Can I Be Fired For Refusing to Go Back to Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
The Coronavirus has presented workers with unprecedented challenges. Health and safety are first and foremost on all our minds. Making that decision to go back to work – or not – is very difficult.
Are you afraid of getting fired for refusing to go back to work during the Coronavirus pandemic? Do you have questions surrounding wrongful termination? We are here to help.
Employee Rights Regarding Wrongful Termination During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Employers, in many states, including Florida, have the right to fire you for any reason that is not illegal. This is called an employment “at-will” state. However, employees are protected from discrimination – that is illegal. Workers are also protected under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). The OSH Act requires that employers provide employees
“employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to [the] employees.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does have additional measures that employers must abide by for safety and health standards for varying industries. This includes retail, hospitality, manufacturing, such as meat-packing plants, and more.
But now, in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic, we are in uncharted waters when it comes to employment law. The answer to “Can I Be Fired For Refusing to Go Back to Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic?” may depend upon a variety of factors, such as:
- The severity of the health crisis in your location
- Whether there are Stay-at-Home or Shelter-in-Place directives where you live/work
- Local and state laws
- Accommodations your employer is making to ensure your health and safety
- Specific regulations which may apply to your workplace
These factors may have an influence on how the judicial system interprets laws that address workplace safety and wrongful termination. For example, if an employee reports to work in violation of a government order, this could be a violation of OSHA rules by putting other workers in danger. If an employee refuses to go to work under that same situation, this may be a protected refusal to work given an employee’s right to a safe and healthful work environment.
Further Considerations on Wrongful Termination
Employee rights attorneys are currently discussing what the legal ramifications of refusing to go back to work during the Coronavirus Pandemic could be across the United States. Does the Coronavirus present enough of an immediate threat of serious injury to employees to qualify for protections under federal or state statutes? This could depend on the context of the work environment, such as the nature of the work and whether or not the employee is in a “high risk” category for exposure to the virus.
It is certain that legal professionals will continue to monitor any update to OSHA regulations or other applicable laws regarding employee rights, wrongful termination, and the Coronavirus.
Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., Employee Rights Lawyers That Fight for Justice
If you have been terminated because you did not go back to work during the Coronavirus Pandemic, have been harassed at work, or feel like your job is at risk, you should consult with an employee rights attorney to determine your best legal options going forward.
Our attorneys understand what a stressful time this is right now and can help guide you and fight for you if legal action is appropriate in your case.
Contact us today to set up a free, confidential consultation.