As the country slowly begins its transition back to working in-office, employees and employers alike may be concerned about a safe return. Even with safety guidelines in place, what happens if you or another employee gets sick? This is an uncertain time, and while it may not be possible to answer every question, it is important to understand your employee rights as you return to the office.
Case counts of COVID-19 have been fluctuating rapidly across the country, and your company’s reopening plans may not have adjusted for them. If your office is planning a reopen but you don’t feel comfortable, are you allowed to refuse? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Fear that you may get sick is not a legal reason to stay home once your office legally reopens. However, if you have a preexisting condition that makes it more dangerous if you fall ill to COVID-19, you may have further protections to stay home under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and/or California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). These laws may require employers to discuss more appropriate and reasonable accommodations with you. Whether you have a preexisting condition or not, feeling scared to return to the office is normal. While employment law may not allow you to refuse the return, it doesn’t hurt to have an open and honest conversation with your employer to see if they are willing to accommodate you.
A safe return to office life will likely include guidelines for each employee, such as a requirement to wear masks and daily temperature checks. Your employer has the right to deny you entry to the office should you refuse to partake in either of these safety measures. However, employers that require masks should provide them for employees who do not have one, and temperature checks are required to be kept confidential. Even if your temperature is above the normal limits, your employer is required to use discretion; if they inform the rest of the team, they cannot identify you by name.
School has ended for many children, and the global pandemic has left many without summer camps or childcare to attend. If you are stuck at home with your children and cannot go into the office because of it, do not worry. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires your employer to provide you with up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave should you need to take care of your kids. Even though the first 2 weeks are unpaid, the following 10 weeks are paid at 2/3 your regular rate of pay, capped at $200 per day or $10,000 per employee, if you cannot find accommodations for your children.
The state of our world is uncertain for everyone, and your employer’s decision regarding whether or not to reopen offices should not be a cause for stress or concern. If you feel your company’s reopening plan violates one or more of your employee rights, schedule a free consultation, or give us a call at (949) 753-9100.
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