As we approach the two-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers throughout California have been through it all. Quarantines, lockdowns, mask mandates… We have been through so much; many workers may still have questions related to COVID and their rights as employees.
The employment attorneys at Kesluk, Silverstein, Jacob & Morrison, P.C. want to help clarify these questions. That is why we gathered information that may help answer some of your most nagging questions.
Frequently Asked COVID-19 Employment Law Questions
Can My Employer Fire Me For Not Getting Vaccinated?
In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court barred the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from enacting COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). This rule would have made it mandatory for employees nationwide to either fully vaccinate or get weekly COVID tests. As it stands, it is a local and state issue. Here in California, employees who work for the state, in healthcare or in public or private schools K-12 must be fully vaccinated. There are exceptions for religious or qualifying medical reasons, but these unvaccinated individuals must submit to weekly testing. Vaccination mandates in other industries are at the discretion of employers. So, if you are not in the medical, state public service or education fields, check with your employer’s vaccination policy.
Can My Employer Require Me to Wear a Mask?
The short answer is yes. Though California has recently relaxed its mask mandate, counties and employers themselves can implement more stringent rules. You need to check with your employer to make sure you know the masking rules and exceptions in your workplace.
If There’s a COVID Outbreak at Work, Can My Boss Make Me Work?
Whether your employer can insist you work after a COVID outbreak depends upon the circumstances of the outbreak. For example, let’s say you worked in a different building than a group of coworkers that came down with COVID. In this situation, your employer could ask you to stay on. However, if you were exposed at work, your employer is generally required to offer free testing. Sending you home will depend upon whether you have a positive test, your vaccination status and the way you were exposed. The California Department of Public Health has recommendations to help determine who should isolate or quarantine.
Can I Get Time Off to Get a COVID Test?
Cal OSHA requires all employers to provide free COVID testing for their employees. So, you should be able to get tested at work during your work hours. This also means you probably won’t get extra time off for testing.
Can I Get Additional Sick Leave if I Get COVID?
Governor Newsom signed a new law requiring employers to provide supplemental paid sick leave for employees who contract COVID. Though the Governor signed the law on February 9, 2022, it is retroactive to January 1, 2022. However, this new law only applies to businesses that employ over 25 employees. If you work at a small business with less than 25 employees, it is your employer’s choice whether it will provide supplemental sick leave.
Can I Get Sick Leave to Take Care of My Relative or Child Who Has COVID?
Once again, the new law signed on February 9 does provide qualifying individuals paid sick leave to attend a relative suffering from COVID. However, this is not mandatory for small businesses that have less than 25 employees. You will need to confirm your employer’s policies to find out if you can take leave to care for a child or relative.
Still Have Questions About Your Rights if You Get COVID?
Remember, as a worker in California, you have certain rights that no employer can violate. If you are unsure as to whether your employer violated those rights or not, call us. The employment attorneys at Kesluk, Silverstein, Jacob & Morrison, P.C. have years of experience protecting workers just like you. Our number is (310) 997-4431 or you can fill out an online contact form.
Remember, do not use your employer’s telephone or computer to contact us as this could compromise your privacy.