Employment Law During the Pandemic

The law serves as a guide for people, businesses, and other organizations to do the right thing. Different laws exist to maintain peace and order, as well as achieve balance in society. There are laws that cover family issues, crimes, real estate, and businesses. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations means an individual or organization may face legal consequences.

When it comes to corporate and employment law, employers must adhere to regulations set by the governing bodies in a specific state or country. In the U.S., for example, the states may have their own set of laws regarding employment, compensation, and benefits. Both the employees and their employers are protected by these laws and every violation has a corresponding penalty.

Now that there is a pandemic, how does the employment law look like? Some people might be wondering if any change has been made to accommodate the special needs of employees amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Here is a short update about workplace laws and regulations during the pandemic:

No Room for Discrimination

In some states, every employee has rights regardless of his or her race, nationality, or immigration status. Discrimination and retaliation are illegal and punishable by law. An employer can’t force an employee to self-quarantine or stay away from the workplace just because of his or her race or nationality.

When employees try to exercise their rights, such as when they file for a paid sick leave, the employer cannot retaliate or do any negative employment action against the employees. That’s because it’s against the law, and the workers may file a complaint. Process service providers could deliver the documents related to the case to the concerned individual or organization.

Temporary Change of Schedule

In New York City, employees have the right to ask for a temporary schedule change twice a year, provided there is a valid reason, which may include:

  • Caring for a sick family member, especially a minor
  • Quarantine
  • Tending and caring for a child whose school has been closed because of the pandemic

Paid Sick Leave

Every employee is entitled to paid sick leave. The number of days an employee can use for sick leave varies depending on the company’s size and the state laws. For example, employees can file for a sick leave that can last up to 40 hours if the business or their child’s school has been closed due to a health emergency such as COVID-19. They can also use sick leave if they feel ill or show symptoms of COVID-19, or when they get tested for the disease. Other reasons to use sick leave include:

  • If the employee is under quarantine
  • If the employee is caring for a family member who is under quarantine

The governments are encouraging employers to provide their workers with additional leave when necessary. Business owners must also consider telecommuting as an option to protect their employees against the virus. In addition, they should require employees who feel ill or show symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home. Employers should not penalize or berate their employees for doing so.

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Performing Work Outside Their Job Description

Because of the pandemic, some employees need to assume the responsibilities of other employees who either left or were laid off. This means the employers had no choice but to ask their workers to perform tasks that are outside their job descriptions. But there is a limit on what type of work employees 18 years and above may be required to perform.

Employers should consider consulting their human resources department before assigning tasks outside an employees’ job description or contract. They must ensure that they are not violating any rights of their employees so that they can avoid legal trouble and penalties.

Teleworking or Telecommuting

Asking or allowing the employees to telework or telecommute is a good infection control or prevention strategy. Besides, public health authorities are also encouraging companies to give their workers the option to work from alternative locations, such as their homes. This option will give employees more time to spend with their loved ones. It will also help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

In case an employee is affected by government-imposed quarantines, the employers must be accommodating and flexible. They may provide alternative options, such as telecommuting and additional paid leave.

It’s a difficult time for workers and employers, but if they work hand in hand and consider the needs of one another, the business will succeed, and it will benefit all parties. Strict precautionary measures should remain so that the virus won’t spread and impact more families.

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