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# 953 Earthquake: Employment

Here’s the smart way to get information for both employees and employers about employment- related problems caused by an earthquake. This message describes information about paying employees, assessing building-safety and obtaining financial assistance. Please have a pen and paper ready to write information you may need later, such as phone numbers.

If you are an employee who is unable to work because your workplace was destroyed or damaged by an earthquake, because you can no longer travel to regular workplace or because of an injury you received in an earthquake, then you might be eligible for disaster unemployment insurance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA. You can call (800) 621-3362 or visit for more information.

If your place of employment is destroyed or it is unsafe to return to work, employers must decide and employees need to know from their employers whether the business will be reopened and if the employee is still on the payroll. If the employer intends to reopen the business and keep the same employees, the employer needs to inform the employees if they intend to pay employees and when.

If the employer decides to not reopen for business in the near future or not pay employees, then employees should be aware that they are entitled to be paid up through the last day they worked and should demand payment preferably in writing. Employees should also know that they might qualify for unemployment insurance. The maximum amount of unemployment insurance benefit payments are limited and benefits usually will not be paid for more than 26 weeks (that’s six months). However, the number of weeks may be extended in the event of prolonged unemployment. Claims for unemployment should be filed with EDD (Employment Development Department) as soon as possible by calling  
(800) 300-5616 or visiting

If you do not know whether the building where you work or where your business is located is safe, you can contact FEMA (800) 621-3362 for more information or you can call a city building inspector to check for structural damage.

If you own a business that was damaged or destroyed, listen to Smartlaw Information message #951 regarding insurance coverage for your business. If you are insured, you may be eligible for assistance such as small business loans through the Small Business Administration. Visit to find the nearest office. When applying for such loans you will need to provide normal business records as tax returns, income statements, profit and loss statements and balance sheets.

If you need to hire an attorney, press 199 now to be connected with a SmartLaw Referral representative. You can also call (213) 243-1525 or visit

For more information about what the Smartlaw Referral & Information Service can do for you, listen to message 103. If you need low-cost of free legal assistance, listen to message 104 through 112.

To hear a list of other earthquake-related information messages, press 950.

Would you like to listen to another message? If so, press the three-digit message number now.

This message was brought to you by SmartLaw, the nation’s oldest and largest Lawyer Referral & Information Service, sponsored by the Los Angeles County Bar Association. This message has provided legal information and is not intended to take the place of the advice of a lawyer. If this has been helpful, please tell your friends and family about the service.

Thank you for calling the Smartlaw Information Line, the smart way to get legal information.



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