What Are My Workplace Rights During the Coronavirus Outbreak?

The new Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and standards set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are playing roles in decisions being made by employers for their workers. 

With the rise of local government quarantining, city curfews and attendance caps on gatherings, many workers are rightfully worried about the safety of their positions.  While the safety of the nation should be everyone’s first priority, many people have voiced concern that they may have to make a choice between staying safe or getting a paycheck.

Is My Job Safe?

Thankfully, in the US, most workers will get at least some paid leave if they or their families are affected by the coronavirus.

Over the weekend, the House passed the Families First Coronavrius Response Act.  The goal of the bill is to “provide money to most American workers stuck at home due to the coronavirus.  If the bill is approved by the Senate and signed by Trump, it would grant two weeks of paid sick leave at 100 percent of the person’s normal salary, up to a $511 per day cap. It would also provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave at 67 percent of the person’s normal pay, up to a $200 per day cap.” (1)

Note, however, that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act does not cover everyone.  Companies that employ less than 50 people or more than 500 people may not be required to offer as much support to their employees.

If you recently traveled outside of the US, have been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19, or are feeling under the weather, contact someone from HR right away to speak about your company’s policies and procedures.

Is it Safe to Work?

Depending on your job, it may or may not be safe to work.  In order to limit exposure to the virus, many employers are requesting that their employees work from home, which is completely within their rights, even if you want to work in the office.

On the other hand, employers generally do not have to allow employers to work from home or telecommute, with the exception of an employee who qualifies to work remotely under the ADA.  If, however, local or federal governments decide to quarantine an area, employers in the area may have a duty to allow remote work.

The key is to remember that you are legally allowed to feel safe when completing your job.  If you feel unsafe about completing your job, start by talking to your direct supervisor.  Legally, a company must provide a safe working environment for a “reasonable” employee.

The Wallstreet Journal poses an interesting hypothetical situation:  If a hotel housekeeper feels unsafe completing his/her job in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, but his/her boss offers training and equipment to protect against the virus, the employee would most likely still need to complete their tasks for their job to be protected.  If, however, the hotel was known to have had active guests with Covid-19, it would not be unreasonable for a housekeeper to refuse the assignment. (2)

What Should I Do If I Test Positive for Covid-19?

If you test positive for Covid-19, don’t panic.  Rest, take in plenty of fluids, and take proper medication to combat your symptoms.  Unless symptoms are severe, avoid the doctors office or emergency room.

If you worked from a shared office or had contact with anyone from your workplace, ethically, you should report your case to your employer.

While we learn more about this novel virus, it is important to work together to keep vulnerable populations safe.

At The Usman Law Firm, we wish everyone good health and a safe return to normal working operations.  If you are worried that you’ve been treated unfairly during this tumultuous time, please reach out to our team.

 

  1. Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/16/paid-sick-leave-coronavirus-house-bill/
  2. WSJ https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-coronavirus-and-your-job-can-my-boss-make-me-do-that-11583981316

 

 

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