Working During a State of Emergency


Can your manager make you come into work during a state of emergency? Arizona is an “at will” employment state, meaning your employer can fire you for any reason apart from discrimination. This includes terminating your employment because you didn’t come in during a state of emergency. 

However, if you miss work due to mandatory, government-enforced evacuations, you may have legal rights if your employer fires you. While we’ll provide some general information here, the current state of emergency is an unprecedented event and it’s best to seek legal advice for your unique case. 

Employer Liability in a State of Emergency

At will” employment allows employers to fire employees at any time without establishing just cause. Unless you have an employment contract in place, your boss can terminate you with or without cause. Under these rules, you’re also free to leave your job at any time and for any reason. Prohibited reasons to terminate employment include race, gender, religion, or participation in certain political activities.

Even if your boss has the right to make you come to work, they may be liable if something happens to you while you’re working in a state of emergency. 

Wrongful Termination

Your employer may be liable if the law mandates criminal penalties for those who travel during a state of emergency and they’re requiring you to come into work. If your boss fires you for not coming in during this time, it could qualify as an exception to “at will” employment law. You may be able to pursue a claim for wrongful termination, though it won’t work in every case. You’d need to speak with an employment attorney to find out what applies to you specifically.

Sick Leave in Arizona 

Arizona created new rules for paid sick time in 2017. Nonprofits and companies must display minimum wage and sick leave rules in a conspicuous area. Your employer must inform you of related information, such as how much paid leave you have and how much you’ve already used for the year. Let’s look at what the state sick leave rules entail.

State Rules for Employers

Under state law, employees accrue an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work. There is a cap applied to how many hours they can accumulate. Employers with at least 15 workers must provide employees with at least 40 hours of sick leave per year. Employers with 14 or less employees are required to give at least 24 hours of sick leave per year.

The state’s paid sick leave rules may help provide a safeguard financially for some workers. If your work closed due to the state of emergency, you might be able to receive pay even if you’re staying home. Not only should paid sick leave cover you if your workplace closes temporarily, but also if you need to take care of your kids due to a school shutdown. 

What About Independent Contractors? 

The paid sick leave laws mandate that employers must offer time off with pay for a variety of reasons. This includes attorney meetings for a sexual violence or domestic legal case, doctor visits, and illness. Keep in mind that these benefits only apply to full-time, temporary, part-time, and seasonal employees. Freelance workers and contractors aren’t covered.

Sick Leave Exemptions

Arizona’s laws on sick leave are expansive and don’t include many exceptions. However, if you’re employing your sibling or child for a job, or hiring a babysitter, you don’t have to provide paid sick leave. The sick pay laws also don’t apply to individuals employed by the state or federal government.

Vacation Days

While Arizona law requires employers to offer paid sick days, this isn’t true for vacation days. Your employer could require you to use some of your vacation days to cover your paid sick time. For example, if your work offers two weeks of paid time off per year, your boss could decide that those days count towards your sick leave. This would result in reduced vacation days.

Do You Have Employment-Related Questions?

Employment law is already complicated enough when there isn’t a state of emergency. And with the unique factors present today, it’s more important than ever to be aware of your rights. It’s best to speak with an experienced employment law attorney who knows the latest rules and can answer your questions.

Call our Employment Law team at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case today.

Contact Our Employment Law Team

Call (480) 464-1111 or fill out the form to schedule your consultation and discuss your best legal options.