Disaster Employment And Unemployment

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab


This covers issues for disaster survivors whose employment or self-employment gets interrupted as part of a disaster event. This includes: 

  • Lost Wages and Wage Theft

  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance 

The legal timeline below goes over the various employment and unemployment legal needs that a disaster survivor might encounter. Expand each section of the timeline to learn about the various other issues a disaster survivor might face. Each issue below is included as information in the relevant tabs on this page. 

Employment And Unemployment Legal Issues After A Disaster

These are some of the short-term - 1 to 6 weeks after a disaster event issues related to employment and unemployment that disaster survivors might face: 

  • Applying for disaster unemployment assistance
  • Documenting wage issues or claims 

These are some of the medium-term - 1 to 6 months after a disaster event issues related to employment and unemployment that disaster survivors might face: 

  • Appealing disaster unemployment benefit denials 
  • Notice regarding wage issues 

These are some of the long-term - 6 months to years after the disaster event issues that disaster survivors might face related to employment and unemployment: 

  • Defending against unemployment benefits "recoupment" (when they ask for assistance back)
  • Disputes about wages and wage theft

Lost Wages And Wage Theft


Lost Wages And Wage Theft

Disaster survivors might face issues where they are no longer working as a result of a disaster. Whether you are fired, laid off, or resigned an employer must pay you all amounts due to you by your next regular payday or no later than 15 days after your last day at work, whichever is first.

You are due all wages, earned vacation pay, and any other amounts your employer has agreed to pay you or you are entitled to get by your employer's policies. You can ask your employer for your money in writing. Your demand which gives notice to the employer can be made by letter, email, text, or fax. Keep a copy of the notice you send. 

If the employer refuses to pay you after you send a demand letter you may need to find an attorney. An attorney can assist you to help to get your employer to pay for lost wages. An attorney can help you in case you need to go to court to ask the court to order the employer to pay lost wages. If a lost wage claim is successful against an employer, a court may also ask the employer to pay for attorney fees and possible penalties.

To learn more about wage issues visit the resources: 

Unemployment Assistance


Disaster Unemployment Assistance

Disaster unemployment benefit programs are run by the states as agents of the federal government. This helps people whose employment or self-employment gets lost or interrupted. This loss or interruption is the direct result of a major disaster. Before a person can be eligible for this help, the person must not be eligible for regular benefits. The person must show the work was their primary source of income. The person may also not be able to work because of an injury or incapacitation as a result of a disaster. The person may also qualify for benefits when there is a death of the head of the household who is a major supporter of the household. 

To learn more about disaster unemployment assistance visit our resources: 

Last Review and Update: Sep 12, 2022
Back to top