In January of 2021, the pandemic had already been raging on for months. As citizens debated the safety of going back to work, some flat out refused. To be exact, one in three American adults said that they would quit if they were forced to return to the office after the pandemic.
After all, can our employers really promise us a safe workplace while COVID-19 is still among us? As we’ve already seen, the vaccines can only provide so much protection and not everyone is adhering to health advisor’s recommendations to get vaccinated.
Has your employer failed to require vaccinations yet still asked you to return to in-person work? If you’re still concerned about the pandemic, then you’re likely wondering what your legal rights are as an employee. Does your employer have to offer you accommodations, or are you expected to simply get a different job? Learn everything you need to know about going back to work during the pandemic below.
Pandemic Accommodations: Telecommuting and Your Employer’s Rights
When the coronavirus pandemic first became a mainstream concern, no one really knew what the best course of action was. Some of the world’s greatest minds came together to create a reasonable plan to help keep citizens everywhere safe. In America, that meant temporarily asking everyone to stay at home unless they were performing essential duties. As time went on, non-essential businesses eventually started to reopen, but they’ve still had to create workarounds to ensure that their employees are safe during this pandemic.
That’s because it’s an employer’s legal duty to provide a safe workplace for their employees. An employer must take reasonable steps to ensure their employee’s safety, which means it’s an employer’s legal duty to take heed to guidance from public health authorities like the CDC. If your employer fails to adhere to that guidance by bucking mask mandates or COVID screening efforts, then they could be held liable for any fallout if an employee does fall ill with COVID.
That’s why so many employers have been willing to allow for pandemic accommodations like telecommuting. But, what’s going to happen now that vaccines are becoming available and businesses can open back up?
Employee’s Rights: A Safe Workplace and Vaccine Mandates
In many states, employers are upholding their employee’s rights to a safe workspace by mandating vaccines for in-person workers. Getting the vaccine, according to public health authorities, is crucial in preventing the spread of the virus. It’s also completely within an employer’s rights to create a vaccine mandate for current and future employees.
What if your employer doesn’t want to mandate the vaccine, though? Are you, as an employee, required to continue working in-person with co-workers who refuse to get vaccinated? After all, you’re entitled to a safe workplace. Are your unvaccinated co-workers creating an unsafe space?
These questions are all valid, but the answers remain unclear at the moment. There are no current court cases to draw an opinion from. If your employer isn’t giving you reasonable pandemic accommodation to make you feel safe, then it’s a good idea to consult with a lawyer in your area. They’ll be able to advise you on your best course of action and your legal options.
Seeking Legal Advice?
Throughout this pandemic, creating a safe workplace has been a significant challenge. Under federal law, employers have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to ensure an employee’s safety. An employee has the right to a safe workspace.
But, how do you create a safe workspace during a global pandemic? For the most part, that’s meant creating pandemic accommodations like allowing workers to telecommute, monitoring employees for symptoms of COVID-19, and providing ample sick leave.
The tides are changing, though. At this point, taking reasonable steps to ensure a safe workplace might mean mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for workers. It could also mean allowing workers who are uncomfortable with in-person work to keep telecommuting where possible.
Do you feel like your employer has violated your rights as an employee or overstepped their boundaries as an employer? If so, then it’s a good idea to get in touch with an employment lawyer in your area. That’s where we can help! Head over to our lawyer search bar, type in employment and your zip code, and receive a list of quality attorneys close to you.
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