What Covid-19 Means for Employment Law

By: Gregg Zeff
On: September 28, 2020

Covid-19 has not only had a remarkable effect on how we think about public health, it has also had a notable impact on our jobs and our interactions in the workplace. Unemployment is on the rise, employees need time off to care for sick loved ones and record numbers of employees are working from home. Each of these forces has an impact on the future of employment law.


What kinds of Employment Lawsuits have been Filed Related to the Pandemic?

The truth is that Covid-19 has had an effect on just about every aspect of employment. Consequently, employment law-related matters are on the rise. Employees are bringing lawsuits for discrimination against them when requesting time off. Others are bringing lawsuits to collect on employment benefits, such as paid sick leave, that is now being denied when they’re needed the most. Additionally, wrongful termination claims are steadily increasing. It seems likely that litigation surrounding pandemic-related employment issues will long outlive the virus.

Can an Employer Fire Employee Concerned About COVID-19 and Staying Home?

In Pennsylvania, there are circumstances in which your employer may be able to terminate your employment for staying at home. Pennsylvania is known as an “at-will” state, which means that in the majority of situations, your employment can be terminated for any reason. This means that your employer may be able to terminate you if you fail to report to work per your employer’s requirements. There may be exceptions to this general rule, and an employment attorney can help you determine if you have a valid claim against your employer.

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Can I be Forced to Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

In Pennsylvania, your employer may require you to work during the COVID-19 pandemic depending on several factors. Your options may be affected by local government ‘stay-at-home’ orders, whether you are considered an essential worker, or company resources. However, it is important to remember that under federal law, you are entitled to a safe workplace, so if you are required to come to work, your employer must provide a safe workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a number of guidelines to help you determine if your workplace is safe, and an employment law attorney can help you evaluate your workplace safety as well.

What are Employee Rights as defined by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

Consult employment lawyers at the Zeff Law Firm to understand your rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The Act requires employers to provide employees paid sick leave, family leave, and medical leave for Covid-19 related reasons. The act provides:

  • Up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at full pay rate where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined or is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; or
  • Up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds pay rate where the employee is unable to work due to a need to care for a quarantined individual, childcare, or due to a substantially similar situation; and
  • Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family and medical leave at two-thirds pay rate where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 days, is unable to work due to a need for leave to care for a child or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

The paid benefits of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Any employee working for a covered employer is subject to the benefits of the act. Contact the employment lawyers at Zeff Law Firm to ask questions about your eligibility for benefits.

What Potential Legal Challenges are Associated with Returning to Work?

Employees are legally entitled to a safe work environment, and questions of achieving a proper level of safety will certainly present legal challenges. Employers will have to take extreme measures to ensure that sanitation and disinfection procedures are in place and that employees practice social distancing to ensure the safety of all employees. This may require staggering shifts or reducing hours. However, some employees may not yet feel comfortable with returning to work. Contact the employment lawyers at the Zeff Law Firm to ask about your legal options before returning to work.

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What Lawsuits have been filed Concerning Remote Work during the Pandemic?

Telecommuting has also had an impact on employment law. More employees are trying to juggle other ‘at-home obligations’ such as childcare and sick relatives, while also maintaining workflow. At the same time, employers are trying to maintain productivity, connectivity, and flexibility. These aspects of telecommuting can present legal challenges related to lost benefits or termination due to a lack of productivity.

Employment attorneys can help you navigate legal questions that arise from telecommuting and other employment issues during the pandemic. The attorneys at Zeff Law Firm are working hard to stay ahead of the changes to employment law that Covid-19 is presenting.

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