Can You Sue if You Are Fired for Taking Coronavirus Leave?

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting workers across the country, forcing them to stay at home to prevent the spread of the disease.  Many workers in essential industries are continuing to go to work, but others have been unable to continue working.  Many people have gotten COVID-19 themselves, or they have loved ones in their household that are sick and need to be cared for.  Alternatively, you might be under self-quarantine to prevent the spread at work.  Many employers seemingly don’t care how good the reason for staying home is, and some workers have been fired for taking sick days or unpaid leave during coronavirus.  Civil rights attorney Andrew Shubin explains how many of these firings might be illegal and may justify a lawsuit against your employer.

Can Workers Sue if They Are Fired for Taking Sick Leave for COVID-19

If you are sick, you should not go to work.  This is good advice during regular times, but it is essential during this pandemic.  In fact, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) passed by Congress in early 2020 added some protections to help empower sick workers to take time off and still keep their jobs.  This act, in part, guarantees qualifying workers 2 weeks of paid sick leave that can help them if they are diagnosed with COVID-19.

If you qualify for these days off, your employer is not allowed to take adverse employment action against you for utilizing your rights.  You might be able to sue to have employment decisions reversed, to be reinstated to your job, or to have replacement wages covered while you look for a new job.

If you have other paid time off days, vacation days, personal days, or sick days, you should be entitled to use them under the normal rules at your workplace.  If your employer suddenly retracts those rights or blocks you from using them when you need them most, you might be able to take them to court if you are fired, docked pay, docked hours, or otherwise punished for using your days off.

The Americans with Disabilities Act and state employment discrimination laws might also prevent employers from firing workers who have an actual or perceived health issue or disease.

Can Workers Sue if They Are Fired for Caring for a Sick Loved One with Time Off During the Coronavirus?

Sometimes workers can’t go to work not because they are sick themselves, but because a child, an elderly parent, a disabled sibling, or some other dependent family member in their household is ill.  Caring for a loved one with COVID-19 could make it impossible to go back to work until they are better, and losing your job because you have to care for a sick child or loved one should not be a possibility.

The FFCRA also expands other protections like those under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  The FMLA already protects many workers across the county, allowing them to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to deal with a family member’s illness.  The FFCRA ensures similar rights, potentially ensuring up to 10 weeks of leave with wages at 2/3 your normal pay rate.

Can Workers Sue if They Are Fired for Staying Home with Children who Are Out of School Because of Coronavirus?

Since the coronavirus pandemic has led to school closures throughout the country, many parents – even in essential industries – have to stay home to take care of their children while the children are away from school.  Unfortunately, the FFCRA explicitly does not cover situations where you stay home because your child can’t go to school, even if that is technically something that happened “because of coronavirus.”

However, you might still be entitled to protections under state law or company policies.  If you have paid time off, vacation days, or work from home days, you could be entitled to use these days until you can arrange childcare.  In cases where your company can adjust your duties to work from home so that you can care for children left at home, they might be required to – and failing to accommodate your work from home needs could violate state stay-at-home orders or various acts intended to give workers coronavirus relief.

Can You Be Fired for Quarantining after Coronavirus Exposure?

Not everyone who comes into contact with people that have COVID-19 will catch the disease themselves.  However, CDC guidelines, state health guidelines, and common-sense says that it is better to be safe than sorry.  If you have been exposed to coronavirus you might be required to self-quarantine at home for up to 14 days to ensure that you do not develop symptoms or begin to test positive for COVID-19.  A potentially long incubation period and the ability to spread the disease without showing symptoms means that quarantine is one of the most effective tools to prevent the spread.

If you cannot safely go back to work because of the risk you could spread coronavirus, you might also be entitled to time off or modified work from home duties.  Again, the FFCRA allows 2 weeks of paid time off for these circumstances.  If the FFCRA does not apply, then modified accommodations to work from home might also be possible while you are in quarantine and still able to work, in which case your employer might have to make a good faith effort to try that before resorting to firing you.

Call Our Lawyer for COVID-19 Wrongful Termination Lawsuits

Contact The Law Office of Andrew Shubin to discuss a potential wrongful termination lawsuit if you were fired for having coronavirus, caring for a sick loved one, or quarantining yourself because of COVID-19.  Call our State College, PA employee rights lawyer today at (814) 826-3586 to set up a free legal consultation and learn more about your potential case.


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