The coronavirus crisis is having a disproportionately negative impact on people of color, especially those in the Latino community. The employment law attorneys at The Dominguez Firm are constantly keeping up with the COVID-19 crisis and how it is affecting essential workers. If you are an essential worker, know that all of us at The Dominguez Firm are grateful for all you do. You should also know that this pandemic is not an excuse for employers to take advantage of or discriminate against you.
We have put together this FAQ page to answer some of the most common questions we get regarding the current pandemic and your rights as an essential worker. Of course, if you or someone close to you was exposed to the coronavirus on the job and would like to speak with us regarding your situation, call 800-818-1818 today for a free and confidential consultation. The coronavirus employment law attorneys at The Dominguez Firm are ready to help you and your loved ones.
What safety guidelines does my employer have to follow if I’m an essential worker?
Your employer has to follow all the federal and state safety guidelines that pertain to their sector. There is no simple list for every industry. In fact, there are specific safety guidelines across multiple sectors. As the pandemic continues, these guidelines can change as well.
If you believe that your employer is not complying with COVID-19 safety guidelines, you can contact OSHA or the California Labor Board to file a complaint.
Can I be fired for pointing out COVID-19 related safety violations at my job?
No, your employer cannot fire you for doing so. If your employer does so, that would be an example of retaliation against you, the whistleblower. They would probably be subject to two lawsuits, one for retaliation and another one for wrongful termination. If either or both of these things have happened to you, call the COVID-19 employment lawyers at The Dominguez Firm right away at 800-818-1818 for a free and confidential consultation.
Can my job status be reclassified from non-essential to essential worker?
Yes, your job can be reclassified from non-essential to essential worker. The list of who is and isn’t an essential worker has changed since the start of the pandemic. Here is the latest list. While some jobs such as doctors, nurses, firefighters and paramedics were obviously classified as essential from the start, other jobs have been added to the list over time. These include construction workers and grocery store employees.
Can I be forced to return to work?
The answer is, it depends. If you are an essential worker, you can be forced to return to work, but there are some exceptions:
- You have a preexisting condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure
- You have a disability
- You are in a high-risk group
- You have been exposed or had COVID-19
- You are caring for someone with COVID-19
If any of these exceptions, apply to you, you may be entitled to an accommodation, such as working remotely. This situation is playing out right now amongst teachers. Teachers are considered essential workers. They have expressed fears over the idea of returning to the classroom. Studies show that nationally, 1/3 of all public school teachers are over the age of 50, putting them at higher risk of contracting and becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.
Many non-essential workers are also nervous about the possibility of having to return to work as restrictions are eased. This, in spite of the fact that the number of coronavirus cases in California, and Los Angeles, in particular, have never been higher. One high profile example of this would be Disneyland employees here in California.
Unfortunately, non-essential workers who refuse to return to work simply because they’re scared can usually be fired. But again, there are exceptions. If there are clear safety code violations in the workplace, those should be reported and taken into account. But if the workplace is complying with all safety protocols and the employee does not fall into one of the exceptional categories outlined above for essential workers, then, yes, they most likely can be fired for refusing to show up for work.
Is the state of California doing anything to help essential workers, especially Latino essential workers?
On the heels of the distressing statistics regarding COVID-19 and essential workers of color, Governor Newsom has announced new safety programs designed to meet their unique needs. As the governor himself pointed out, the vast majority of essential workers in the agricultural, construction, transportation and manufacturing sectors are Latino. These essential workers do not have the luxury of working from home. Sadly, many have become ill or even died while providing essential services.
Some of the new guidelines include:
- Extending paid sick leave and workers’ compensation benefits for at-risk workers.
- Expansion of California’s Project Roomkey. This allows essential workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 or have the virus to quarantine away from their families in a safe space. This program has been expanded because most working-class families do not have the luxury of being able to quarantine in a second home or in a large home away from others.
- Giving employers more detailed safety guidelines to better protect workspaces.
Seeing the state work to proactively protect essential workers is always welcome news. However, reckless and negligent behavior on the part of employers is still happening.
The employment law attorneys at The Dominguez Firm can help.
If you or a loved one contracted COVID-19 or passed away from the virus due to safety lapses in the workplace, the lawyers specializing in employment law at The Dominguez are here to help. If you were fired or discriminated against due to the coronavirus, our attorneys are available to help you as well. Call us at 800-818-1818 for a free and confidential consultation today. And if you’re worried about the cost of hiring an attorney, we always stand by our promise: you win, or you don’t pay. There are no upfront fees or out of pocket expenses when you become a client of The Dominguez Firm. So, there’s no reason to wait, call The Dominguez Firm today.