A Few New Employment Laws Designed to Help Cope in a Post-Covid Workplace.
Well, things aren’t really “back to normal” are they? Yet after a few months of seeing what re-engaging with others might look like, but we’re all anxious to get there as soon as possible. So we’re providing a few updates to help employees looking to get back into the workforce with understanding their rights. Maybe you get sick. Maybe it’s a family member. Maybe you feel your job is threatened because you won’t assume what looks like an unreasonable risk. Whatever the issue, the laws are finally catching up. It’s not quite enough, but it’s a start.
As employees get back to work post-Corona there are a number of employment law issues that may affect them. It is important to know your new rights in the workplace, what long-standing rights are implicated by new Federal and State mandates, and what to do if there is a violation of your workplace rights. Covid-19 has changed the way the workplace functions and that means new laws. Here are some things you may need to know when returning to work.
Paid Leave Issues
1. The first issue that employees should be aware of is Paid Leave as it has to do with Corona-related events an employee might face. There are a number of Federal and State laws that protect employees when they need to take time off due to COVID-19. Those that apply in California are:
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
- California Supplemental Sick Leave – Food Service Workers
- California Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act
- Local Paid Sick Leave Laws
2. Another problem that will crop up has to do with Retaliation Claims. Labor Code section 1102.5 provides protection to employees from acts of retaliation by employers against employees who report workplace violations to the government, law enforcement, or a person of authority with the ability to investigate the matter. Therefore if an employee reports that their employer is not following Covid-19 state and federal mandates, such as the above mentioned Paid Leave laws, they cannot be retaliated against, and if they are, they have a right to legal redress.
Wage & Hour Questions
3. There will be legitimate questions from employees who might want to better understand the proper pay structure for those who spent a great deal of time working at home during the pandemic. They will want to keep in mind that when returning back to work they may have back pay owed for personal use of devices. They may have accumulated unpaid overtime. Below are common issues that may arise following recovery from illness or re-entering the workforce in person:
- Expense reimbursement for cell phones and home internet
- Expense reimbursement for PPE
- Rest break and meal violations
Safety and Assumption of Risk
4. The fourth issue deals with requirements set by state and federal OSHA. Employers must follow OSHA requirements to provide safe work environments.
- OSHA: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/controlprevention.html
- Cal-OSHA guidance on requirements to protect workers from coronavirus: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirusCare-General-Industry.html
Additionally, employers are required to report any confirmed case of Covid-19 illness in the workplace and must have an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) in place.
These and other issues will arise as we all return to work Post-Corona. It is most important to be aware of what laws are in place and how they affect you. Make sure that your employer is keeping the employees up to date on state and federal Covid-related mandates.
The workplace has changed enormously in the year and a half since the world “closed for business.” Employers have new responsibilities for worker safety. Employees will be required to take steps to protect their fellow co-workers. Some will fall ill, and others may be asked to carry heavier workloads. Whatever the situation, know your rights and don’t be afraid to speak up. If you have a situation that isn’t covered here, reach out to an experienced employment attorney for the answers you need.
Lazear Mack, LLP
436 14th Street, Suite 1117
Oakland, CA 94612