Know Your Rights: Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Workplace

As an Employee, You Are Protection Against Discrimination During COVID-19

Many businesses have had to adjust their operations on-the-fly to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the changes have left employees with a lot of questions about new demands from their employers. This guide from a Newport Beach workplace lawyer will help you understand your legal rights following changes due to the Coronavirus.

Your Employer Can’t Fire You for Getting COVID-19

The Family & Medical Leave Act (FLMA) prevents an employer from firing you if you get sick. Also, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits an employer for firing you for a disability.

If COVID-19 infection has caused an underlying condition to develop into a health problem, you could have a disability under the ADA. To qualify as a disability, your condition must substantially limit at least one major life activity. A history of such an impairment, or belief by others that you have such a condition, can also qualify as a disability under the ADA.

You should consult with a Newport Beach labor attorney for employees to learn state- specific rights you may have in California.

Your Employer Must Pay You for Time Missed Due to COVID-19

The recently-enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) mandates that employers with fewer than 500 employees allow workers to take up to 80 hours of emergency sick leave if they meet one of the following:

  1. Are subject to a quarantine order, or are caring for someone subject to such an isolation order
  2. A health care provider has ordered you to self-quarantine or you are caring for someone who has received such an order
  3. Have symptoms of COVID-19 infection and are seeking health care
  4. If you are a caregiver for a child whose school or day care has been closed due to COVID-19
  5. Other similar situations as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services

Your Employer Can Require You to Work from Home

Employers are allowed to set the terms and conditions of employment. This means that, yes, your employer can require that you work remote subject to certain limitations.

Your employer cannot require you to telecommute due to an actual or perceived disability. If working from home causes a drop in pay for certain workers or is perceived as a demotion, state or local laws could protect you. You should consult with a Newport Beach employment attorney to learn your protections in such a situation.

You Can Demand to Work from Home if You Are Unusually Vulnerable to COVID-19

In general, employers have the right to set the terms of employment. This means that you cannot demand to work from home under most circumstances. However, if you have an underlying condition such as asthma, heart disease or a compromised immune system that makes you particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, your employer might be required to allow you to telecommute under the ADA.

This protection doesn’t apply to jobs that cannot be performed remote, or if it is unreasonably difficult to do so.

You Can Demand to Work from Home to Care for Children

The FFCRA allows employees to take emergency sick leave to care for a child whose school or day care has closed, or if child care is not available. You can also claim another 10 weeks of sick leave at 2/3 pay due to a bona fide child care need created by COVID-19.

You can learn more about the conditions and limitations on such benefits from the Department of Labor. You can also seek advice from an employment attorney Newport Beach to learn about state and local protections for child care during the pandemic.

Your Employer Might Have to Compensate You to Set Up a Home Office

Your rights in this area will generally come under state and local laws. If, however, the cost of a home office causes your pay to fall under minimum wage requirements, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) could protect you.

The state of California requires employers to compensate employees for computers, internet access and mobile devices used in the course of employment. A Newport Beach workplace lawyer can give you more information about employee protections in your area.

You Could have Legal Protection Against Pay Cuts or Layoffs

Employers much abide by certain restrictions when laying off employees. Federal law mandates that firms must give employees at least 60-days notice before mass layoffs or a worksite closings under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN).

Some states, including California, have WARN acts codified under state law. Many states and municipalities require employers to provide a schedule of updated work hours and compensate workers if they add or cut shifts. If you are laid off, you could have unemployment benefits. You should consult with an experienced Newport Beach labor attorney for employees to determine your rights if your employer takes such an action.

You Could Claim Compensation if an Employer Withdraws a Job Offer Due to Covid-19

Employers usually can withdraw job offers before you have accepted them without legal consequences. An exception to this rule is if the job offer is irrevocable, which is unusual in employment contracts.

However, employers cannot withdraw job offers due to discriminatory reasons.

Disability can be a valid cause to withdraw a job offer if it makes you incapable of performing the job or if you pose a risk of harm to others. But, an employer must make reasonable accommodation for disabilities under the ADA.

Some states (including California) allow employees to seek compensation for damages due to withdrawn job offers. Employees can recover for such things as relocation costs and lost income from quitting a prior job due to the withdrawn offer. An employment attorney Newport Beach can advise you on your specific situation.


This is only a small sample of employment law issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic. You should consult with an employment attorney Newport Beach if you have any employment problems related to COVID-19.