Coronavirus and Your Employment: Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and the Workplace

Workers everywhere have had plenty of questions about COVID-19 and the workplace since the onset of the pandemic. Below, the team at Hux Law Firm has answers to the most common questions that employees often have.

Can I refuse to come to work to avoid getting sick?

Each employer must have specifically-stated expectations and guidelines for employees to follow when an outbreak occurs at a place of employment. Guidelines regarding practices during times where there are no actively sick employees must be provided to employees as well. Local and state regulations can change frequently, and employers must attempt to keep up with changing regulations. As an employee who is not working remotely, you will need to review the policies that your employer has laid out for exposure and daily attendance during the pandemic.

Can I collect unemployment benefits if I quit my job due to COVID-19?

There are qualifying circumstances that can be related to COVID-19 that might make you eligible for unemployment benefits. If you have quit your job due to COVID-19, you might be able to access unemployment. You cannot quit your job just to utilize unemployment benefits, however, and there must be a qualifying cause in order for you to be able to apply for unemployment.

Do I have to wear a face-covering at work if I do not work in a healthcare setting?

OSHA has stated that masking guidelines must be in compliance with CDC guidelines. These requirements have changed many times over the course of the pandemic, and certain kinds of jobs must comply with masking regulations while others might not be required to do so. Cloth face masks are not considered to be personal protective equipment (PPE) and might not qualify as an approved face covering. Employees should check the current CDC guidelines for masking and also refer to their employer’s masking policy.

What can I do if I have been fired for raising concerns over COVID-19 compliance at my place of work?

Section 11 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 prohibits employers from retaliating against workers that have exercised their rights as guaranteed by the law. You should not be fired for raising concerns or filing a complaint with OSHA. If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated as a result of concern over COVID-19 policies, you will want to consider seeking legal counsel.

When can I return to work after being diagnosed with COVID-19?

The CDC offers guidelines for a safe return to work which have been adjusted over the course of the pandemic. You will need to verify what the current home isolation recommendations are, and your employer should provide guidelines that are in compliance with the CDC.

Where can I go to get tested for COVID-19?

The CDC has provided ample information about testing site locations and policies on their website, and you should also be able to reach out to your doctor’s office or the hospital facility in your local area to find testing centers near you.

Does my employer have to notify me if someone has tested positive who works with me?

OSHA does not require that employees be notified about the health conditions of other workers. Employers must still take all the right steps to protect other employees from exposure, however. You might not be informed about who has been sick or whether or not someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19 due to HIPPA and OSHA guidelines, but you should expect that your workplace will take the right steps to isolate the infected worker and to clean and sanitize areas where they have been working.

The CDC has made it clear that employers can identify employees who might have been exposed to this infected person and tell them that they can go get tested due to possible exposure.

Has OSHA changed its respiratory protection requirements for industries like the construction industry?

As of this time, OSHA has not changed the respiratory requirements that are in place for construction sites. These are the same guidelines as were in place before the pandemic began. Protection for construction is still governed by industry standards, and workers exposed to dust, chemicals, and other matter will still have to wear proper face coverings and protection while working.

Does wearing a mask cause me to be unable to breathe properly?

Masks do not impact your ability to get enough oxygen while you are wearing them. So long as you are wearing a mask that is made of breathable material, you will be safe to wear this mask all day long at work. If you are concerned about your ability to breathe while wearing a mask, you should consider getting a medical mask or an N-95 mask to protect you while you are at work.

We hope we have provided some answers to your questions, but if you’re still unsure regarding how COVID-19 will continue to impact your employment then contact Hux Law Firm.