Best Employment Attorney
Answer: What Should I do if I’ve been around someone with Coronavirus? Is my
workplace required to have a COVID-19 policy? Can I report a co-worker showing
symptoms or signs of COVID-19? Do I have to go to work if I suspect that a
coworker have Covid-19? Can I be fired for taking time off for the Coronavirus?
Will FMLA cover an absence for myself or family members? Does my work have to
report if another employee has Coronavirus? Can my job make Asian jokes about having Coronavirus?
The Coronavirus outbreak, or COVID-19, has created global chaos and
confusion. Little is known about the virus itself and many businesses are
panicking and having trouble developing sensible workplace policies. With so
many questions surrounding what employers can and can’t do in regards to a
global outbreak such as we find ourselves in, the top Ohio employment law attorneys at The Spitz Law Firm, LLC have put
together a comprehensive need to know list of answers to common questions
surrounding the virus and its spread. (see our earlier blogs – Coronavirus:
What Will Happen At Work?; Our
Handling Of The Coronavirus (Covid-19) Outbreak).
First question, what does the Coronavirus look like? In other
words, what are the symptoms and signs of the virus? The symptoms begin with
respiratory infections an illness, fever, a cough, and difficulty breathing or
shortness of breath. If you exhibit any of these signs, be sure to seek the
help of a healthcare professional.
How does the virus spread? Coronavirus is spread from others who
have the virus. Small droplets from the nose or mouth of someone who has the
virus can be dispersed through coughing or exhaling. Coming in contact with the
droplets with your hands and then rubbing your hands, mouth, or eye areas can
cause the disease to manifest itself.
What is the best way to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus? For
the most part, the best way to prevent the spread of Coronavirus is to take all
the normal flu-season precautions: Wash your hands frequently with soap and
water or use hand sanitizer if soap and water is not an option. If you are
sick, stay home from work. It is what is best for you and your co-workers.
Cover your mouth either with a tissue or your sleeve when you sneeze or cough
and encourage others to do the same. Lastly, try to keep a healthy distance
from those who are sick.
If an employee appears sick, what are the employer’s options? Employers
ca legally tell employees to stay home or leave work if the employee is showing
signs of Coronavirus or other illnesses. (See: Am
I Entitled To Paid Sick Leave?) Employers are also inclined and allowed to
suggest that the employee seek medical attention or get tested for Coronavirus.
If a co-worker tests positive for Coronavirus, what should your
employer do? In this type of situation with the Coronavirus being such an
epidemic, it is best for your employer to send all employees home for a 14-day
period in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Your employer cannot
under any circumstances, reveal to the staff the name of the individual who
tested positive. Further, your employer should have the office cleaned –
scrubbed and disinfected.
Can you refuse to go to work because you are afraid of contracting Coronavirus?
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”) only allows employees to refuse to come
in to work if they belief that there is an imminent or immediate threat to
their health. The standard for this is rather high, stating in section 13(a)
that “imminent danger” means “any conditions or practices in any place of
employment which are such that a danger exists which can reasonably be expected
to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or before the imminence of
such danger can be eliminated though the enforcement procedures otherwise
provided by this Act.” According to OSHA’s policy, this means that
you can only refuse to go into work out of fear of the Coronavirus if (1) you
have asked your boss to address and eliminate the danger (2) you refuse in
“good faith” meaning you genuinely believe your life to be in imminent danger
(3) a reasonable person in the same position as you would concur that such an
imminent threat exists and (4) there isn’t time to correct the danger through
the normal OSHA inspection process.
Can my co-workers or employer make jokes about Coronavirus to me
because of my national origin or race? No. Unfortunately, Asian-American
workers are facing a lot of backlash and prejudice because the Coronavirus
originated in China. This is a form of race
discrimination and can open them up for a potential lawsuit. It is also
discriminatory practice to assume for any reason that any individual may have
Coronavirus simply based on their national origin. Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 and Ohio
Revised Code § 4112.01 et seq. prohibit the discrimination in any
way of any employee for any reason based on race/color, national origin, gender/sex,
For more information about these types of discrimination, see what the top Ohio
attorneys have to say in some of our other blogs (See Employment
Law: What Is Race Discrimination?; Can
I Sue If An Employer Will Not Hire Me Because I’m Too Old?; Help!
My Boss Harasses Me For My Religious Beliefs; and Do
I Have A Disability Discrimination Case?).
Does the Family
and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”)
cover time taken off because of Coronavirus? As long as you meet the
requirements under FMLA which provides that (1) the employee has to have worked
for at least 1250 hours in the preceding year, (2) the employer must employ at
least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius, and (3) the employees can only use
the FMLA leave for their own serious health condition or to care for a family
member with a serious health condition. Our top employment
law lawyers have discussed the FMLA at length in previous blogs (See FMLA
Retaliation Tips – Call The Right Attorney; My
Job Won’t Let Me Back From Medical Leave. Help!; and Can
My FMLA Leave Count Against Me At Work?).
Can I be
fired for taking time off under the FMLA to help a family member who has
Coronavirus? As our employment law lawyers have previously blogged about,
it is unlawful for employers to terminate or take other adverse employment
action against employees who seek to use FMLA leave. If you satisfy the three
factors in the above paragraph for FMLA leave, your employer cannot take
adverse employment action against you for taking such leave. (see What Is An Adverse Employment Action?) If you were fired for taking FMLA
leave or even asking about it, you may have a good claim for wrongful termination or unlawful retaliation.
Is Coronavirus considered a disability under the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”)?
Generally speaking, no. The ADA only considers as a disability those physical
or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life
activities. Although the Coronavirus would substantially limit such activities,
the Act was not written for short term illnesses and courts will often not
recognize such illnesses as being a disability. For more about the ADA see what
the top Ohio employment
attorneys have to say. (See: Do
I Have A Disability Discrimination Case?; How
Do I Get A Medical Accommodation?; and My
Employer Will Not Provide Me With A Reasonable Accommodation For My Disability.
I Need The Top Disability Discrimination Lawyer In Ohio!).
Our attorneys have done the best that we can to address as many aspects
of Coronavirus issues as they arise. But, out lawyers know that more questions
arise as this situation continues to develop. Rest assured, the entire law firm
is continuing to monitor the situation and will continue to blog answers to new
questions as they come up.
If you are searching “I need a lawyer
because I have been wrongfully fired or
terminated;” or “I have been
discriminated against or harassed based on my …” race, national origin, gender, age, religion or disability; or even think that you might need an
employment lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney
to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Call our
lawyers in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Cincinnati to get help now. The Spitz Law Firm and its attorneys are
experienced and dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving