Going back to work after your state or area has opened again after being closed for coronavirus has several pros and cons. Your employer may demand that you come back to work and you may feel that you do not have a choice. In spite of what they say, you do have some employee rights that you need to be aware of that may help you decide when to return.
Check State Laws
Laws in your state may differ from laws that are already established by the Federal government, and they are likely to be different from other states. These laws may be more well-defined in your state. Many issues related to coronavirus have not yet been determined clearly, so you will find that there are possibilities that you may or may not have legal grounds to stay home. Each case will ultimately have to be decided on its own merits – or lack of them.
Some common questions being asked today:
Do you have to return to work when your employer calls you back in?
Generally, if your place of employment comes under the status of being an “essential business,” then you will likely have to return to work. Many businesses come under this umbrella, and it includes medical staff, workers in the food industry (meat processors, grocery store workers, food delivery services, etc.), law enforcement, emergency personnel, and more.
If you believe that you need to stay away from an office or workplace because you are afraid of getting coronavirus due to poor health, or you have people at home who are high risk, you may be able to stay home. You may have better grounds if you can get a certification from a doctor, or a note from a doctor. Some states, such as Michigan and Texas, have made special provisions for those who want to stay home – such as being able to continue to receive unemployment for staying home (Michigan), or they cannot fire you for staying home (Texas).
Can you be fired if you refuse to return to work?
The act that would currently provide the most protection currently is the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). It would allow you to refuse to return to work if you believe the conditions are unsafe. If your employer is taking the required steps to protect their employees, you may not be protected from being fired if you refuse to go back.
Another law that may offer some protection if you refuse to go back to work is the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). It would require more than one worker going with you, but you would basically go on strike – and you could do it for health and safety reasons. This could be complicated because they could not fire you, but they may be able to permanently replace you.
If you get coronavirus from a co-worker can you get workman’s compensation?
It would probably be treated similarly to catching a common cold or flu from another employee. There are no precedents for it yet because COVID-19 is such an unusual and unknown situation. You may be able to get compensated for it if your profession makes it more likely that you will get it.
In order to get exact information about employee rights for your situation, you would have to contact a lawyer in your area. Preferably get one that deals with workplace issues and defends clients with those types of cases. They would be most up on the new laws. Many new laws are apt to be passed soon dealing with these issues and you can expect that there will be many cases, which may mean waiting a long time for your case to be settled.