COVID-19 (the coronavirus) has been declared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a public health emergency. The coronavirus is rapidly spreading and businesses are already enforcing various strategies such as:
- Allowing employees to work from home
- Encouraging sick employees to stay home
- Providing flexible sick leave policies
- Temporary business closure
How does this affect the rights and obligations of employers and their employees?
Can I be fired if I stay home and self-quarantine?
Employees can be terminated for not showing up to work without any notice and if they don’t have any paid sick leave to use.
Los Angeles is one of the cities that requires employers to provide paid sick days to employees. Employees who use their sick leave are protected from retaliation.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may also provide some assistance if employees get sick. However, it doesn’t guarantee that the employee will get paid while not at work.
Employees affected by the coronavirus may file for Disability Insurance (DI) under the Employment Development Department (EDD) regulations.
Employees who have reduced work hours may file Unemployment Insurance (UI) with the EDD as well.
Employers who require their employees to come to work even when they are infected with the COVID-19 are in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. OSHA requires employers to provide a work environment “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Under OSHA, employees have the right to refuse to work if they feel that they may be exposed to the virus.
Most employees in California are considered to be “at-will” employees. This means that employees are free to leave their jobs at any time and employers are at the same time free to fire employees at any time for any lawful reason, or no reason at all.
If an employee is worried, employers should listen to their employees’ concerns and make sure that they provide a safe and healthy workplace, with policies that are not discriminatory or unlawful.
Contact Mesriani Law Group at (310) 826-6300 for more information on employee rights and employer obligations.