COVID-19 Employment and Claims Frequently Asked Questions for Employees
Can I be fired for reporting my employer for not following COVID guidelines?
Maybe. If you report a violation of law, such as the Governor’s Executive Order or the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry regulations, then you cannot be fired (technically, yes you can be fired, but it would be wrongful and you can sue). But, if you report a “violation” of a CDC Guidance or other standard that is not “law” then you are not protected from termination.
Can I refuse to work if I am not permitted to wear a mask?
It depends on the job you are in and the industry. If a mask is required by law and your employer will not let you wear one, you have some protection. But in other jobs where the mask may interfere with your work, and if you are in an exempt industry, then you may be terminated if you will not work.
Can I refuse to wear a mask if my employer mandates I wear one?
If you bring in a medical note or can show a religious objection to the mask, you may be able to work without a mask. It is a case by case basis and depends on your job duties.
Can my employer require me to self-quarantine if I travel outside of the state, country, or to what is considered a “hot spot”?
Yes, you can be required to quarantine, i.e., stay home and not come to the office. But the employer may need to pay you depending on whether there is a law or governmental rule about travel to that area.
Can employees refuse to travel if it is a normal part of their job duties?
Maybe. If they have a medical reason, they can request an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that they be allowed not to travel.
Pay and Vacation/Sick Leave
Am I owed pay if I am sent home early from work or told not to come in for a scheduled shift due to a COVID-19 contraction at my work?
Not necessarily. Your employer could order a mandatory day off without pay as long as it applies to everyone. If it is selectively applied, then your employer needs a reason for the different treatment, or it could be discriminatory.
Can my employer take away or deny my use of accrued vacation time because of COVID-19 traveling rules or company financial restraints?
Generally not. Accrued leave is a benefit you have already earned. But companies can change their leave policies going forward and even eliminate paid leave (except for required paid leave due to COVID).
Can my employer send me home if I am exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19? If so, am I owed pay for the day?
Yes. You can take paid leave if you have it available. Otherwise it can be unpaid.
COVID-19 Contraction and Medical Related Questions
Can I lose my job if I miss work because I am sick with COVID-19?
You have the right to two weeks semi-paid leave depending on the size of your employer. If you cannot return after that, if your employer has at least 50 employees then you must be given a total of 90 days of FMLA leave.
Can an employer require that employees with symptoms of COVID-19 be tested?
You cannot be forced to be tested but you can be kept out of the workplace until tested or until you have not been symptomatic for a number of days.
If I am in self-isolation or contract COVID-19, is that information kept confidential?
You co-workers can be told that someone in the workplace may have COVID-19. They can be given enough information to determine if they are at risk, even if that information will allow them to figure out you are the person with COVID. They are not supposed to be given your name directly.
If an employee contracts COVID-19, can an employer require the employee to use sick time and/or other paid time off?
Can my employer ask me if I have a health condition (like a compromised immune system) that would be affected by coronavirus?
ADA and Reasonable Accommodations
Would an employee who is afraid or anxious of contacting COVID-19 in the workplace be eligible an ADA claim for a reasonable accommodation?
Perhaps. If the level of anxiety is long term and rises to the level of a disability under the ADA, then the employee may be entitled to an accommodation depending on other circumstances.
Can my employer deny a COVID-19 related ADA claim if I am able to provide the necessary documentation from my doctors?
The employer may challenge the medical support and have its own doctor examine you (at the employer’s expense) and then engage in a process to determine if you qualify for an accommodation.
FFCRA and FMLA
If an employer requires an employee to self-quarantine for any reason would the employee with no leave available be eligible for emergency paid leave under FFCRA?
Probably. Very small employers have an exemption if the leave is too expensive for them. Large employers (over 500 employees) are not covered by the FFCRA.
If an employee takes FMLA leave for his or her own serious health condition related to COVID-19, is the employee also eligible to use FFCRA?
The FMLA and FFCRA can run at the same time.
Is the COVID-19 virus an FMLA qualifying condition and will I be able to use FMLA leave?
Yes, if your employer has 50 employees and you meet the other qualifications for FMLA.
My child’s daycare or school is closed because of COVID-19. Can I take time off to care for my child?
You can take 10 weeks of leave for partial pay. Very small employers may be able to claim an exemption from this requirement. Large employers (over 500 employees) are not covered by this law.
Can I lose my job if I need to stay home to care for a seriously ill family member with COVID-19?
If you are eligible for FMLA, then you can take 90 days FMLA leave.
If you have questions related to your employment and COVID-19, please call or text us to schedule a consultation.