Coronavirus and Workplace Rights

By: Gregg Zeff
On: March 21, 2020


Coronavirus has changed almost everything about American life: how we socialize, how we shop, and even how we work. In this confusing time, you are likely to have a lot of questions about the impact of coronavirus employee rights in the workplace. Below we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about coronavirus employee rights. If you want to talk about your specific situation, contact the lawyers at Zeff Law Firm as soon as possible.

What if I don’t feel safe at work because of possible Coronavirus Exposure?

Look into coronavirus employee rights if you feel unsafe at work due to a medical condition. Conditions such as emphysema, pregnancy, asthma, or diabetes may mean coronavirus may be more dangerous for you, and your employer may be required to offer you the option to work from home as a reasonable accommodation. If you do not have a medical condition, you still have the right to refuse to perform work you believe is unsafe. An example of potentially unsafe work is your employer ordering you clean up after someone known to have coronavirus, without providing you with protective gear. In order to refuse to perform unsafe work but still have your job-protected, you must have a reasonable belief that the work is unsafe, which means that most people would agree it is unsafe. It is best to speak with an attorney about coronavirus employee rights before requesting a reasonable accommodation or refusing to perform work you believe is unsafe.

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What if my boss doesn’t let me have to Time off for a Quarantine?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which goes into effect on April 2, offers coronavirus employee rights and requires certain employers to offer paid sick leave to employees who are quarantined or are dealing with coronavirus symptoms. To qualify for paid sick leave under the Act, you must work for an employer that has fewer than 500 employees, and you must be taking time off due to coronavirus specifically to qualify for these coronavirus employee rights. That means that you are eligible for paid sick time if you have been quarantined, have been advised by a medical professional to self-quarantine, or if you are suffering from coronavirus symptoms and are seeking a diagnosis. In these scenarios, you would be eligible for eighty hours of paid sick leave, or two weeks for most fulltime workplaces.


If you work for an employer with 500 or more employees, you are not completely out of luck in terms of coronavirus employee rights. If you work in New Jersey and are ordered by the government to quarantine, your employer is required to give you unpaid time off and is required to reinstate you once your quarantine ends. If you do not work in New Jersey, you still may be eligible to take off up to twelve weeks under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). You will qualify for FMLA leave if you have been working for your employer for at least a year, and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the past year. Leave under the FMLA is unpaid. To take leave, you must have a qualifying medical condition. In terms of coronavirus employee rights, anyone under quarantine or dealing with symptoms of coronavirus would almost definitely have a qualifying medical condition.

What if I need time off because my Child’s School Closed due to Coronavirus?

The new legislation ensures coronavirus employee rights. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to offer up to eighty hours (which usually means two weeks) of paid time off to employees who are caring for a child if the child’s school or daycare is closed due to coronavirus. Employees caring for an individual subject to quarantine may also take this paid leave. In both scenarios, the employee will receive two-thirds of his/her normal rate of pay. If you need more time off to care for a child, and you have been working for your employer for at least thirty days, you are eligible under the Act to take an additional ten weeks off (for a total of twelve) for this purpose. The first two weeks will be unpaid, and the next ten will be paid at the two-thirds rate. Contact Zeff Law Firm if you have questions about coronavirus employee rights.

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