March 31, 2020 Category: Employment Law
There are many reasons someone may not want to go into work during the coronavirus pandemic. They may fear getting sick. They may also not want to become infected and spread the disease to their children or elderly parents. Many schools have closed and they may also find themselves without childcare.
What happens if you are ordered to come to work during the coronavirus pandemic but you are unable to or do not want to go in? Can you be fired? Sadly, the answer is yes. You may risk losing your job if your boss orders you to continue working but you refuse to go comply.
The news uses the words coronavirus and COVID-19 interchangeably. However, there is a difference. Coronavirus is a type of virus. There are many different types of coronavirus and some cause the common flu. COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that first appeared in China in December 2019.
COVID-19 is highly infectious and has been spreading quickly across the world. For most people infected, they will experience only a mild to moderate respiratory illness. They will probably recover without any medical treatment. However, some people develop more serious conditions that can lead to hospitalization and death.
The fear is real and many states have initiated protective procedures. In California, many counties have issued a stay at home order and law enforcement agents have started breaking up large gatherings of people. The orders declare that all non-essential workers should stay at home. The orders usually also state that businesses that are non-essential should close. However, the instructions are not precise and they have left a lot of companies and workers wondering if they are essential and if they are required to still go into work.
California Laws and Coronavirus
The stay at home order has been hard to enforce. So far, the government has had to demand closure of certain businesses like a gun shop and billiards hall. These companies had declared themselves essential during the order but the state government decided to categorize them as non-essential. Compliance seems to be iffy and it is up to local law enforcement to determine whether a business is essential if they decide to stay open.
California is an at-will employment state. Employers can fire an employee for almost any reason. This can be either with or without cause. However, there are some limitations to this rule in that they cannot fire you for discriminatory reasons. This means that if your employer asks you to come into work during the coronavirus pandemic and you refuse to go, you can be fired.
If you are forced to work and you are exposed to the virus and get sick, you may be able to get workers’ compensation. Your employer is required to pay for workers’ compensation benefits in California. You can apply for these benefits if you get injured or sick due to work. Being exposed to the virus is not enough, however, and you will need to show that you contracted the virus from a work-related event. The benefits may pay medical bills and lost wages.
What Actions Can You Take If You Don’t Want To Go Into Work?
There are several things you can do if your employer demands that you still have to come into work. The first step should be to talk directly with your employer. Let them know your situation, especially if you live with someone who is older than 60 or is immunocompromised. They may also have certain things to offer for parents who no longer have childcare. For some positions, the employer may allow you to work from home.
If you have paid sick leave, you should be able to use it to stay at home. You can fight a denial of taking any paid sick leave you have by filing a wage claim. You may also qualify for disability insurance or paid family leave. These are short-term payments that are available to some workers who cannot work due to a non-work-related injury or illness. This might be granted due to a medical quarantine if you or other family members get ill from COVID-19. You should not be fired if you qualify for one of these and need to take time off.
Finally, you can apply for unemployment if you are fired for not going to work because of coronavirus. You may be eligible to file for this even if you are not fired but your hours are reduced due to the pandemic. If you apply and are approved, you can receive partial payments that should make up for some of your lost wages.