The Coronavirus and Your Job: Addressing Concerns

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2023 | Employment Law

Businesses of all sizes, government officials, schools, and other entities are all taking it one day at a time as we try to get through this coronavirus pandemic. As the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to increase each passing day, head officials are advising people to distance themselves with others and avoid large group interactions in order to decrease the chances of the virus spreading.

In order to follow through with the orders given by officials, many businesses are giving their employees the opportunity to work from the comfort of their own home. Unfortunately, this is not something that everyone has the opportunity to do. We understand that many employees are wondering what their rights are and what their employer can do and not do, and this is why are advising Minnesota employees to have a clear understanding of their employer’s leave policy and make their health one of their main concerns.

If you begin to feel sick at any point, we encourage you to converse with your employer and gain a better understanding of the leave policy. Many employees are able to have a paid leave of absence, and this can be in the form of vacation time or sick leave. However, this determination can be made by what the policy consists of.

If any employee has concerns about the safety of the workplace, the employee should not be hesitant about addressing those issues. Employees should be able to have a conversation about the company policy and concerns for their health without fearing retaliation. If you are wondering what protection you have during this pandemic, here are answers to some common questions.

Are employers supposed to allow paid sick leave?

Employees who are working for companies that are not offering any type of paid leave can find themselves in a very difficult position. Absent the state requirements or the municipal requirements that actually require paid leave, an employer is under no obligation to pay an employee if he or she has not completed the assignments he or she has been hired to do.

This can be heartbreaking for people who have not been hired for high-wage jobs. Many employees will struggle to pay their bills and buy food for their families. When employers have an inconsistent sick leave policy, the employees who are working for low wages are the most impacted. However, some companies have made changes to their sick leave policy amid the pandemic.

What can my employer do to help keep us safe?

According to the rules state in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employers are obligated to protect all of their employees from any harm and danger. So, how far can an employer go to ensure the safety of everyone in the workplace? Employers who have made the decision to remain open for business should certainly be cautious when it comes to COVID-19 and the threats surrounding it.

This includes recommending employees wash their hands for a specific period of time, offering sanitizing solutions, and encouraging employees to disinfect commonly-touched areas. If someone becomes sick at any point, an employer does have the ability to ask an employee to go home. However, an employer should be careful when it comes to making their own diagnosis. The responses to sick employees should remain consistent.

If an employee is set to return from a city, state, country, etc. where there are several cases of the virus can be asked to remain in their home until it is clear they are free from the virus. Some employers may ask their employees to submit a doctor’s note that confirms the employee is free from COVID-19. Unfortunately, many medical facilities may not be able to complete a doctor’s note and many employees are not able to be tested because of the recommendation of staying inside their homes.

Employers should not make an employee feel as if he or she should hurry back and work. Employers should also not share the status of someone else’s health.

Can my employer check my temperature?

Under the EEOC(Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) states that measuring the temperature of an employee can technically be considered as a medical exam. Generally, this is considered beyond the realms of what an employer can do. However, due to this pandemic, checking the temperature of an employee may be allowed.

However, even if many people view a temperature check as being something that is allowed and legal, it may not be effective. What if an employee has the flu or other illness? Also, many people who have tested positive for the coronavirus were tested for fevers and had no fever.

Can my employer tell me to work from home?

Yes. Employers have the right to ask an employee to work from home, as long as the reasons they are asking you to stay home from work is not in a form of discrimination. It can be reasonable to ask employees who have recently returned from a business-related trip to an area that has a large number of positive COVID-19 cases. However, if some employees are singled-out and asked to work from home due to age, it could be seen as discriminatory.

Can my employer make me go on a business-related trip?

There are some employees who have dismissed the threat of the virus and downplay the symptoms, but there are others who are actually terrified. Some employees want to avoid anything that can put them in the way of the harm the virus can cause. If Jamison’s employer asked him to get on a flight and meet a client in another state, Jamison can refuse to go. However, Minnesota is an employment-at-will-state. What does this mean?

This means that Jamison could be fired immediately. In Minnesota, an employee can be fired for a good reason or no reason at all. If there have been no limits placed on flying from this state to the state the employer wants Jamison to go, the request can be legal. An employer does not have a legal obligation to accommodate an employee’s fears.

However, if OSHA states that employers are obligated to protect their employees, shouldn’t employees be able to have concerns about their health without having the fear they will be let go immediately? During this pandemic, it is important that employers do not take it to the extreme and retaliate against employees who bring their fears and concerns to the table.

If you have concerns about coronavirus and the impact it will have on your place of employment and your income, please contact Villaume & Schiek today.

Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individualsituation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.