To aid in combating the global coronavirus pandemic, the CDC has recommended that everyone take steps to protect themselves and their communities, including avoiding close contact with others. While many employees who engaged in quarantine had no other reasonable choice, many employers have retaliated against them in violation of state and federal law, firing them for their failure to come to work. In weighing whether you can afford to stay home and self-quarantine, it is important to keep in mind that if you protest your employer making you go to work against lawful orders, you cannot be retaliated against.
In this time of crisis, McOmber McOmber & Luber is particularly concerned about protecting people’s employment rights and has prepared a brief list of important considerations as well as a set of FAQs to explain how federal and state laws can protect your job, your wages, and your livelihood.
You have the right to isolate yourself if:
- You are high-risk and have been advised by a doctor to self-quarantine;
- You have contracted the virus or have symptoms of the virus;
- You are serving as a caretaker for another person who has symptoms, has been diagnosed, is at home due to an isolation order, or whose school or place of care has been closed.
Employees who chose to engage in self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic as a way of protecting themselves or others may be protected from retaliatory acts from their employers. Under federal law, specifically the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), an employee has a right to take leave related to COVID-19 if the employee is unable to work or work remotely (telework) because:
- The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order;
- The employee has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine;
- The employee is experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a test and diagnosis;
- The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to a state, local, or federal isolation order or who has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine;
- The employee is caring for a child whose school or place of child care has been closed; or
- The employee is suffering from “any other substantially-similar condition.”
In addition, recent New Jersey legislation prohibits employers from terminating or demoting employees who take, or request, time off due to an infectious disease, such as the coronavirus that could affect others at work based on a written recommendation of a doctor.
It also precludes an employer from refusing to reinstate the employee to the position held when the leave commenced with no reduction in seniority, status, employment benefits, pay or other terms and conditions of employment.
A: Employees are generally eligible if: (1) they have been exposed to the virus; (2) if they are caring for a sick family member; or (3) if school or daycare closures require them to stay home and care for a child under 18.
You are covered by the FFCRA if you work as a part-time or full-time employee in any public agency regardless of size, or in a private entity with less than 500 employees.
However, if a business is particularly small — under 50 employees — it may qualify for an exemption under one part of the act (providing paid leave for a party who is providing care for a child) if paying the employee would jeopardize the future of the business.
A: The FFCRA gives employees who test positive for coronavirus the following benefits:
– Two weeks of paid sick leave at 100% of the employee’s salary.
– Pay is capped at 80 hours for full-time employees and at up to $511 per day.
– Part-time employees must be granted the amount of hours equal to the number of hours that the employee works, on average, over a two-week period.
In instances where the employee does not have coronavirus but a family member does, the FFCRA allows for:
– Up to ten additional weeks of paid family and medical leave at 67% of the employee’s salary.
– Pay capped at $200 per day.
A: Yes. The paid sick time offered under the FFCRA must be granted in addition to any preexisting paid leave benefits. Your employer cannot modify its existing paid leave policy to avoid this obligation. Your employer also cannot require that you first use other paid leave benefits.
A: No, you cannot. The FFCRA creates a discrimination claim which makes it unlawful for any employer to discharge, discipline, or discriminate in any other manner against an employee who takes leave in accordance with the Act.
New Jersey legislation prohibits employers from terminating or demoting employees who take, or request, time off due to an infectious disease, such as the coronavirus, that could affect others at work based on a written recommendation of a doctor.
New Jersey legislation also precludes an employer from refusing to reinstate the employee to the position held when the leave commenced with no reduction in seniority, status, employment benefits, pay or other terms and conditions of employment.
A: As of April 1, 2020, emergency paid sick time is available for immediate use by the employee, regardless of the length of employment. Also, your employer cannot make you to use your preexisting leave benefits before using any emergency sick time.
A: Yes. If you work part-time, you are entitled to emergency sick time for the number of hours you work, on average, over a two week period.
A: Visit the Department of Labor’s unemployment insurance page and see if you are eligible to apply for benefits.
If you are furloughed or laid off, you are no longer eligible for paid leave under the law, though your employer must still pay you for any covered leave you had already taken at the time you were laid off or furloughed.
A: In addition to coverage under the FFCRA, you may be eligible for benefits and protections as an employee under a number of state and federal laws, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). COVID-19 worker benefits programs that may be available to you include:
-Paid sick time (state);
– Paid sick time (federal);
-Paid child sick leave; and
-Federal stimulus checks.
If you are part of a union, it is also recommended that you consult with your union about your rights during this uncertain time
A: If you feel your rights have been violated, you can file a complaint with the Department of Labor. Different procedures may apply for government employees. If your employer has more than 50 employees, you may also be able to file a lawsuit if your rights to emergency family leave have been violated.