Employee Rights No Fees Unless We Win
Fired Due To COVID-19
Can your employer fire you due to COVID-19? Generally, it is unlawful for your employer to fire you due to COVID-19. Have you been fired (or suspended or demoted) due to COVID-19? Has your boss fired you or threatened to fire you because you contracted COVID-19? Has your boss fired you or threatened to fire you because someone in your household has contracted COVID-19? Has your boss fired you or threatened to fire you because you may have been exposed to COVID-19, thereby potentially exposing your coworkers to COVID-19? These things have happened and continue to happen to workers all over California who are not so different from you. So if the answer to any of the foregoing questions is a yes, or if you just want to become more informed as to your rights concerning COVID-19 and the workplace, please read on. We are going to explore situations where employers have unlawfully fired workers due to COVID-19. The factors are intricate and complex, so if you have been fired, you may need to Contact an experienced attorney who knows how to navigate these issues.COVID-19
As you undoubtedly know, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which is a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has a nasty reputation. And for good reason. According to certain sources, as of September 2021, sadly, approximately 658,000 (nearly 1 out of every 500) Americans have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. COVID-19 has also disrupted the workplace, sending millions of workers into the ranks of the unemployed and millions more into remote work situations.FEHA
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California Government Code sections 12900 – 12996, California’s preeminent antidiscrimination law, prohibits workplace discrimination against employees based on many protected characteristics, including physical or mental disabilities and medical conditions. FEHA generally applies to all employers in California with at least five employees. Discrimination can include any adverse employment action taken against an employee due to a protected characteristic. The term “adverse employment action” includes being demoted, suspended, or fired from your job. For example, if you are rendered disabled by COVID-19 complications, or if you need to self-quarantine due to possible exposure to COVID-19, and you miss work because of this, at your request your employer must provide you with available paid sick leave or any other leave available through vacation or paid time off policies. If instead, your boss fires you for taking time off due to COVID-19, this may constitute workplace discrimination under FEHA. In addition, California Labor Code section 6409.6, subdivision (f) was enacted to protect workers from COVID-19 related retaliation, including being fired from their jobs. “An employer shall not retaliate against a worker for disclosing a positive COVID-19 test or diagnosis or order to quarantine or isolate.” While no law can guarantee that you will not be wrongfully terminated from your job, laws such as FEHA and section 6409.6 make remedies, such as lost pay and punitive damages, available to workers who have been wrongfully terminated. Obtaining the services of an experienced employment law attorney is the best way to ensure that you receive all to which you are entitled under these laws.
If the pandemic has thrown you into the ranks of the unemployed, termination due to COVID-19 is not an immediate concern. However, depending on the industry you worked in and other factors, you may have recall (rehire) rights under California Labor Code section 2810.8. “Within five business days of establishing a position, an employer shall offer its laid-off employees in writing, either by hand or to their last known physical address, and by email and text message to the extent the employer possesses such information, all job positions that become available after the effective date of this section for which the laid-off employees are qualified.”
Ah, but what if you are still employed and working remotely? Your employer might not make much of a fuss if you take a couple of days off because of COVID-19. But what if you get really sick and end up in the hospital, and you cannot work for two or three weeks, even at home? Or say you’re working on a project due at the end of the week, but you are too sick to complete the project on schedule? In those situations, hopefully your employer will be understanding and reassign your responsibilities to another employee until you are well enough to resume working. But as anyone who has been in the workforce for long surely knows, employers are not equally accommodating. For some employers, it doesn’t matter why you cannot work; whether it’s because of your own illness or the illness of a family member. All that matters is that you’re not getting the work done. If you can’t work, you are disrupting the workflow and hurting the bottom line. And anyone who is perceived as negatively affecting the bottom line becomes a prime target for termination.
If you are working remotely, the only reasons you are likely to be fired due to COVID-19 are if you cannot work because you are ill, or you have to take time off to care for or support a family member with COVID-19.
If you still physically come into work like you did before the pandemic, it’s a whole different story.
Say you have a medical condition that makes you high risk and you need extra protection to keep from getting sick. Your boss may not be willing to accommodate you by allowing you to work from home or to wear extra personal protective equipment or modify your workspace to keep you safe. Instead, your boss fires you.
Or say you went over to your best friend’s house on Sunday for a barbeque. Say your friend’s kid starts feeling ill as the day progresses. The next morning you get a call from your friend while you’re on your way to work. She tells you that she took her kid to urgent care last night and the kid tested positive for COVID-19. You then come into the office and, after interacting with a few of your coworkers, you mention to your boss that your best friend’s kid, who you saw yesterday, tested positive for COVID-19. Your boss just might fire you because you have been exposed to COVID-19 and he knows he should send you home to take preventative care measures by self-quarantining for x many days and during that time you can’t work since the work you do can only be performed onsite. Your boss just might also fire you because there’s a chance you’ve exposed your whole team to COVID-19, and they might have to quarantine, essentially putting the whole department out of commission for a time. In this situation, while Kokozian Law Firm, APC cannot stop your boss from firing you, we can help you assert your rights if you have been fired.
Note: this article does not discuss COVID-19 vaccination mandates.Contact Us
If you have been fired because of COVID-19, or if you believe your employer or former employer has otherwise violated your rights, call the experienced employment law attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC or Contact Us via our online form.