There is a lot of uncertainty around the globe right now as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, causing sickness and death in rare cases. This has left businesses to make it up as they go in order to figure out if employees can work from home.
As they go about this, it is crucial to remember that employers cannot unfairly single out employees. For example:
- The employer cannot tell an employee to work while sending the others home, nor can they send home an employee while others remain at work.
- The employer cannot treat an employee differently if they believe with no medical evidence that the employee carries the virus. This is because it is illegal to make assumptions about a worker’s health.
- The employer cannot ask about the health of an employee, but they can generally encourage all employees to stay home if they are sick.
Contending with a sick worker
Medical information is private with legal protections to keep it so. Thus, an employer cannot share the details of an employee’s condition with others. They also cannot retaliate against a worker for contracting the virus by giving the job to someone else or docking the sick employee’s pay rate. If the business is open, they should not expect employees to return to work until they feel better, they are not contagious, and medical professionals say it is safe to do so.
It is also illegal for employers to single out workers based on their ethnic make-up. For instance, a business cannot send home a worker of Chinese, Italian or Korean heritage because of their ethnic heritage. They can, however, ask the employee to self-quarantine if the employee has recently traveled abroad or had contact with someone who has contracted the virus.
This is unprecedented in modern times
The scope of this pandemic changes daily. This will leave all businesses struggling to keep up. While they may already have regulations regarding sick leave and workers’ rights, they must follow current laws as well as best practices shared by health officials for dealing with COVID-19.