Nearly 6.6 million people have filed for unemployment for the first time across the United States. Keches Law Group would like to offer some guidance regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and workers’ rights as we understand the impact this virus is having on several employers and employees.
My employer said they are going to decrease my pay. Can they do this?
Yes, your employer can lower your pay. What they cannot do is cut the pay you have already earned.
Can my employer make me go to work if our business is “essential” and I don’t want to?
Generally, your employer can force you to come in if they are open. If you believe the working conditions are unsafe, it’s recommended that you bring these conditions to your employer’s attention. An example of an unsafe condition may be if one of your coworkers has been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Can my employer send me home if I am experiencing symptoms?
Yes, your employer can send you home if you are experiencing symptoms. You do not need a doctor’s note if this is the case. You can also be sent home if a family member has the virus or has symptoms.
I have been temporarily laid off, what rights do I have in terms of receiving my paycheck?
If you are temporarily laid off, you have the right to receive all earned wages, including all accrued vacation pay (on the same day). If your business has been shut down or is operating at a lower capacity because of coronavirus, your employer must pay you on the day it shuts down or within 6-7 days of the end of the pay period.
If you have been laid off but have not received your last paycheck, contact the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour division or your state labor office.
My new employer has taken my new job offer away. Can they do this?
Yes, any new offer can be withdrawn or revoked before it is accepted. Any job offer can be withdrawn for any reason, except discrimination whether that be race, religion, gender, nationality, etc.
Can I use earned sick time?
Here are some scenarios regarding the use of earned sick time:
- If a public health official or healthcare professional requires an employee or a family member to quarantine, then yes, you may use earned sick time.
- If a public health official or healthcare professional recommends that an employee or family member quarantine and the employee decides to follow the recommendation, then yes, you may use earned sick time.
- For any employee that doesn’t go to work because their child’s school is closed due to COVID-19, then the government encourages employers to allow the use of earned sick time. Employers should also allow the use of accrued vacation time or any other paid time off during this crisis.
My business has been shut down due to COVID-19. Do I have to pay my employees?
Generally speaking, hourly employees do not have to be paid if they are not working. If employees are asked to stay home, it is recommended that they file for unemployment.
Salary Employees (who have an Employee Assistance Program):
- If the business closes for an entire week, then no payment is required if the employee has not performed any work during that week.
- If the business is shut down for only a part of the week, then full payment is required. Please see the U.S. Department of Labor website for more helpful information.
- Any employee on salary who has a fluctuated work week basis must be paid their full guaranteed salary when they have worked during that week.
What is CARES Act?
CARES stands for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. This law was signed by the federal government on March 27th, 2020. The act offers some economic and fiscal relief to people and small businesses facing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, the federal government approved a stimulus package of over $2.2 trillion.
- Offers $1,200 to U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 as well as an additional $500 per child under the age of 17.
- Provides an extra $600 per week to each recipient of unemployment insurance for up to four months.
- Waives the waiting period to start receiving benefits.
- Delays in tax-filing: individuals now have until July 15, 2020, to file their 2019 tax returns.
For Small Businesses:
- Paycheck Protection Program helps with:
- Payroll assistance (including paid sick or medical leave)
- Salaries for employees
- Mortgage, rent, and utility payments
- Insurance premiums
The Paycheck Protection Program is primarily for small businesses and non-profits who have 500 employees or less. The amount each business receives for salaries, rent, and other expenses will depend on how many employees remain employed or rehired.
In order to be eligible, companies must have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and in business as of February 15, 2020. This program is part of the $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package.
I was terminated for having the coronavirus. Is this discrimination?
This could potentially be a claim considering this person has been terminated. While the virus may be temporary, you cannot fire someone for having the virus. Instead, the employer should offer time off. The employee can be asked to leave temporarily and still get paid, but you cannot fire someone for it.
To conclude, employers should be accomodating employees such as an older person, or high-risk individuals. These individuals should not be forced to work.