In these difficult times, many of us are concerned about our financial future. Many people have been laid off, and companies are rapidly going out of business. You may have temporarily or permanently lost your job and are wondering what your rights are in this situation and what you can do to make sure you and your family are protected. 

New York City lawyer Gary Falkowitz is going to answer some of the most common questions his clients have regarding the coronavirus pandemic. 

Legal Questions and Answers:

My employer wants me to cut my hours, forced me to take unpaid leave, and ended my employment due to health care. Is there anything I can do?

Many workers who have been displaced can file for unemployment. To get unemployment, you must have past earnings and an immigration status that allows you to work in the United States. If your claim is approved, you can end up bringing home anywhere from $40 -$450 per week.

If you are out of work temporarily, you do not have to look for work while collecting unemployment benefits. However, if you were terminated, you must look for another job while receiving unemployment benefits.

The coronavirus has made my employer treat me differently because I’m Asian or foreign. Is there something I can do?  

Your employer is not allowed to discriminate against you based on your race, origin, or ethnic background for any reason. If they do, you have the right to file a charge of discrimination against your employer.

My employer is making me stay home because someone in my family returned from one of the affected countries. Can I do anything?

Your employer cannot treat you differently if they believe you may have contracted COVID-19 from someone in your family. However, if the government officially quarantined your family member, you may receive up to two weeks of paid sick leave if you stay home to care for them.

Does my employer have to provide me with reasonable accommodations in regards to COVID-19 if I have a disability?

If your disability has something to do with a compromised immune system, your employer may provide accommodations for you to telecommute. 

If you have cold or flu symptoms, this is not considered a disability, but complications from COVID-19 like pneumonia may be viewed as a disability. If you are having problems, you should consult with your employer to explore your different options. 

Can my employer ask if I have a health condition that may be affected by COVID-19?

No. You have doctor/patient confidentiality. If your employer asks for any of your personal health information, it could be considered a violation of your doctor-patient relationship, and it’s never acceptable.

If I’ve recently traveled to a country that is affected by COVID-19, can my employer request that I stay home during the incubation period?

Yes. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that any travelers stay home for a period of 14 days after returning from travel to affected countries. 

If I contract coronavirus, can my employer let others know about my condition?

No, your employer is obligated to keep all your medical information confidential and private. 

Can my employer take my temperature while I’m at work? 

Generally, this isn’t legal. However, the CDC and local authorities may recommend your employer take your temperature before starting work during the coronavirus pandemic. 

If I get sick with coronavirus symptoms, can my employer make me go home?

Yes. The Center for Disease Control has recommended that anyone who shows symptoms of the coronavirus should be sent home immediately. 

If I contract coronavirus and am not able to work, what can I do to get income while I’m sick? 

If you are at home and sick with the coronavirus, your employer may pay you for your accrued sick days. However, your employer can limit the number of sick days you are entitled to down to 3. 

Also, starting April 2, 2020, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, if your employer has fewer than 500 employees, you could be entitled to two weeks of paid sick days.

If you contract coronavirus while at work, you may be eligible to receive Workers’ compensation. You will need to file a claim form DW-1 with your employer to start this process.

Can I lose my job if I miss work because I’m sick with the coronavirus? 

The short answer is no. Not only can’t you lose your job because you are sick with the coronavirus, but you could be entitled to 2 weeks of sick pay.

Additionally, you may qualify for protected time off work for up to 12 weeks. To be eligible, you must meet the following requirements:

  1. Your employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your workplace
  2. You have worked for your employer for at least a year
  3. You have worked at least 1250 hours within the year before requesting time off

Finding the Right Lawyer if your Rights Are Violated

If you believe that your employer did anything that crossed the line during the coronavirus pandemic, you have the right to take action. In New York City, the law firm of Gary Falkowitz is highly recommended.

He and his team are experienced at handling work-related legal issues and take a caring approach to treat their clients with respect. When it comes to fighting for your rights, he uses the aggressive representation to see that justice is served.