Employment attorney answers questions regarding returning to work during pandemic

In this pandemic, a number of employees want to know what they're options are if they don't feel safe working.

One of the biggest questions Employment Attorney Brian East is getting is, if someone has underlying health conditions, do they have to return to work?  

East says that a person can ask for "reasonable workplace accommodations” such as moving to a shift where they don't come in contact with as many people or working remotely if possible.

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He says the number two question is what if you care for someone at home, your child or your parents who have risk factors and you're afraid to work and bring COVI-D19 home to them?

"There's no federal law or state law that requires an accommodation for that person because they're not asking it for themselves. There's asking it for a non-employee, a family member.”  

East says a number of workers also fear reporting their employer. 

"Say for example if you believe the workplace is unsafe because they're not requiring masks, they're not cleaning, they're not requiring distancing, you could file a complaint with OSHA, the federal safety agency, and then if you're fired for filing that OSHA complaint, you have protection.”


However, if your employer is requiring masks, is requiring social distancing and you still don't feel safe, there are no laws to protect you if you just don't feel safe and want to stay home? 

"I would say that's right. It's not really a legal protection. At that point, it's really a negotiation with your employer to see what can be worked out."

East says taking leave may also be an option, but remember that's temporary and will likely only cover you for a few weeks while your job takes certain steps such as cleaning the workplace, setting up more space between workers or customers and making sure the mask policy is in effect and is being followed before you return.