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Frequently Asked Questions: Coronavirus, Employment Issues, and How to Stay Safe

As your trusted legal team, we have compiled the answers to some common questions about paid leave and workers’ rights during the covid-19 pandemic, as well as some general knowledge about how to protect yourself and your family.  If you think you may have a coronavirus-related case, take a look at the questions below to find the answers you’re searching for.

Employment Questions

Q: Do Essential Workers Have to Come to Work?

A: Businesses and service providers considered “essential” should take steps to make their employees as safe as possible. Some employees, such as those over the age of 60 or with pre-existing medical conditions may be considered “protected” groups and can stay home without being fired, particularly if they can provide a doctor’s note. Generally, other workers who are not infected but choose to remain at home will be subject to their employers’ paid leave policies. While lawmakers and advocates continue to push for increased protections for front-line workers, there are many questions that remain unanswered at this time.

Q: If I Have Been Ordered By a Doctor to Self-Quarantine, Am I eligible For Paid Sick Leave or Unemployment Benefits?

A: Yes. Under the FFCRA, employees ordered to enter quarantine by a doctor or government entity are eligible for emergency paid sick leave. They may also qualify for expanded unemployment compensation introduced as part of the CARES Act.

Q: If I Have to Stay Home and Miss Work to Care For My Children, What Are My Options?

A: Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), workers who must stay home to care for a child (for whom they are the primary caregiver) because their school or daycare has closed due to the pandemic are eligible for up to two weeks of paid sick leave and an additional ten weeks of extended family and medical leave. These provisions under the FFCRA apply to “covered employers” only, so check to be sure your employer meets the criteria.

Q: What is The Difference Between Being Furloughed and Being Laid Off?

A: A furlough is a temporary, usually short-term unpaid leave of absence. Furloughed employees remain on the payroll, usually keep their benefits (such as health insurance and life insurance) but work reduced hours or not at all. Many restaurants forced to close during the coronavirus pandemic implemented a type of furlough known as a “zero hour schedule” wherein they simply reduced their staff’s hours to zero for the foreseeable future.

A layoff on the other hand effectively terminates the employer-employee relationship. Layoffs may be temporary but are often permanent.

Both laid-off and furloughed workers can apply for unemployment benefits.

Q: If I Am Self-Employed as a Gig Worker or Freelancer Who Has Lost Work Because of The Coronavirus, Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?

A: Yes. The expanded unemployment benefits introduced in response to the covid-19 crisis provide coverage to workers who are typically ineligible for unemployment.

Q: Is My Employer Required to Tell Me If One of My Coworkers Tested Positive For Coronavirus?

A: No. Patient privacy laws prohibit employers from disclosing information about their employees’ medical information. However, employers should notify their workers that possible exposure has occurred without giving any identifying information about the infected person.  In addition to basic hygiene and cleanliness practices, employers may lawfully take their employees’ temperatures to mitigate the spread of the disease as long as the information is kept confidential.

Long-Term Care Facilities and Coronavirus

Q: How concerned should I be about a loved one living in a long-term care facility or nursing home?

Residents living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, independent living facilities and continuing care facilities are all at relatively high risk for contracting COVID-19.  The reasons are that the individuals are living in relatively close quarters and often have underlying health issues.

Q: What should nursing homes be doing to protect their residents during this pandemic?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the following precautions for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities:

  • Restrict visitation except for extenuating circumstances such as end of life care.
  • Restrict volunteers and non-essential personnel.
  • Cancel group activities and communal dining.
  • Actively screen residents and health care personnel for fever and respiratory symptoms.

How can I know what is happening in my parent’s nursing home if I can’t visit?

Visitation to nursing homes is being restricted in order to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission. But this doesn’t mean an end to your communication. It is important that you remain in touch through phone calls, emailing and video chat applications such as Skype and Zoom.

You should follow any newsletters or updates provided by the long term care facility. If you are not receiving regular communications from them, or have additional questions or concerns, you should contact the administrators.

Q: Should my parent contract coronavirus while in their long term care facility, what are my legal rights?

It is difficult to say as elderly people are more susceptible to infections. The important issues will be whether the facility was following proper policies, procedures, and regulations. As each case is unique, the attorneys at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys are available to discuss your specific questions and concerns.

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