Is it Legal for My Boss to Make Me Work During the Pandemic?

With the entire world literally being shut down with the spread of COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus, people are concerned. This is because we do not know how long this pandemic will last before it is under control. As a result, many people are worried, scared, and do not want to leave their homes, irrespective of any stay-at-home orders. While most businesses across the United States have been shut down, many states have determined that “essential businesses” fall under an exception to these orders. 

What if your employer says you “have to” come in to work? Is that legal? As of now, there are no specific laws protecting workers from such a scenario, although Congress is likely considering some coronavirus-related legislation if the pandemic continues. There are, however, several things your employer can do to help ensure your safety and the safety of others during this unprecedented time. 

No Right to Remote Work

You would think that because of the global pandemic and high risk of spread of coronavirus, that employees have a right to remote-work opportunities.That is simply not true, however, under the law. Generally, employers do not have an obligation to allow for telecommuting. The exception, however, is an employee who qualifies under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to work remotely in order to accommodate a disability. If there is a government-ordered quarantine, then things change. At that point, an employer may have a higher burden to allow remote work for employees. Since Nevada governor Sisolak issued a stay-at-home order and even activated the National Guard, an employee working in the state has a stronger case for telecommuting due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Common Sense for Businesses

Business owners in Nevada can help reduce the spread of coronavirus at their businesses as well as avoid legal issues if they follow these tips, recommended by the Harvard Business Review. 

  • Discuss hygiene: Do not make the mistake of assuming everyone knows the proper way to wash their hands, which prevents the spread of infections including coronavirus. Things you can do include: educating your employees on how viruses spread, providing access to handwashing stations and sanitizer, and creating clear guidelines for those who think they may be infected.
  • Stay informed: Be sure to get your information from reliable and credible resources, like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). This will allow the company to be a resource and a reassurance for employees who are getting their news from less-than-trustworthy sources and will also protect the business from challenges in your processes regarding infection control. 
  • Take precautions: According to the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA), employers have a general duty to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Coronavirus is a recognized hazard, which may result in death. Accordingly, employers have a duty to take reasonable steps to keep their employees safe.
  • Revisit existing practices: If your business has made changes to the way they do things as a result of the global pandemic of Coronavirus, be sure that these adjustments are not just temporary. By establishing healthier practices and implementing them in the long-term, you will protect your business from liability.

If you have questions about coronavirus, or have suffered a personal injury, contact Las Vegas-based Matt Pfau Law Group today. 

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