Coronavirus: Protecting Your Health and Your Employee Rights FAQ’s

As the coronavirus continues to spread both globally and within the United States, many companies have expanded measures to prevent their employees from exposure. You may have experienced these yourself – increased sick days due to being ill, requirements to work from home, or even furloughs.

This virus is not going away anytime soon – in fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted that things will get much worse before they get better. However, it is important that as you hurry to protect your own health during this time, you also protect your rights as an employee as changes in the workplace inevitably happen.

Below are six actual scenarios which have arisen that could also apply to you in your workplace. These scenarios range from managerial situations to travel and illness situations. Ultimately, each situation emphasizes the same thing – you have rights as an employee that your employer is legally required to respect and protect.

1. I am an exempt manager. What happens when I have to perform non-exempt duties, like customer service work, because so many non-exempt workers have called in sick?

Your status as a manager is determined by your duties. If you are performing non-exempt duties because of a worker shortage, you may lose your exempt status as a manager and may be entitled to overtime for hours worked over 40 in one week.

2. I am an hourly employee. My employer allows me to work from home when I am sick. How can I be sure I am paid for all the work I perform?

First, if you can log in remotely to your employer’s timekeeping system, you should do so. Second, if you cannot log in to the timekeeping system, keep track of your time and report it to your employer. In either case, be sure to include all of your time worked, both on or off-the-clock, such as emails, texts, and calls you may receive on your mobile phone after official working hours.

3. I am an exempt employee. Does my employer have to pay me if I miss work due to coronavirus?

Generally, any deductions for exempt employees must be in full-day increments. If any employer docks your pay for less than a full day’s absence, the employer may have violated the exemption. Accordingly, you are an exempt employee and miss a full day’s work due to coronavirus, or any other reason, your employer may deduct from your pay. However, if you miss less than a full day – say, for a doctor’s appointment for you or a family member – the employer may not deduct from your pay if you are an exempt employee.

4. I have questioned my employer as to whether it’s safe to come to work because we have a colleague who traveled to China. After ignoring my concerns, my employer has started giving me less work and less desirable assignments. Is this legal?

Making a complaint that you believe that the workplace is unsafe or that a component of the work is unsafe could kick in the whistleblower protection requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). However, if the fear is more generalized – simply based on concerns that relate to media coverage or more general pandemic questions — this would not necessarily be an objective or fact-based concern. In your case, because your coworker traveled to the epicenter of the virus, you may have a retaliation or whistleblower claim.

5. I am a non-exempt employee who is required to travel for my job. What if I am quarantined as a result of business travel?

Because you are an hourly, non-exempt employee if you are quarantined while on a business trip as a result of exposure, overnight travel rules will apply. Your employer will be responsible for providing payment for wages and for all time the employee is working.

6. My boss has small children who he has had to bring to work because their school is closed due to coronavirus. He asks me to entertain them before and after my shift and make sure they are fed lunch. Can I be paid for this time?

Yes. Your employer must pay you for all hours worked, even those outside the scope of your duties, such as caring for your boss’s children. In addition to lunch, when you come in early or stay late to help out with the boss’s children, then you must be paid for that time as well, even if you are only there to “keep an eye” on them.

Any of these scenarios could apply to you in your own workplace. If you are experiencing situations like the above, or any other situation related to coronavirus that makes you question whether your employer is violating your rights, please give the Shavitz Law Group a call today for a consultation. You can call us at 800-616-4800 or contact us by email at [email protected]. We would be happy to assist you in a free consultation to discuss your employment concerns.


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