Coronavirus and work: what chief can and cannot force you to do

The spread of the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV translates the relationship between employers and employees to a new level. Both sides are now trying to sort out their rights and duties to curb the spread of the virus, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Коронавирус и работа: что начальник может и не может заставить вас делать

Photo: Shutterstock

Caught between trying to prevent the spread of the virus 2019-nCoV in their jobs and to minimize disruptions in business operations, employers produce various decrees, unthinkable, just a few weeks ago. From quarantine for workers to transition to remote work, and even decrees that require them to report on personal travel.

Meanwhile, many employees wonder how far can their superiors in an attempt to protect them from the spread of the virus 2019-nCoV, and what the requirements are excessive.

To better understand what is permissible and necessary to overcome the crisis, The Wall Street Journal consulted with lawyers on employment and other experts. The answers are often somewhere between Act Americans with disabilities or ADA, which is aimed at protecting people’s private lives, and standards of Management of safety and health at work, designed to protect workers. But according to experts, a set of labor rules and regulations suggests that it is reasonable to adhere to the following guidelines.

Here are answers to some of the most common questions from employees.

Personal journey

Can an employer cancel my vacation and instead force me to work?

On most jobs, Yes. Vacation time is not guaranteed by Federal law, and most employers have the right to cancel the leave and require that employees returned to work, says Kenneth Dau-Schmidt, Professor of labor law at Indiana University in Bloomington. With the exception of cases when the employee subject to a Union contract or a specific employment agreement, which provides for a certain number of days, he says.

However, most bosses understand that the cancellation of leave will cause a negative reaction, so if this is not required by an emergency, they will not do.

What if my boss tells me to cancel personal plans for the trip. Is it legal?

“Employers can’t dictate how you spend your personal time, even if they give recommendations for travel to specific regions,” says Robert Matuson, Executive coach and author of “the Evergreen talents: a guide to the recruitment and development of a sustainable workforce.”

Should the company pay for the cancelled trip?

If the boss insists that the employee canceled the trip, ask for compensation. Some employers will consider this request quite reasonable. But if the employment contract is not specified, there is no legal obligation to pay, says Mr. Dau-Schmidt.

Work remotely

I really feel uncomfortable with commuting and increase the risk of contact with sick people. Do I have the right to work from home?

According to Mitch Boyarsky, a lawyer for labor and employment in Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, employers generally are not required to allow to work remotely. The exception is an employee who meets the requirements of the ADA for remote work on the basis of disability. Another thing might be if the government prescribes quarantine, say other lawyers. Then the employer may be more reason to allow remote work.

I feel great and I don’t think I’m infected with something, but my boss insists I worked at home. Should I?

Yes. Employers have the right to ask employees to work remotely, says Angela B. Cornell clinical Professor of practice in law school Cornell.

For example, you can ask the workers who recently traveled to China, Italy, Iran or another country particularly badly affected by the outbreak of 2019 coronavirus-nCoV, work at home for a certain period. But not quite right to ask for workers over the age of 70 to work from home, even if it is good intentions, because people in old age are a protected class under Federal law.

My employer asked me to work from home. Does this mean that they can order me not to go or not to go to Church?

Although your boss may ask you not to go to the office, he can’t forbid you to go to other places or, say, a subway. However, your employer can just recommend you to stay at home, says Heather Bussing, lawyer for employment in SONOMA County, California, from Rybicki & Associates PC.

“You can teach and encourage employees, but can’t control them” she said to employers.

At work

My job requires me to work with a large number of clients. Can I say that will not be able to do their job due to the outbreak of 2019 coronavirus-nCoV?

Employees are protected against sanctions from the employer, if they refuse jobs that they consider to be unsafe, says Howard of Mavity from the law firm Fisher & Phillips LLP, providing safety in the workplace. He advises employers to listen to employee problems.

“You can’t punish someone for complaining about safety,” he says.

If, for example, the housekeeper at the hotel has passed the necessary training for protection from Covid-19 and are provided with appropriate gloves and equipment, it may be impractical to cancel the cleaning of a hotel room. But if it became known that the hotel caters for guests with Covid-19, that’s another story. Employees can refuse this task, he says.

Do I have to go on a business trip?

A lawyer for employment in Minnesota Kate Bischoff says that your boss may require you to travel.

“There may be a ultimatum, either you go or lose your job,” she says.

Her advice to employees: give convincing arguments in favor of the fact that through technology, meetings can be held online as efficiently. She also encourages employers to be cautious in statements.

“If you put this ultimatum, this is quickly known to all employees of the company and subsequently they can rethink the necessity of work from you. This is a strategic mistake,” she says.

It is also depending on circumstances can become a legal mistake, says Daniel Schwartz, partner of the law firm Shipman & Goodwin, which mainly represents employers of Connecticut. He recalled a case in Connecticut where the court ruled that it may be illegal to require an employee to travel to an unsafe place.

Can an employer measure my temperature at work?

The Commission on equal opportunities in employment said that, according to the Law on Americans with disabilities, measuring the temperature of a worker is typically considered a medical examination and this usually goes beyond what an employer may do or require. But especially severe or widespread outbreak of the flu, this check is valid. This rule is likely to apply to the epidemic of 2019 coronavirus-nCoV.

But even if it is legal to measure the temperature of the employee, many lawyers and experts in the field of health does not advise to do it.

“Maybe they just have the flu,” says Schwartz about employees with fever.

Also public health officials confirmed that many people with 2019 coronavirus-nCoV was not fever.

What if I get sick Covid-19 to work? My employer will bear the responsibility?

Unlikely, because it is usually difficult to prove. According to Cornell, if an employee gets injured at work, for example, slips or falls, he is entitled to compensation that can cover the cost of medical care and loss of wages.

But with the 2019 coronavirus-nCoV can be difficult to accurately determine where the person contracted it and make it more difficult to attract the employer to liability for medical expenses. As a rule, the employee must prove that the disease was caused by “conditions that exist”, and there were no other conditions, where he could get, under the leadership of Fisher & Phillips for employers.

Privacy policy

My employer knew that his colleague had contracted the virus, but did not immediately report it to others. Aren’t they required to do?

Actually, Yes. According to Cornell, the companies are required to warn those who might come into contact with someone who diagnosed Covid-19. Local health authorities may recommend that the public knew about it.

But it is very unlikely that the company will call the name of the infected employee. This may violate confidentiality requirements compliance with ADA, says Mavity.

Instead, employers say that employee on a particular floor or part of a building, contracted the virus.

“Everyone will need about 1.5 seconds to understand what you are talking about Joe without mentioning his name,” says Mavity.

If I come to work, aching Covid-19, do I have to tell your employer? Can’t I just say that I need a hospital and nothing more to add?

According to Matuson, there can be no legal requirements, but there are ethical. If you work in an office or personally communicate with colleagues, it is recommended to warn your company about your diagnosis that managers could warn the others.

If you are working remotely and do not have direct contact with colleagues, clients, or other people at your work, unleash your diagnosis is not necessary.

“I would say I feel bad,” says Matuson.

As reported ForumDaily:

  • A new virus was discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. In 2020 it covers all continents except Antarctica. On 11 March, the President of the United States Donald trump has imposed a ban on entry into the United States from the EU. The ban came into force on Friday, March 13, and will last at least 30 days. In particular, it will affect people visiting the Schengen area for the last 14 days.
  • On 13 March, the tramp of coronavirus introduced in the U.S. nationwide state of emergency.
  • March 11, the who declared the situation with coronavirus pandemic, covering more than 110 countries. With symptoms COVID-19 caused by a coronavirus, can be found here.
  • The virologist’s advice on how to protect themselves from infection — the link.
  • Using the panic in the society because of the epidemic, the scammers have come up with several schemes to get victims ‘ personal data and money. The most common ones can be found here.
  • Panicked due to emergency, Americans are buying up large quantities of toilet paper, but can’t explain why it during an outbreak.
  • Trump has signed a law granting paid leave due to the coronavirus. Who can count on paid holidays, please click here.
  • All the news about the coronavirus please refer to our special projects.




Educational program


Special projects