As our state re-opens, many are faced with a difficult decision—whether or not to return to work. Unfortunately, general fear or concern over coronavirus does not hold legal merit to refuse to return to work. However, those who are high-risk individuals (as determined by the CDC), or who have other health disorders, are protected by specific laws and regulations.
Whether you’re looking for additional accommodations in returning to work, or keeping unemployment benefits after refusing to return, you’ll want to consider these things:
The CDC is continually updating its list of high-risk medical conditions concerning COVID-19. For individuals with these conditions, it’s suggested they take precautions to limit social interactions. When returning to work, CDC recommends additional accommodations such as telecommuting, increased PPE, or changes in schedule to limit interactions with staff/customers.
If you are considered high-risk and want to work, it’s important to remember your employer cannot force you to stay home. They must work with you to provide reasonable safety accommodations.
Discuss with your employer what procedures have been put in place to ensure proper protection and social distancing. Ask:
If you require additional accommodations to feel safe, you must engage in the interactive process with your employer to determine what adjustments are needed.
If your request does not cause undue hardship to your employer, they must comply. Reasonable accommodations may include; additional or modified protective gear; plexiglass, or other barriers between yourself and others; telecommuting; and more.
Not all medical conditions are visible or are on the CDC high-risk list. We recognize mental health conditions such as anxiety, PTSD, OCD, can impact someone’s ability to feel safe returning to work. While general concern or fear over the virus is not enough to allow an individual to refuse to return to work, there are steps you can take. Talk to your doctor and obtain a medical note regarding the risks you face returning to work due to your mental or physical illness.
If you choose not to return to work, and you cannot provide legal justification, you could lose any unemployment benefits you’re collecting. At Regas & Haag, we defend vulnerable individuals in Social Security & Disability Law and Worker’s Compensation cases. If you believe you have a legal claim in regards to returning to work post-COVID-19. Please reach out to schedule a consultation with us to discuss your rights.