The ongoing COVID-19 epidemic has forced a significant shift in where work is performed across the U.S., with many more people working from home. While this undoubtedly has some benefits for workers, you can still be hurt or injured even when not in the office or on the jobsite.
With more people working from home, injury accidents like tripping and falling while walking around the house, burning yourself with coffee while taking a break, repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome caused by a lack of proper equipment at home, are becoming more common.
Some employers are trying to take advantage of this crisis by denying workers their due protections because employees are no longer working in the office. If this has happened to you, know that you have rights and legal options.
The experienced, aggressive workplace injury attorneys at Teddy, Meekins & Talbert can look over your case, tell you what compensation you may be owed, and help you fight for it. Call us today for your consultation, or visit us online.
Worker Protections Related To COVID-19
While much of the legal landscape surrounding COVID-19 – workplace protections included – remains in flux, there are still some basic rules that apply. Courts have consistently ruled that many of the same protections that workers enjoy in their regular workplace still apply to those working from home.
As just one example, the Americans With Disabilities Act still applies to at-home workers. That law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to a workplace or to how someone does their job in light of their disability, even when someone is working from home.
Many of the same rules regarding work-related injuries still apply to people working from home, though they may have to jump through some additional legal hoops to establish their claim. A workplace injury lawyer can tell you more about the rules in your specific state and let you know what you need to do to prove a claim.
Your Employment Rights During COVID-19 Restrictions
Aside from work-related illnesses, one issue facing many people who’ve been working from home is whether it’s safe to even return to work. After all, cases of COVID-19 are continuing to spread across the country, so returning to work may put you at risk of contracting the virus.
While refusing to return to work when asked is generally a terminable offense, some states offer workers more protections than others, and there are a few federal laws that may help if you’re trying to convince your employer to let you stay home. Some of those laws are:
- The Occupational Safety and Health Act – Under the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, employers are required to keep their workplace free from hazards that could cause harm to their employees. Some states also have additional workplace safety plans under the OSH Act that may be stricter, giving workers more protections. The OSH Act also includes an anti-retaliation clause, which protects workers from being fired for making a claim saying that their workplace isn’t safe.
- The National Labor Relations Act – For private sector employees, the NLRA offers some protections to people who refuse to go into work out of fear for their safety. If two or more employees refuse to work or walk off the job because of safety concerns, they’re essentially considered to be going on strike for health and safety reasons. They can then file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board if they’re fired for walking off the job.
- The Labor Management Relations Act – The LMRA says that if an employee walks off the job because of abnormally dangerous conditions, their employer cannot fire them. This law does not consider employees who refuse to work due to dangerous conditions to be on strike, meaning their employer cannot permanently replace them.
- The Families First Coronavirus Response Act – This recent law expands certain worker protections through Dec. 31, 2020. Private sector workers who work at businesses with fewer than 500 employees can take two full weeks of paid sick leave at their regular pay rate if they test positive for COVID-19, have related symptoms, or have been ordered to stay home by the government. Those who qualify for this paid leave cannot be ordered to return to their workplace for the duration of their leave.
Workers’ Mental Health During The Coronavirus Crisis
The stress of quarantine and other factors can make a major impact on workers’ mental health during this crisis. Employers are required to make certain provisions for people working from home, including measures to address work-related mental health issues during the pandemic.
Workers’ Compensation Related to the Pandemic
Workers’ compensation cases can be difficult under the best of circumstances, and a global pandemic is not the best of circumstances. While there are many rules in place to protect workers, even those working from home, employers and their insurers often reject claims out of hand or force employees to settle for less than what they deserve. Don’t let this happen to you.
If you have a workers’ compensation case related to COVID-19, the workplace injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Teddy, Meekins & Talbert are ready to fight on your behalf. To find out more about how we can help you, call our office today for a free case review.
A native North Carolinian and a fourth-generation lawyer, Ralph W. Meekins literally had the desire to help those who are not able to help themselves as well as to be a practical life adviser to people in his blood.