines an emergency situation as:

  • A natural disaster, such as an earthquake
  • A situation of extreme peril at work or within the workplace or worksite, including criminal activity.
  • An evacuation order that affects the worksite, home, or school where an employee’s child attends.
  • An official order to evacuate – a workplace, a home, a school, or other situation where an evacuation order may dictate that people are to leave an area. An example might be an evacuation order for a neighborhood due to a wildfire or gas leak.

Employers Cannot Bar Access to Emergency Data

While there are rules that prohibit the use of personal electronic devices in the workplace, under SB-1044 the employer cannot bar an employee from accessing a personal electronic device to obtain emergency information, such as notification of evacuation, child endangerment at a school, or information about a natural disaster.

Employee Action During an Emergency

Employees are required to make their employer aware of the emergency situation and the fact that they are leaving work. Once that is done, the employer cannot stop the employee from leaving. Nor can the employer discipline or terminate the employee for leaving.

Exemptions Do Apply To SB-1044

Certain groups of employees are exempt from the powers that SB-1044 has. Firefighters, police officers, and first responders are all groups or classes of employees who will not find protection under SB-1044 due to the nature of their job and the services they supply. For most employers, the employee rights under SB-1044 will help protect them from the abuse of employers when danger strikes.

What to Do If You’ve Been Fired or Disciplined During an Emergency Situation

At the moment, there isn’t much the employee can do, but speak with an employment lawyer. There are still in place reasonable workplace practices that can provide some protection. However, the power of SB-1044 will not go into effect until January 2023. However, the roots of the law stem from past issues where employers have tried to control employees during emergencies where the employee felt they were in peril or their families were in danger.

Contact DLaw For More Information About Your Employee Rights!

If you feel you have been disciplined or terminated during an emergency situation, seek legal guidance from an employment lawyer who can discuss your employee rights under California law.  Call Davtyan Law (DLaw) today at 1 (818) 275-5799.

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