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Hopkins Law Firm Represents Woman Terminated For Not Reporting To Work During Hurricane Matthew

Anyone with a television set or Internet connection knows that the Caribbean and the Southeast Coast of the United States was recently ravaged by Hurricane Matthew. This powerful storm peaked at Category 5 intensity, bringing winds in excess of 155 MPH. Hurricane Matthew left more than 1,000 people dead in Haiti, leveling a majority of the islands structures, before turning its force towards Florida and north along the southeastern seaboard. As the storm rapidly approached, the governors of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina issued states of emergency and urged people to evacuate coastal communities.

In South Carolina, more than 1.3 million people live along the coast, all of them directly in the path of the Hurricane. For many, the question of whether or not to evacuate is a challenging decision. For one South Carolina woman, her job was on the line.

Hopkins Law Firm, in Pawley's Island, South Carolina, recently started representing a client in a wrongful termination case directly related to Hurricane Matthew. We filed a case on behalf of a woman who worked at a national home builder in the area.

On the Thursday before the hurricane was scheduled to reach the coast near her home, her boss had sent an email warning employees that they did not need to come to work if they felt threatened. The email also said that if Governor Nikki Haley issued an evacuation order, all employees should stay home, rather than move inland to higher ground. She remained at home on Friday, when the hurricane hit. On Monday the next week, however, her boss brought her into his office and terminated her for missing work.

Here are more details about the way our client lost her job.

On the Thursday before before the hurricane threatened the South Carolina coast, our client received a confusing email from her employer. The email first stated that she would not be required to report to work the next day if she felt threatened. This makes sense, as driving a car down a flooded street is very dangerous and illegal if barriers have been erected. 

On the other hand, the email also stated that she should stay at home, even if the South Carolina Governor ordered an evacuation. Governor Haley later ordered an evacuation of the full length of the coast. The state even offered transportation to help people get out of harm's way. 

Faced With Difficult Questions

Understandably, the email caused a great deal of confusion. On the one hand, her employer said she was not required to report to work, for safety's sake. On the other hand, she was "ordered' not to evacuate. Was it legal for her employer to order her not to evacuate? If she didn't have to go to work, then why would her employer care if she evacuated for her safety?

The woman was now worried that her job was on the line if she evacuated for her safety. Accordingly, she made the decision to remain in her home but did not report to work the next day - Friday - due to the dangers resulting from the hurricane winds and water. 

Upon her return to work the following Monday, however, she was in for an unwelcome surprise. Her boss called her into her office and terminated her employment for missing work. She is now without a job and thoroughly confused about the circumstances surrounding the email. She was only trying to remain safe while obeying the instructions of her boss. But she lost her job for doing so. She came to us for answers and retained us to fight a wrongful termination lawsuit on her behalf.

Hopkins Law Firm Will Fight To Protect Her Rights

When it comes to employment in South Carolina, the laws are relatively generous. South Carolina is an at-will employment state. This means that an employee can be dismissed without having to provide a just cause. On the other hand, this does not require any employee to obey unreasonable demands, such as remaining in her home after a lawful order to evacuate. In addition, South Carolina law specifically addresses the requirement to evacuate, which the employer violated by ordering the woman to remain at home.

Fighting To Win Her Wrongful Termination Lawsuit 

If you feel you were wrongfully terminated for any action you have taken to protect your own safety, contact Hopkins Law Firm on Pawley's Island, South Carolina. We know that an individual's well-being depends on retaining employment. No one should be forced to perform hazardous activities at work or be fired for failing to come in to work during a natural disaster, and Hurricane Matthew is no exception.

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