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Fired for Caring for a Child with COVID-19
Have you been fired for taking time off from work to care for a child with COVID-19? Were you demoted or had your hours reduced after taking time off from work to care for a child with COVID-19? If so, your employer has probably violated your rights under California law and you may be entitled to legal remedies, including monetary damages. Contact the experienced employment attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC. We are here to help you concerning a wide range of employment law matters. Whether your employer has fired you for taking time off for your own illness or the illness of a family member, you have not been paid proper overtime under California law, or you have been discriminated against because of your age, sex, or race, the attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC have the expertise to help.Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
A virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) or novel coronavirus COVID-19. An outbreak of this disease has caused the pandemic through which we are living. On March 4, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a State of Emergency to address the global outbreak of COVID-19. By March 25, 2020, most California public schools had closed. Distance learning became the standard for the next fifteen months. More recently, most public schools have reopened fully to permit in person instruction in time for the fall 2021 session. Universal indoor masking requirements, which also require students to wear masks while riding buses operated by public and private school systems, has been deemed a simple and effective way to mitigate in-school transmission of COVID-19. Nonetheless, given that schools have populations of both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, school reopening comes with a heightened risk that your child will be infected with COVID-19. School reopening is a balancing act that aspires to lend students access to safe and full-time instruction to the greatest extent possible while minimizing days teachers and students miss from school. As part of that balancing act, if your child’s school determines that your child has contracted COVID-19, your child will be sent home from school and will not be permitted to return to school for an extended period. You may have to take time off work to seek medical care for your child. While many children experience few symptoms, some children have become seriously ill and require long-term hospitalization. If your child is young, you may have to take time off to supervise your child at home (regardless of whether he or she is symptomatic) until your child can return to school. This could require you to take as much as two weeks off from work. In addition, if your school determines that your child has been exposed to COVID-19 (close contact to a confirmed case) and your child is unvaccinated, your child may be required to stay at home for 10 days (or more) from the date of exposure and monitor for symptoms.Laws that Protect Workers for Leaves of Absence Related to COVID-19
Of course, employers are not blind to the fact that employees with children will need to take time off work from time to time for their children. Laws such as California Sick Leave, and the California Family Rights Act are designed to enable employees to take time off from work for reasons that include caring for their children. Additional laws such as the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Public Law 116-127), which among other things entitled eligible employees to paid sick leave to care for individuals subject to quarantine and later provided tax credits to employers who voluntarily continued to provide paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons, and the 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law, were enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See California Labor Code sections 248 through 248.5. Moreover, several local jurisdictions enacted emergency ordinances concerning pandemic-related sick leave, including the cities of Long Beach, Los Angeles, Santa Rosa, Oakland, and San Francisco.Associational Discrimination
Another law that protects workers for leaves of absence related to COVID-19 is the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California Government Code sections 12900 – 12996. Under FEHA it is unlawful for an employer to discharge or to terminate or to discriminate against an employee in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of the employee's association with a person with a physical disability, mental disability, or medical condition. “FEHA provides a cause of action for associational disability discrimination.” Castro v. Classy Inc. (S.D. Cal. Mar. 2, 2020) No. 3:19-cv-02246-H-BGS, 2020 WL 996948, page 8—a case in which the plaintiff alleged that her employer treated her differently because of her association with her disabled child. Therefore, if you have been discriminated or retaliated against for taking time off from work to care for a child with COVID-19, FEHA’s broad remedies, including recovery of lost earnings, reinstatement, damages for emotional distress, attorney fees, and punitive damages will be available to you.The Reaction of Employers to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed additional strain on the ability of employers to adequately staff their businesses. Employees with “high risk” medical conditions frequently request to work from home as a reasonable accommodation. Some employers resist this form of accommodation because they perceive that working remotely hinders their ability to monitor work performance and productivity. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some types of harassment have increased. Some employers have become quick to retaliate against and fire employees who take time off work. While the pandemic has changed the workplace landscape and, in some instances, increased tensions between employers and their workers, thankfully it has not reduced worker’s rights or the enforcement of California labor laws.
Various federal and state agencies, including the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, enforce laws that prohibit employment discrimination or retaliation for the exercise of labor rights, including the right to take time off work to care for a child with COVID-19. If you have been fired for taking time off from work to care for a child with COVID-19, one choice you have is to file a complaint with the appropriate agency. Another choice you have is to contract a lawyer.
While being a parent can be a great source of joy, it is also a responsibility. As a parent you play a pivotal role in society. You cannot shirk your parental responsibilities to appease an employer who says that your child is not his problem and demands that you come to work no matter what is happening in your life. Yet this form of intimidation can create great stress on individuals, particularly lower paid workers with little in the way of savings. Some employers have shown great compassion for their workers during this crisis, while others have not. Regardless of what your employer demands of you, you are both morally and legally obligated to care for your child. See California Penal Code sections 270, 270.5, 273a.Contact Us
If you have been fired because you had to take time off work because your child has 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.