Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the landscape of the workplace has dramatically changed. Millions of workers have been displaced from their jobs, laid off, or forced to continue their careers from home. As countries and states begin the slow reopening process, employees are left with a lot of concerns and fears about what is next.
Although many private companies are doing what they can to institute a safe return, many employees have questions about the risks of returning to their normal work routine. While maintaining social distancing protocols and taking extra sanitation precautions may seem wise, employees are still worried that they may be putting themselves at risk for infection.
Personal injury experts like Herrman & Herrman, P.L.L.C. are already seeing an increase in inquiries about the rights of employees during the pandemic. In this article, we will take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions that employees have about their rights regarding returning to work during the pandemic.
Can I take time off work to care for myself or a loved one with Covid-19 without risking my job?
Many people are concerned about losing their position if they are forced to stay home due to illness in the home during the pandemic. Employees are protected under the Family & Medical Leave Act that allows them to take up to a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12 month period due to illness or the need to care for a family member.
This allowance guarantees that employees cannot be discriminated against if they need to take time off. To qualify for these benefits, an employee needs to have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the previous year for a company with at least 50 employees.
Will I get paid for time taken off if I have Covid-19?
Your salary coverage will be dependent on the internal policies of your specific company. Some states have regulations that allow for employees to receive paid time off if they are forced to take leave due to illness during the pandemic.
For employees of companies that employ less than 500 workers, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) allows a maximum paid leave of 80 hours at their regular salary if they are ill with Covid-19. It also allows for an additional 80 hours of paid leave and a salary rate of two-thirds. You can contact your Department of Labor for details.
Can I continue to work from home if I am uncomfortable going back into an office environment?
At this time, there is no specific legal right that states that you have the right to refuse to return to an onsite work environment. Employers have the right to determine the parameters of the employment agreement. If you are concerned about returning to work due to the pandemic, you should discuss extending your at-home routine. However, your company is not obligated to approve your request.
What do I do if my company is not following safety guidelines?
The Occupational Safety and Health Act covers infectious disease issues under their biological hazards in the workplace but, this doesn’t specifically deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. The OSHA has recently released a set of non-binding guidelines for employers to follow.
If you discover that your company is not working within those guidelines, you need to address your concerns with management first. Once the issue is addressed, if changes are not made you can file a formal complaint with the OSHA. If you become sick while at work due to the lack of proper safety precautions, you may want to contact a personal injury lawyer.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created an entirely new set of protocols within the workplace. We are all in this together, so follow the state and company guidelines, know your rights, and stay healthy.