Covid-19 Pandemic: Can Your Employer Force You to Return to Work?
We are living in unprecedented times with the COVID-19 pandemic, and all of us, employers included, are trying to figure out how to navigate living a normal life. Many companies are having to get used to using software such as Wandera to help them find a secure way of working from different locations. Software like this allows employees to access work-related documents and programs from home while using a safe server and avoiding cyber-attack. Furthermore, Wandera and similar services offer a zero-trust platform which means these employees must use a password or code to access these work files – working from home has never been safer. Some employees are now so comfortable in their working from home routine that they don’t feel too excited about returning to the office. However, employers often prefer having their workers altogether in one office so many have begun sending out a COVID-19 Return to Office Memo to encourage workers to return. Finding ways to return to a normal workday is proving one of the most difficult. Many people have reason to stay home, from their own and loved ones’ health issues to having small children whose schools are not in person. While employees would like to be able to choose when they physically return to work, it may ultimately be out of the employees’ hands. The employer is typically the one to make the decision on when the employees return to work. And Rossetti & Devoto, PC is a New Jersey workplace injury lawyer who can help you figure out what your employer can and cannot do in these strange times.
In most instances, if an employer wants you to return to work, you have to listen to them. There are certain situations, however, where there may be grounds for you to work from home instead. As a New Jersey workplace injury lawyer, we want to make sure you are aware of your options.
Are You an Essential Worker?
If you are considered an essential worker, and each state has a different definition, some of the few ways for you to be able to get time off would be if you were sick, exposed to the virus, or are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Coverage by the two acts applies to all employees. If you believe you are at a high risk of contracting the virus, look to see which medical conditions are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many conditions that qualify a person as high risk are covered under the act. You may want to talk to your doctor about your health risks as well. If you are unsure, talking to a New Jersey workplace injury lawyer is a way to confirm or deny whether or not you qualify. If you do need to go back to work, you will personally want to have extra precautions put in place for yourself, such as wearing a suitable and protective face mask. You can click here now to see what face masks you can get and which ones will be more suitable for the area that you work in.
Do You Have a Contract?
If you have a contract with your employer, they may be able to force you to come back to work as per the contract. You are under no legal obligation to go back to work, however, if your workplace is unsafe. A workplace that is not Covid-secure is in breach of health and safety regulations and is therefore unfit to be a workplace. This could be down to a few things, such as no social-distancing measures in place, or no provision of PPE. Talk to your employer about how you feel they could improve their safety measures, maybe consider looking at SciQuip’s range of PPE, to see if you can come to an agreement. If your employer is refusing to provide adequate safety measures, you should then talk with a New Jersey workplace injury lawyer to see what you can do.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was recently passed. This gives a longer leave for employees working at a company that has less than 500 employees in the event that you need childcare because of COVID-19 closings or they have been ordered by a healthcare provider to quarantine or they are caring for someone who must quarantine as a result of the virus.
Making an Appeal
You can also appeal to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) if you feel as though your workplace is unsafe as a result of COVID-19.
The problem with both of these options is that you need concrete evidence that there are ways you are being directly endangered by COVID-19 at your place of work. If you are unsure about certain circumstances that you have faced, contact a New Jersey workplace injury lawyer and speak with them about whether or not this would qualify under OSHA or NLRB.
Contact Rossetti & DeVoto, PC, Today
If you are being forced back to work by your employer, it is important that you speak to an experienced workplace attorney about your situation. Call the office of Rossetti & DeVoto, PC, today to schedule a free case evaluation at 856-354-0900.