LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Hurricane Irma hit Leesburg, Florida, hard, and resident Ami Honea's neighborhood has piles of debris to prove it. Just before the storm blew through, Honea said she made a decision that ended up costing her job.
"I did what I needed to do, for the safety of my children," Honea said.
Honea worked as a nurse at the Lake County Jail, a place that can't just lock up and close during a hurricane. But she's a single mom with a 17-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. She has no family in Florida, so when Irma started barreling toward the state, she decided to take her kids to Atlanta.
The drive lasted 22 hours.
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"They (the kids) would've been left here in this house by themselves, in the storm, with the winds the way it was, with trees knocked down, power lines snapping,” she said.
Honea said she told her boss she felt that her only option was to leave and that he never told her she would lose her job for it.
When she returned to work Monday, she was fired.
Attorney Kelli Hastings, who spoke to WFTV before the storm, said that because Florida is a right-to-work state, the termination is legal.
"There (are) no laws that protect an employee in that situation,” Hastings said.
Honea said the law isn’t fair to single parents.
"I think the laws need to be changed because, for single moms especially, what are we supposed to do during a disaster situation like that with our children?" she said.
Honea said she plans to get an attorney and take her fight for more leniency during natural disasters to lawmakers.
She said she would make the same decision to leave the state if she could do it over again.
“My kids are more important than my job,” she said.
WFTV contacted the privately contracted company that fired Honea, Armor Correctional Health Services, and was referred to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Officials with the Sheriff’s Office said they have nothing to do with the hiring or firing of the medical employees at the company.
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