The big and difficult issue involves employees returning to a workplace but only with safe work conditions. Pressures exist on both sides of the equation, with employers seeking a return of employees and increased productivity, and employees needing jobs, under safe conditions. Unemployment claims, as an aside, are moving along at a snail’s pace. Headlines range from “Corporate America seeks legal protection for when coronavirus lockdowns lift” to “What to do if you’re worried about returning to work as coronavirus lockdowns are lifted” New legislation has already touched upon immunities and employer protections but employee rights are still evolving. Opt out provisions for small businesses exist but it would appear most businesses must allow paid leave for employees of two weeks for lockdowns or illnesses and unpaid leave beyond to take care of children. Stay tuned as case law develops.
Note that state and federal disability law protections still give employees rights to request reasonable accommodations in work situations, including return to work situations. This often involves good faith negotiation between employee and employer over safe conditions and whether any proposed reasonable accommodation causes the employer an undue hardship. This negotiation is called an interactive process. Employees may have pre-existing health conditions which could cause an unsafe return to work without precautions for specific efforts by the employer required. This area if of course developing with no case law on Covid applications but make sure you put requests in writing, make them reasonable, and be willing to negotiate, preferably through email.
MMA (Margolius, Margolius and Associates) counsels employees on how to effectively seek accommodations and return to work, or seek leave, in this difficult environment. See also: Article on Workplace Rights