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What Employees Need to Know Amid the Coronavirus COVID-19 Outbreak

March 15th, 2020

Nationwide, the coronavirus COVID-19 is reaching epic proportions with far-reaching consquences for many. “Social distancing” are quickly becoming the new buzzwords. How does this affect businesses and their workers?

Employees may have many questions regarding their rights in the workplace – including time off and wages – amid the coronavirus pandemic.  Our legal team is available to speak to workers during this difficult time. Following are some common concerns and scenarios American workers may be facing.

If My Employer Closes the Company as a Precautionary Measure, Will I Get Paid?

There are different classifications of employees and workers: exempt, non-exempt, and independent contractor. If your employer closes their physical locations, here are the answers to some basic pay questions:

Exempt: Exempt employees are the class of employees who are salaried and “exempt” from overtime.  If an exempt employee performs any work from home, they will be paid their normal wages.

Non-Exempt: Non-exempt employees are paid on an hourly basis for any work performed. If a business closes, the employer is not required to pay hourly workers unless work from home is approved. If work from home is not an option, the employee may request to apply PTO time that they have available. It is important to note that an employer is allowed to ask for documentation (i.e. timesheet, call-ins, etc.) to verify the hours that the non-exempt employee has completed.

Independent Contractor: An independent contractor is typically not under the control of the business and is paid when the project is complete. If concerns and delays arise due to the coronavirus, project deadlines for independent contractors may need to be adjusted.

What if I get Diagnosed with the Coronavirus?

The CDC has advised anyone with an illness or flu-like symptoms to stay home. Moreover, those infected or exposed to cornovirus must be in quarantine for 14 days. Your employer cannot penalize you for missing work due to the coronavirus. Here are a few of your rights to be aware of during this public health crisis:

  • Although you must disclose to your employer that you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, your employer cannot identify you to other workers nor can they require you to report to work despite your illness.
  • You can request to use any available PTO time so that you can get paid during your absence. An employer is not required to pay you during your absence from work if no PTO is available.
  • In some states, you may be able to apply for short-term disability to obtain compensation during your recovery and time off from work due to the coronavirus.

Does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Protect Me if I have Coronavirus?

The ADA provides protections to workers diagnosed with COVID-19. Your employer cannot disclose your identity to others at work. Furthermore, an employer cannot terminate you due to your coronavirus diagnosis or for missing time from work due to the illness. If you return to work following your recovery from the virus, your employer must reinstate you to your same position or a similarly situated one with equal pay, hours, schedule, etc.

What Comes Next?

In coming weeks, many businesses may opt to have some employees work remotely to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. If you are approved for work from home, it is important to be diligent and complete all work as if you were onsite. Do not abuse the privilege, and keep in mind that employers have the right to “check-up” on employees to ensure the work is getting done. Conversely, employers are required to pay workers for any and all work completed, regardless of where it takes place.

If you have additional questions or concerns about your rights and safety during the coronavirus outbreak, do not hesitate to contact us. It is critical that both workers and employers take all possible precautions to contain and prevent the spread of this deadly virus.

For more information, call the experienced legal team at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. at 215-569-1999. With over 40 years experience, we fight for employees’ rights in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Florida.

Read our previous post regarding an emergency paid sick leave bill that is pending due to the coronavirus.

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