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What are my workplace rights as an essential employee?

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2020 | COVID-19

Coronavirus is changing how Americans work. Sadly, not every employee can do their job at home. And now, some face a dilemma: come to work despite shelter-in-place orders or get fired.

This can place an undue burden on many workers in Ohio. And while the Families First statute provides some cushion, many wonder whether to risk their health or their income.

Because of this, Ohio workers should know their rights as employees.

Workers can receive protection under federal laws

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can give workers up to 12 unpaid weeks of time off for serious health conditions. But can these benefits help workers affected by coronavirus?

FMLA defines “serious health conditions” as something that requires attention from medical professional. If a worker or one of their loved ones has COVID-19, they likely got the diagnosis from a doctor. If that’s the case, they could get FMLA leave if they can show the impact it has on them and their families. Some employers may even allow workers to use PTO to cover some of their leave.

Workers could also receive help under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). To do so, they’ll likely have to prove that the condition has substantially hindered one or more major life activities. Depending on the employer, workers may even be able to receive temporary work accommodations as long as they don’t impose an undue hardship on the business.

Providing safety measures for workers

Businesses have a legal duty of care to provide a safe and healthy environment for their employees. If workers are required to come into work despite shelter-in-place orders, employers should:

  • Provide ample handwashing and cleaning supplies
  • Take workers’ temperatures every day when they come in
  • Send workers home who show signs or symptoms of COVID-19
  • Provide safety masks and other protective gear
  • Ask all workers if they’ve been in contact with someone who has coronavirus or COVID-19
  • Limit the amount of people who can be in the breakroom at a time
  • Require workers to stand a safe distance away from one another

If workers find that their employer isn’t following these rules, they should report their employer’s unsafe practices to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) immediately.

All workers deserve protection

It’s a vulnerable time for all Americans. If employers require employees to come into work, workers should know their rights if the business acts negligently. Luckily, if they do, workers can benefit from a trusted and aggressive employment law attorney.