Governor Ron DeSantis has signed off on plans for Miami-Dade and Broward counties to reopen restaurants and other businesses deemed non-essential on Monday, allowing employees to return to work. But some are concerned for their safety and are wondering if they can hold off until they feel comfortable to go back. We speak to two employment lawyers today to provide us with tips on what you absolutely need to know.
“Employees are concerned that they’re gonna be safe when they return to work, are there are gonna be appropriate safeguards in the workplace to make sure they don’t catch the virus and spread it to their families when they go home,” said Tom.
Employment attorney and Fort Lauderdale managing shareholder for GrayRobinson, Tom Loffredo, says your employer is legally required to protect you and enforce social distancing in the workplace.
“Masks, gloves if necessary, make sure you have hand sanitizers throughout your office, make sure if you do have employees who come into direct contact with customers or general public perhaps consider a plastic shield of some kind to make sure there’s no transmission,” said Tom.
If you don’t feel comfortable going back to work, can your company fire you for not complying? Loffredo says unless your employer isn’t following any type of social distancing or proper protocols, employees are obligated to return to work.
If you have health issues and, due to COVID-19, it’s not safe for you to go back, employment lawyer at Beasley, Demos & Brown, Christopher Brown, says employers should try to make reasonable accommodations for those who have specific medical needs.
“If you can take someone who normally works in a cubicle and put them in an office, you should be enforcing whatever guidelines are being recommended by science experts," said Christopher.
If you have COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, you can qualify for sick pay.
“Congress just passed a law recently that provides, in limited circumstances, that you can be compelled to get sick pay but you have to satisfy 1 out of 6 Coronavirus criteria. Either, you have to have it, you have to be showing symptoms, or you have to be caring for a child. There are two others that basically involve you caring for somebody that might be at risk or forced to be in quarantine,” said Christopher.
But the bottom line is if you don’t feel safe going back to work or if you see something you’re not comfortable with at your work space, just communicate with your employer.
“Go to your employer and tell them. Everyone is trying to do the right thing here, so if you call something to your employers attention and your employer can reasonably do it, they probably will,” said Christopher.
If you raised safety concerns to your employer but the company still isn't following proper protocol, you should report to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or reach out to your local governments.
To reach Tom Loffredo, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To reach Christopher Brown, call 305-669-3131.