Available 24/7 Free Consultations
(310) 728-6588

Were You Wrongfully Terminated Because of Covid-19?

Posted on November 18, 2020 in

If you were abruptly laid off due to the Covid-19 crisis, you may suspect that your employer did so in an unlawful manner. California is an at-will employment state; however, that doesn’t mean an employer can fire you for any reason. Learn your rights and discuss your situation with an employment law attorney. Our legal team at Rise Law Firm is highly knowledgeable in both federal and state employment laws, as well as any regulatory changes in response to the pandemic. Contact us for a free consultation today. 

Employers in California Cannot Fire You on Any of the Following Grounds

  • Requesting reasonable accommodations due to a disability or issue related to being considered high risk for severe illness from Covid-19, as defined by the CDC. 
  • Race, nationality, or ethnicity (you may feel you were unfairly targeted or retaliated against in response to the pandemic)
  • Refusing to work without social distancing measures or personal protective equipment (PPE). 
  • Reporting OSHA and state guidelines violations, or advocating for better working conditions. 
  • Refusing to go into your place of work if there is a shelter-in-place order, and it is considered a non-essential business.
  • Taking emergency sick leave or time off work related to the concerns about the virus, or to care for a family member who has positively tested for Covid-19. 

If you believe an employer has fired or reprised against you—for example, by having your wages or hours reduced— for one of the above situations, you may have grounds to take legal action.

California Employee Protections 

In California, workers who are considered at high risk of severe Covid-19 illness according to the CDC have the right to request their employer for disability-related reasonable accommodations. This is in accordance with the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), for employers who have at least five employees. For instance, requesting to work from home or seeking a modified schedule. The request must be granted, unless there is a reasonable alternative, or they are able to prove that doing so would cause an undue hardship. There are also protections for employees who are in a household with or care for a person who has a disability and is at high risk of severe complications from coronavirus. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a person based on disability, for example, by not permitting them to work or selecting them for layoff. 

Under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), most employees who must quarantine pursuant to local, state, or federal regulations, or at the advice of a health care provider, are typically eligible for up to two weeks of paid sick leave at their regular rate. This is in addition to other sick leave they might have. 

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) also provides job-protection to people who are ill from Covid-19 or have a family member they must care for. Those employees may take up to 12 weeks off without pay, and their job is legally protected.

Workplace Safety and OSHA Requirements 

Employers have a legal duty to ensure that they are taking all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of their workers when it comes to the virus. That includes providing employees with PPE, such as masks, gloves, and possibly hazmat suits. However, what is considered reasonable and necessary can change with time. Examples of reasonable precautions are: 

  • Making and enforcing mask-wearing policies. 
  • Permitting or requiring some or all employees to work remotely.
  • Comply and maintain cleaning and disinfecting protocols specific to the business. 
  • Ensure that cleaning and disinfecting is performed when an active employee is diagnosed with Covid-19. 

OSHA oversees state and federal safety guidelines. Their recommendations for employers include social distancing, regular disinfection of the workplace, and encouraging employees to stay home if they are ill. 

Speak to a Los Angeles Employment Lawyer

If your employer is not working with you or your employment has been otherwise affected due to Covid-19, contact Rise Law Firm. Our employment lawyers understand the law and can explain your rights under the FEHA, FFCRA, or CFRA. For a free initial consultation, call (310) 861-3303 or submit a request online