Miami Beach wants to fire employees for not going to work two days after Hurricane Irma

Two days after Hurricane Irma swept over South Florida, triggering a large scale evacuation effort and leaving widespread destruction in its wake, Miami Beach City Hall wrote to some of its employees who were unable to attend work with threats to fire them.

The island was operating under a state of emergency in the initial days after Hurricane Irma swept through, and around 100 employees received letters outlining the city’s intent to fire them less than 48 hours after Irma’s outer bands hit the Beach.

But slightly less than five percent of the city’s 2,100 workers did not show up for work when they were ordered to do so.

The letters have caused disruption for employees and even supervisors who were under the impression employees simply needed to stay in touch with their bosses as city operations returned to normal. 

Maria Alpizar, the city’s assistant director penned in a letter to the 100 employees that went out on Thursday. It read:

“I write this letter to inform you of the city’s intent to terminate your employment with the city of Miami Beach,”

“As a public employee one of our primary duties are to protect the citizens and businesses of our community and you are expected to report to work when scheduled and/or needed,”

“The city of Miami Beach does not tolerate job abandonment.”

At the end of the letter, sent by the city’s HR department, employees are told they would have a chance to explain themselves in a future scheduled meeting in a third-floor human resources conference room at Miami Beach City Hall.

All Miami Beach employees were instructed to report for work on September 13th unless instructed to do so earlier.

In a statement to the Miami Herald, Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy L. Morales said that the “pre-determination” letters are meant to trigger a process for each employee so they can meet with HR and offer their side of the story.

He also said that the vast majority of workers who received letters were deemed “essential” employees who are needed in case of an emergency like Hurricane Irma.

“It is not our intention to terminate any employee who was facing a life safety situation or demonstrates an inability to return to work. For these employees, the letter is rescinded and no discipline is given. We anticipate that most employees will not be terminated, although some other form of discipline may be appropriate.”

But Michael Braverman, an attorney representing Miami Beach workers, told Local 10 News that he objected to the city’s handling of the employees.  Braverman told the news crew:

“They impugned the character of every one of those employees. Everyone knows what that letter means. The inference that’s being drawn by the city is that ‘you didn’t fulfill your job. You let down the citizens of Miami beach and your’re the one that should be somehow disciplined for this.'”