A Return To Work After COVID-19 Raises Many Hard Questions

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By Jonathan Young

As Pennsylvania slowly reopens from COVID-19, employers and employees face a drastically different work environment. Health and safety may be paramount but expect hard questions to arise with, in some cases, no easy answers. The post-coronavirus world will be just as uncharted as the world we find ourselves in now.

Here are a few questions that have come across our desks at Dischell Bartle Dooley.

Q. If I don’t feel safe, do I have to return to work when my company says I do?

A. You can ask your employer to allow you to continue to work from home but your employer is not required to grant you that arrangement. However, if you have anxiety or other diagnosed-mental health disability that is being made worse by the coronavirus outbreak, working from home may be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is likely to be a very challenging decision for employers and employees. Governor Wolf has even discussed the possibility of workers staying home if they don’t feel safe.

Q. I’m back at work but we aren’t following CDC guidelines for safe workplaces. What do I do?  

A. The first thing to do is to tell your employer about the conditions that are causing your concern. CDC guidelines are only recommendations, however, and employers cannot be cited for not following recommendations. But if workplace conditions don’t change, you can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA complaints can be made anonymously. Under the OSHA general duty clause, employers are required to provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. OSHA can determine if that clause is being violated.

Q. Can I apply for workers’ compensation if I get COVID-19 due to my job?

A. You should apply for workers’ compensation if contracted COVID-19 on the job. An illness caused or aggravated by work exposure can be considered an injury or an occupational disease. Exposure to COVID-19 would most likely be considered an injury.

Q. Can I be asked to waive my right to workers’ compensation?

A. Employers can’t require employees to sign away their right to workers’ compensation coverage.

Q. Do I have to allow my employer to take my temperature at work?

A. Because of the risk of COVID-19, employers are permitted to conduct temperature screenings.

Q. Must I get a COVID-19 vaccine, if it is developed?

A. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that employers can require employees to get a vaccine during a pandemic. Exemptions may be available for religious beliefs or pre-existing medical conditions.

Click here to learn more about Dischell Bartle Dooley commitment to results or call 215-362-2474 to talk with an attorney.

Jonathan Young is a partner at Dischell Bartle Dooley, a full-service law firm with offices in Lansdale and Pottstown. He specializes in employment law, litigation, workers’ compensation, and personal injury matters.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Young is a partner at Dischell Bartle Dooley, a full-service law firm with offices in Lansdale and Pottstown. He specializes in employment law, litigation, workers’ compensation, and personal injury matters.

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