Medicine & the Law - LawCall

Can your employer demand that you come to work during this Coronavirus outbreak? As the virus ramps up, you may be wondering what are your rights as an employee. While the laws are not very clear-cut, the general answer is, no, your boss cannot force you to come to work during this time.

However, there are exclusions that come into play. For instance, if your local government defines your role as “essential”, then you may have to comply with your employer’s wishes, or risk termination.

If you are performing a job that is considered essential, such as a pharmacist, healthcare, or police officer, your employer can say you should come to work. If you choose not to do so, you will put yourself at risk of being fired with cause.

Federal guidelines allow state and local authorities to decide what businesses are considered “essential” during a crisis. 

There are general workplace protections for non-essential workers. If there are no local mandates for you to show up to work during this crisis, then you are probably within your legal rights to stay home, particularly if you are near a hot zone.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a “General Duty Clause” that requires workplaces to offer safe and healthy environments for their workers. The areas must be “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm to employees”.

If your boss is pressuring you to come into a workplace that is considered a hot zone, there are things you can do to protect your rights. 

  • File a confidential safety and health report with OSHA
  • Contact your local government to make them aware of your situation
  • Use social media to let the public know about your boss’s unsafe practices

If you have legal questions, please consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.

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