Workplace Rights and COVID-19

Employment Law /

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised a variety of interesting new questions about workplace rights. These issues range from protective gear to remote work accommodations.

To help you better understand how the law works in this regard, let’s walk through some basic workplace rights questions.

Can Employees Who Are Not Sick Request Telecommuting Accommodations?

The short answer is no — employers are not required to offer remote work to employees who fear contracting the virus from office exposure. However, there are certain situations where state and federal laws allow workers to take time off or work from home. A COVID-related school closure would be one example. However, the amount of time off is generally capped.

Can Employers Require You to Telecommute?

The answer here is yes — although some states, such as California, require employers to cover some of the cost of setting up a home office.

Can An Employer Require Masks?

Yes, employers are allowed by the law to require masks and other forms of PPE.

Can Employers Require COVID tests?

Employers generally have the legal right to require viral tests. Most states require that these tests be job-related or necessary for the safe functioning of the business. Employers may also ask whether workers have symptoms, take their temperatures and conduct basic examinations. Decisions to send workers home must be made in a uniform fashion.

Can a Sick Worker Be Identified by an Employer?

No, employers must respect the privacy rights of workers.

Are Workers Entitled to Time Off?

Workers are generally entitled to extended unpaid sick leave, which extends up to 12 weeks in some states.

Can An Employer Require Vaccination?

Yes, in most cases employers are allowed to require vaccinations. However, they must make reasonable accommodations. For example, if someone has a medical condition that makes a vaccination dangerous, an exemption may be available. Employers may attempt to terminate workers who refuse vaccinations and do not have cause for an exemption

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