The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the workplace for those in California, across the nation, and across the world. Under the guise of disaster, some employers have taken actions that violate federal, state, and local laws. Others have unknowingly violated employee rights as a result of uncertainty during the pandemic. During this difficult time of transition, it’s crucial that you know your rights and have the information you need to protect your job and your income. Below we’ve provided a broad overview of additional rights you have as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is a key piece of federal legislation that protects your rights to take emergency sick leave if you work for an organization with less than 500 employees. FFCRA allows you to take 80 hours of PAID sick leave in the following circumstances:
- You must quarantine or you are caring for someone who must quarantine as a result of COVID-19 exposure.
- A healthcare provider has advised you or someone you care for to self-quarantine.
- You are seeking medical treatment or diagnosis because you have experienced coronavirus symptoms.
- The school, daycare, or childcare provider you use is unavailable as a result of COVID-19, so you must care for your child(ren).
The Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) continues to provide employees with 12 weeks of UNPAID leave every 12 months if they or an immediate family member needs care for a serious health condition.
Working from Home During COVID-19
The coronavirus and associated closures and stay-at-home orders have forced some businesses to have their employees work from home when possible. Rights associated with working from home during the pandemic include:
- If you are not sick and not caring for a child because of coronavirus-related childcare issues, you are not protected if you stay home from work. There is no right to work remotely during the pandemic.
- Your employer has the right to set the terms of your employment. They can force you to work from home even if it is not your choice. Your employer might also prohibit business travel during this time.
- If you are forced to work from home as a result of coronavirus, your employer must pay you for your work, whether you are salary or hourly.
- California requires employers to reimburse employees for the cost of internet access, computers, work cell phones, and other expenses required to set up a home office.
Terminations and Layoffs During COVID-19
Coronavirus has forced businesses to terminate and layoff employees on a large scale. Rights associated with layoffs and terminations during COVID-19 include:
- FMLA and FFCRA protect you from your employer firing you if you contract COVID-19, but time limits do expire.
- The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) also provides some protection. If the coronavirus causes an underlying condition to flare up, the condition might qualify as a disability. Employers cannot fire you for a disability.
- The federal Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification (WARN) Act requires employers to give a 60-day notice in the event of a mass layoff or business closing. California has similar state legislation; however, the governor suspended the 60-day notice requirement to allow businesses to take swift action to stop or curtail the spread of coronavirus.
- If your employer sends you home or directs you not to come to work as a result of government orders or is concerned about your safety, California law does not require them to pay you. Yet, you still might qualify for paid sick leave under FFCRA
If you contracted COVID-19, and your employer terminated you, call an attorney as soon as possible. A confidential case evaluation will reveal whether your employer violated your rights. It’s also crucial to consult with an attorney before you sign a severance agreement, if applicable.
Sacramento Worker Protection, Health, and Safety Act
On June 30, 2020 Sacramento implemented the Worker Protection, Health, and Safety Act to protect employees in the workplace during COVID-19. Sacramento’s employers must adhere to the following safety protocols. You have the right to refuse to work if they violated the act:
- Employers must ensure that any high-touch areas in the workplace are disinfected and cleaned daily per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
- Employers must maintain cleaning protocols throughout the entire workplace.
- Employers must create safety protocols that describe actions to take if the workplace has been exposed to a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19.
- Employers must provide all employees access to handwashing with soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes.
- Employers must ensure all common areas, including break rooms, locker rooms, dining areas, bathrooms, conference rooms, and training rooms are cleaned daily and in between each shift.
- Employers must provide face coverings for employees to wear while working and enforce usages. You can take your mask off when you can maintain social distancing guidelines and when you have a break to eat and drink.
- Employers must establish and implement best practices ensuring proper physical distancing.
- Employers must inform employees of all the associated protocols and practices in writing, in English, and in any other language spoken by 10 percent or more of employees.
Contact an Experienced Employment Attorney if Your Employer Has Violated Your Rights During COVID-19
The employment attorneys at Perkins Asbill, A Professional Law Corporation have the experience and the resources to advocate for employees whose employers have violated their rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. If your employer has acted unlawfully towards you during COVID-19, you need a competent and knowledgeable attorney to fight for your rights.
At Perkins Asbill, A Professional Law Corporation, we pride ourselves on professional excellence, case preparation, and seeking justice for our clients. Contact us today online at 916-446-2000 for a confidential and free case evaluation to examine the viability of your claim and find the best path forward to seek justice after your rights were violated in a California workplace during COVID-19.