With many states reopening, many employees may be nervous about returning to work. If you feel that your boss is calling you back too soon, is there anything you can do?
Many Americans were furloughed or worked from home during the early weeks of the pandemic and are fearful of returning to the workplace as the economy reopens. Unfortunately, fear is not a legal reason for refusing to work, however, if you have been diagnosed with a mental health disability exacerbated by working during the pandemic, you may ask for an accommodation to continue your work from home under the ADA. Under federal law, employers cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religious sex age or disability.
What if I Do Not Have a Disability, but Underlying Health Conditions That Make Me Fearful to Return to Work?
The national guidelines for vulnerable individuals returning to work call for accommodations until the third phase of reopening – many states are still in phase one. Vulnerable populations include the elderly and employees with serious underlying health conditions such as diabetes or asthma, who more susceptible to serious illness with the COVID-19 disease and should return to work later than those who are younger and in good health. However, guidelines are not orders so if you are asked to return to work now, it is important to make your concerns known to your employer pointing to the recommendations.
Pregnancy Concerns When Returning to Work During Covid-19
Pregnancy is another issue that has employees worried as states across the nation ease shutdowns and workers are asked to return. The national guidelines do not identify pregnant women as vulnerable workers, however, some states have laws that obligate employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. Under the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”) for example, pregnancy is among the list of protected classes against discrimination. Like the federal law, Illinois employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees for any medical or common condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. Accommodations may include a modification or change to the work environment during Covid-19 depending on the situation.
OSHA Violations: What if My Employer is Not Following CDC Guidelines for a Safe Return to Work?
Employers have responsibility to provide a safe workplace free of known hazards – a tall order during Covid-19. To achieve that standard, employers must implement a number of safeguards such as social distancing, use of healthy hygiene practices, and having sick employees stay home. If your employer is not meeting their obligation, it is important raise your concerns with your supervisor. If your employer fails to mitigate problems in the workplace related to Covid-19 safety, you may need to file a complaint with OSHA. If you are retaliated against for raising workplace health and safety concerns, it is illegal. Seek the help of an experienced employment law attorney if you suffer workplace retaliation including wrongful termination related to whistleblower law.
If I Catch Covid 19 on the Job, am I Covered Under Workers’ Compensation?
Policy on whether workers comp is payable for Covid 19 is evolving, but many states have extended coverage to essential workers, such as healthcare workers and grocery store employees. Contact an experienced Quad-Cities workers’ compensation lawyer for help with your questions regarding Illinois and Iowa Workers’ Compensation laws.