With red tide invading all parts of Florida, I have been getting inquiries from individuals who work on or near the beach.
My Miami Beach office, itself, is actually located just two blocks from the beach. The questions I have been fielding deal with the rights of workers when being exposed to dangerous red tide and avoiding wrongful termination. The red tide in Florida has been killing thousands of fish over the past weeks, and the question is how does it affect humans.
Published reports (and my own past experience being exposed in Galveston, Texas), indicate that it causes itchy and red eyes, as well as a feeling of tightness in the chest. Breathing issues have also been reported.
Some callers have told me they work at hotels or restaurants on the beach or near the beach, and they are already getting symptoms from the red tide and don't want to go to work. In one case, the boss was threatening termination if the food server in Palm Beach County did not show up for work.
Here's my advice. If you are a worker suffering symptoms of red tide, or afraid of getting symptoms, then get a note from your doctor ORDERING you to be off from work until the beaches reopen or the symptoms or risk subsides. There is no full-fledged way to guarantee saving your job, but if you have a diagnosis and a doctor's note ORDERING time off from work, an employer will certainly think twice about firing you.
If a person gets fired when off due to a diagnosis and doctor's orders, they may have a case under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Of course, there are limitations on legal rights and that is why it is important to know the law before asserting any possible legal rights.
The author, employment lawyer Bruce Coane practices wrongful termination and employment law throughout the United States and has offices in Florida and Texas. He may be reached at [email protected] or at 713.850.0066 or at 305.538.6800.