Tips for if you’re let go because of coronavirus

Workers fired or dislocated by the coronavirus have big questions about everything from health care and unemployment benefits to fears of termination and coronavirus exposure.

Employment attorneys and other experts are being flooded with queries from people lacking immediate answers on their most basic rights in these unprecedented times, with many folks nervous about personal finances.

“Many employers are doing the right thing for employees because it is right and makes it safer for them,” said New York-based attorney Vincent White. “Other employers have demanded employees come into work, threatening to fire them if they don’t. I think everyone is expecting quite a bit of litigation when this is over.”

Here are some of the most pressing questions from workers, according to attorneys and other advisers:

What’s the first step for employees let go or furloughed?

They should look into applying for unemployment benefits, advises White. “Every business is handling this differently,” he added. “But for bars and restaurants, many staff are tipped employees. Even if hospitality businesses continuing paying their employees their base pay, that is a fraction of what they might hope to earn in tips.”

How much information can my employer demand if I call out sick?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that employers not require a note from employees sick with acute respiratory illness to verify their illness. The thinking is that health care providers may be stretched to capacity responding to other health calls, according to Workplace Fairness.

Does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allow employers to check employees for a fever?

Right now, the answer is “yes,” according to Courtney Blanchard at Minneapolis law firm Nilan Johnson Lewis.

Do you qualify for sick leave if quarantined or in isolation?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law that provides some employees sick leave and job protection if quarantined or in isolation by order of a public health official.

“The new law also expands protections to certain employees under the New York Paid Family Leave and the New York disability benefits law to provide some measure of salary continuation during a quarantine or isolation order period,” according to a Nilan Johnson Lewis memo.

Can employers terminate workers who don’t come to work because they are answering calls as part-time first responders?

No, not if they are engaged in civil preparedness planning or work, White said.

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