US Businesses Continue to Create Procedures to Deal with Coronavirus Concerns. Employee Rights, Such as Pay and Sick Leave, Must Be A Part of the Discussion

Employee Rights During the Coronavirus Outbreak What US Employee Need to Know. wage and hour law, sick leave law, coronavirus, covid-19, work from home law, hourly workers, employment, paid time off, telecommuting, outbreak

In one week’s time, the United States went from worrying about the Coronavirus to dealing with an outbreak of Covid 19. Testing supplies are limited, and there is no known cure. Rather than employers taking any risks, many are starting to develop plans to help keep their employees, customers, and non-employees safe from possible infection.

Employees, in the meantime, are worried about their rights to work and get paid if they get infected or if their company chooses to close as a precaution. Even amid a global health pandemic, United States employees have rights and are protected by wage and hour and other laws.

Which Employees Deserve to Get Paid?

The biggest concern for most employees is whether they get paid while a company is closed. There are three types of employees:

  • Exempt (Salary)
  • Non-Exempt (Hourly)
  • Contract

Exempt employees are salaried employees. They are exempt from overtime pay. In general, as long as they do anything related to work (send an email, return a call, draft a memo, etc.), they are entitled to their full pay under wage and hour laws. If your company closes, an exempt employee may get paid their full weekly salary if they do some work from their home.

Non-exempt employees will only get paid for the hours they work. If they cannot work from home, there is no legal obligation to pay them unless they choose to use paid time off (PTO). However, if they do any work from home, a non-exempt employee must be paid. Many employers will request a detailed timesheet to prove completed work.

Contract employees are paid under a contract. Typically, the agreement requires a project to be completed. When the project is completed, or at different points throughout the contract, the employer pays the contractor. The terms of the agreement may need renegotiations if the deadline needs an extension due to Covid 19.

What Are the Rights of Employees Who Contract Coronavirus?

Precautionary measures to protect everyone from Coronavirus is only one of many issues employees worry about. The more important question is, what happens if they get the Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a global health concern. Many people may choose to go to work and keep it quiet that they tested positive for the Coronavirus. While an employer cannot mandate everyone who is sick get tested, he can mandate that an employee discloses to the employer a positive test.

Your employer cannot disclose your name to your coworkers. However, he can let others in the company know there is a confirmed case at work. This notification allows other employees and staff to take proper precautions.

In the meantime, the highly contagious nature of the Coronavirus, your boss has the right to request you stay home. As a matter of fact, the medical community will likely insist upon a quarantine until you are better.

You have the right to use PTO to get paid. You may, in some states, such as California and New Jersey, have the right to apply for temporary disability if you do not have enough PTO to cover your time in quarantine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made it clear that anyone infected with the Coronavirus, you are not to go to work. Your employer does not have the right to violate this suggestion by insisting you come to work even with a positive Covid 19 result.

Can a Remote Work Environment Help Protect Employees from Coronavirus in the Office?

Employers have several options they can impose to protect employees and ease their fears of the Covid 19 outbreak. One of the more cost-effective options is to allow employees to work remotely. Working remotely allows employees to remain productive while keeping them safe. If also give an employer the ability to disinfect the office space through a comprehensive deep cleaning.

If your employer allows remote work, he must have bonafide measures for employees to maintain communication with supervisors and managers and report productivity. Labor laws and wage and hour laws insist that non-exempt employees are paid for all hours worked. Since they cannot clock in and out through traditional means available in the office, an employer may need to implement a computer login, phone call in, or timesheet submissions.

Working from home does not give employees a pass to be unproductive. However, it also does not give employers permission to deny pay to employees or violate wage and hour laws.

Does an Employee Quarantine Due to Covid 19 Automatically Receive Pay During Time Off?

There is currently no law to require employers to pay employees forced into quarantine due to a positive Coronavirus test. Therefore, an employer is not mandated to pay any employee quarantined with Coronavirus.

However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will provide other rights to quarantined employees. An employer will be prohibited from firing an employee simply because he is isolated. Furthermore, when she can return to work, she is to return to the same or similar position, same pay, and the same schedule.

Finally, the ADA prohibits an employer from disclosing the employee’s illness to coworkers. While an employer can notify staff there is a confirmed case in the office, she may not disclose the employee’s name.

Are you worried about a Coronavirus outbreak in your office? Is your employer taking the proper precautions to protect you from getting sick? Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about employment law or need any further information.

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About Derek Smith

Attorney Derek T. Smith is an experienced sexual harassment & discrimination law litigator who has particular experience in the areas of workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, civil rights litigation, employment law and civil litigation.

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