We are currently living in a time of great uncertainty and stress as we try to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our community. All of us are worried about the safety and security of our families. An area of great concern is the impact the coronavirus will have on the economy and the workplace. Quarantine, the inability to go to work, and the resulting loss of a job and a paycheck can have a devastating impact on workers. An estimated 18% of working U.S. adults have been let go or had their work hours reduced due to the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus, according to a recent survey conducted by Marist, National Public Radio and PBS. The Law Offices of Jason E Taylor P.C are ready to answer the questions of employees who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
- Due to coronavirus, my employer has cut my hours, or terminated my employment. What can I do?
Workers in this situation should immediately file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits. These benefits are also available to workers who lose their jobs due to a “temporary shutdown.” For example, restaurant workers whose restaurants are closed for several weeks due to the orders issued by the governors of North Carolina and South Carolina may be eligible to collect unemployment benefits. The state governments in North Carolina and South Carolina have acted in the last several days to make it easier for impacted workers to collect unemployment benefits.
- I was terminated because of the coronavirus. What about my health insurance?
Workers who are terminated or have their hours reduced to a level that would render them unable to continue coverage as an active employee will suffer a loss of their employer provided health insurance. If this happens, the employer is required to offer COBRA continuation coverage to impacted employees and their dependents previously covered under the employer’s group health plan. If you are terminated or have your hours reduced, remember to ask your employer about receipt of your COBRA notice. The wise employee will be proactive to ensure the receipt of the information and documents that need to be submitted in order to avoid the interruption of their healthcare coverage.
- I have a disability. Is my employer required to provide me with reasonable accommodations related to the coronavirus?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) protects disabled employees in the workplace and may require employers to provide employees with reasonable accommodations. If you have a disability that puts you at greater risk because of the coronavirus, such as asthma, COPD, or an illness that results in a compromised immune system, your employer may be required to provide you with a reasonable accommodation such as telecommuting. Having a common cold or seasonal flu is not a disability. However, complications from coronavirus, such as pneumonia, might be a disability. If you experience these complications, workers should have a conversation with their supervisor or the Human Resources department at their worksite and request an accommodation under the ADA.
- What if I become sick at work with coronavirus symptoms. Can my employer send me home?
The ADA does not interfere with or prevent employers from following the guidelines and suggestions of the federal Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) or state/local public health authorities. The CDC recommends that employees who become sick with coronavirus symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) should be separated from other employees and sent home immediately. So yes, your employer can send you home.
- How much information may an employer request from an employee who calls in sick?
During a pandemic, employers covered by the ADA may ask employees if they are experiencing symptoms of the pandemic virus. For coronavirus, the employer can ask about symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat. Employers must keep all information about an employee’s illness as a confidential medical record.
- Can I lose my job if I miss work because I’m sick with coronavirus or if I stay home to care for a seriously ill family member with coronavirus?
If you work for an employer with at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite, you have worked there for at least a year, and you worked at least 1250 hours in the year before you take time off, then your employer must provide you with up to 12 weeks of job protected time off to care for yourself, or a parent, spouse, or child under the Family Medical Leave Act.
- Because of the fear of the coronavirus, my employer has treated me differently than my coworkers because I am Chinese or from another country. Is that illegal?
Yes, an employer who mistreats you because of your race or national origin is violating the law. The law prevents employers from taking action that singles you out because of negative stereotypes. For example, an employer cannot send home or terminate a Chinese employee because of fear of the “Chinese Coronavirus.”
The Law Offices of Jason E Taylor have lawyers experienced in employment law and who are available to answer your questions regarding the coronavirus and its impact on your workplace.