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Employees rights during the pandemic

There is a lot of concern about what the world will look like once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. Many workers wonder if they will be able to hold onto their job or get it back. Many businesses are hanging on, hoping the company is strong enough to survive this unprecedented (in modern times) challenge.

Those businesses still open now likely have employees working remotely unless the company is classified as essential. These companies are just trying to stay in business and give their employees a paycheck, but there are some fundamental rules in regards to employee rights. No law is more important than remembering that employers cannot unfairly single out employees.

Unfair treatment

The employer may just be trying to stay in business or protect its workers, but they cannot take any of the following actions:

  • They cannot tell an employee to remain at work while they send home other workers with the same job, nor can employers tell an employee to go home, while requiring others who do the same work to stay.
  • The employer cannot treat a worker differently because the employer believes the worker carries the virus -- it is illegal to make assumptions about a worker’s health.
  • The employer cannot ask about the health of a worker, but the company can encourage employees to stay home if they are sick.
  • If businesses remain open, they should not expect employees to work until they are not contagious, and a medical professional clears them to return.
  • The company cannot target employees because of their ethnic make-up, but they can ask employees to self-quarantine if they have traveled or been exposed to a known carrier of the virus.
  • Employers or managers cannot share information about the health of a worker with others within the company who do not handle insurance or HR issues.
  • The company cannot punish a worker (including dismissing them or docking pay) for contracting the virus or giving it to others at the company.

The scope of this is unprecedented

There are laws in place regarding the worker's rights, and there will likely be updates regarding employment law and business practices. Owners and managers with questions about handling virus-related issues should speak with an attorney who handles business and employment law issues here in California.

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