Coronavirus and Wrongful Termination

Our COVID-19 Wrongful Termination Lawyers Explain Your Rights

Photo of Losing Your Job Due to the Coronavirus OutbreakThe novel coronavirus is responsible for one of the worst economic calamities in a century. Millions of workers lost their jobs in the opening weeks of the pandemic. In fact, you might be one of them. However, there are also going to be numerous cases of workers who lost their jobs in violation of state or federal laws.

Our Los Angeles employment lawyers expect there to be cases involving employers who violated employment agreements or terminated employees for taking sick leave. Additionally, there will also likely be cases of employers who fired employees for reporting unsafe working conditions.

The good news is that some terminated employees may have legal options to pursue compensation by filing wrongful termination or retaliation lawsuits.

Can My Employer Fire Me for Taking Sick or Family Leave?

The spread of the novel coronavirus earlier this year put pressure on lawmakers to strengthen existing sick leave laws. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act went into effect on April 1, 2020, just as coronavirus began to spread out of control across the state. The law remains in effect until December 31, 2020.

Employees who are working at a company with 500 or fewer workers may be able to take advantage of extended paid sick leave or family and medical leave. However, employers with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption if they can demonstrate providing leave would jeopardize operations.

Having COVID-19 is not a requirement for taking advantage of the recent changes. You may also qualify if you are under a local or state quarantine order, or if you were advised by a medical professional to self-quarantine. Additionally, you may qualify if you are seeking a diagnosis for COVID-19.

You may qualify for extended family leave if you are caring for a person who is under a quarantine order. Additionally, you may also qualify if you are caring for a person who was advised by a medical professional to self-quarantine. Parents may qualify if they are caring for a child whose school closed due to COVID-19. You may qualify for two-thirds of your regular pay rate.

The amount of paid leave you qualify for depends on your employer, length of employment, pay and possibly other factors. However, your employer cannot fire you or demote you for taking eligible leave. You may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer if you face a negative employment action for requesting or taking leave.

There were also changes to California sick leave laws, such as an executive order that provides extra protections for eligible food sector workers. You can see the differences between California and federal paid sick leave laws on the California Department of Industrial Relations’ website.

Can My Employer Fire Me for COVID-19?

Federal and state laws protect employees who are eligible for sick or family leave. Depending on your employer and the length of your employment, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) could allow you to take 12 weeks of personal sick leave or to care for a family member who is sick. Employers cannot fire you for taking eligible sick leave under state or federal laws.

Additionally, you may qualify for workplace protections under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) or the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). If you develop complications from COVID-19, then you may have a qualifying disability.

You should contact our Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyers if you suffered a demotion or lost your job for taking sick leave. Depending on your situation, it may be possible to seek compensation against your current or former employer.

How Do Employment Contracts Affect Job Termination During the Pandemic?

You may be party to an employment contract that guarantees specific aspects of employment at your current job. Employment contracts may be in writing as well as implied or oral.

You may be eligible to file a wrongful termination claim if your employer terminated your position in violation of your employment contract. California is an “at-will” state, meaning that employers can terminate a job at any time. However, an employer can only terminate a position so long as the termination does not occur in violation of the law or an existing employment contract.

If you believe your employer violated an employment contract, then we encourage you to reach out to us for a free initial consultation. We can review your situation and help you determine whether it would be possible to seek compensation against your former employer.

Can I Be Fired for Reporting Unsafe Working Conditions?

Your workplace is most likely unsafe if your employer is violating local, state or federal safety laws. During a pandemic, it is easy for an employer to endanger workers by breaking the law. Fortunately, you can report your employer for violations. There are state and federal laws that protect whistleblowers.

California law bars employers from retaliating against whistleblowers, or even perceived whistleblowers. A whistleblower is someone who reports an employer’s illegal activities or incompetence to a government agency or auditor. Your employer cannot harass you, demote you or fire you for exercising your rights under California or federal whistleblower laws.

As of April 9, 2020, Los Angeles employers who are essential businesses must provide workers with personal protective equipment (PPE). Employees must wear face coverings that protect the nose and mouth. There are additional rules on face coverings and handwashing.

What If My Employer Illegally Fired or Demoted Me?

You should speak with a Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer if you believe your employer broke the law by terminating or demoting your position. The attorneys at Kesluk, Silverstein, Jacob & Morrison, P.C. provide free initial consultations.

During a consultation, we can explain your legal rights under local, California and federal laws. We can also help you determine if you would be able to file a complaint or lawsuit against your current or former employer. You can schedule a free consultation with us by dialing (310) 273-3180 or using the contact form on our site.