COVID-19 and California Employment Law
COVID-19 We have never been more isolated and more connected. Learn more about how COVID-19 affects your rights and your employment. You are not alone.
COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, has changed American life dramatically, and swiftly. At the beginning of March, we would take walks along the waterfront in Seaport Village, and Balboa Park. On March 19, the entire State of California was ordered to stay home to help stop the spread. Times have changed, but our desire to help the American workforce has not. Here you can find links, resources, and information for employees to help weather this storm. We are providing these resources free of charge, and encourage you to share this link with friends, family, and anyone else you think might benefit from it.
We are all in this together.
Where to Start Learning about Covid-19 Resources Available?
The first place to look should be: www.covid19.ca.gov. California state government is doing a pretty good job of keeping resources up to date for employees. They even have resources directly for workers here: www.covid19.ca.gov/workers
FAQs For Workers in a COVID-19 World
What do I do if my employer cut my hours, forced me to take unpaid leave, furloughed me, or ended my employment?
You can file for unemployment insurance with the California Employment Development Department (EDD). Unemployment requires certain minimum criteria based on past earnings. If you are approved, you can earn between $40-450 each week. You might also be entitled to another $600 per week through July 2020 under the CARES Act. You typically must wait a week to start receiving benefits. But, if you are unemployed because of COVID-19, you can start collecting immediately. Filing online is typically much faster than the phone. If you are an employee, you can visit www.edd.ca.gov/Unemployment. Most people do not need a lawyer to help them apply for unemployment benefits.
But some folks could use a guide. You can find a guide for $14.95, designed to help you determine your benefits, apply for unemployment, win an appeal, and maximize your benefits.
You can find more information on Lincoln’s DIY page.
What if I own my own business?
Business owners, self-employed, independent contractors, and folks who have limited work history can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. You can find out more here: www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/pandemic-unemployment-assistance/faqs.
What do I do if I have a disability and I am worried I might catch the Coronavirus?
If you have a disability like a compromised immune system, or asthma, your employer might be required to let you work from home, give you unpaid leave, or additional PPE as a reasonable accommodation for your disability.
Can my employer ask me if I have a health condition that would be affected by the Coronavirus?
If I have Coronavirus, can my employer tell others?
No. However, your employer might be allowed to tell co-workers they may have been exposed.
Can my employer take my temperature before work?
Normally no. But, the EEOC said it is okay for now to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.
Can my employer send me home from work if I am sick with Coronavirus symptoms?
How do I get income if I cannot work because of COVID-19?
You can use your paid sick days. Also, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, if your employer has fewer than 500 employees, you should be able to access 2 weeks of additional paid sick days. If COVID-19 disables you, you might be eligible for disability benefits through your employer, or through the state.
Can I get workers’ compensation for catching COVID-19?
Gov. Newsom said there is a presumption that employees, who are essential workers, who caught COVID-19, caught it at work, and are eligible for workers’ compensation.
Can my employer fire me for catching Coronavirus?
Your employer cannot retaliate against you because you have used paid sick days or filed a workers’ compensation claim. Also, you might be entitled to two weeks of paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act if you work for an employer with fewer than 500 employees.
What can I do for income if my son/daughter/husband/wife/mom/dad is sick with Coronavirus?
If your employer has fewer than 500 employees, you can use paid sick days under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. You can also use any paid sick days you have accrued under California law. You might also be eligible for Paid Family Leave if you are missing work to take care of a seriously ill parent, parent-in-law, child, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, grandparent or grandchild. You can apply for Paid Family Leave at www.EDD.ca.gov.
Can I get fired for staying home to care for a seriously ill family member with coronavirus?
If you work for an employer with at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite, you have worked there for at least a year and you worked at least 1250 hours in the year before you take time off, then your employer must provide you with up to 12 weeks of protected leave to care for a parent, spouse, domestic partner, minor child, or adult dependent child with a serious health condition.
Additionally, if your employer has fewer than 500 employees, you can use two weeks of paid sick days to care for a sick family member under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Can I get fired for staying home to take care of my child, who does not have school?
Potentially. Starting April 1, if your employer has fewer than 500 employees, your employer is required to provide you with 12 weeks of paid leave, at 2/3 your regular rate. However, if your employer has fewer than 50 employees, it might qualify for an exemption. Additionally, if your employer has 25 or more employees at the same location, you might be entitled to 40 hours of leave to address a daycare emergency…like the Coronavirus.
Can my employer fire me for not coming into work when I am stuck at home under a shelter in place or stay at home order?
You might have a case of wrongful termination.
Can I get fired because I am afraid of getting COVID-19 at work?
Yes. But you cannot get fired for a disability, requesting reasonable accommodation for a disability, or complaining about unsafe working conditions.
What other benefits are available to help me pay the bills and feed my family during the Coronavirus pandemic?
You might be eligible for SNAP, Covered California, food banks, or other private worker assistance programs.
What is in California’s Stay at Home order?
On March 19, 2020, Governor Newsom ordered all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence, except as needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors, critical government services, schools, childcare, and construction, including housing construction.
What is open? Essential services like:
- Gas stations
- Food: Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants
- Laundromats/laundry services
Essential state and local government functions will also remain open, including law enforcement and offices that provide government programs and services.
These sectors should also remain open under Presidential Policy Directive 21 (PPD-21): PPD-21 identifies 16 critical infrastructure sectors. They are:
- Chemical Sector
- Commercial Facilities Sector
- Communications Sector
- Critical Manufacturing Sector
- Dams Sector
- Defense Industrial Base Sector
- Emergency Services Sector
- Energy Sector
- Financial Services Sector
- Food and Agriculture Sector
- Government Facilities Sector
- Healthcare and Public Health Sector
- Information Technology Sector
- Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector
- Transportation Systems Sector
- Water and Wastewater Systems Sector
What is closed:
- Dine-in restaurants
- Bars and nightclubs
- Entertainment venues
- Gyms and fitness studios
- Public events and gatherings
- Convention Centers
What is in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?
Signed March 18, effective April 3, this law provides up to two weeks of paid leave for employees affected by COVID-19, and reinstatement, in most cases. Big businesses, that employ more than 500 employees, do not have to provide paid leave, or reinstatement. You’ll see this new poster in the workplace: www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/posters/FFCRA_Poster_WH1422_Non-Federal.pdf
- CELA’s take: www.celavoice.org/2020/03/19/federal-families-first-coronavirus-response-act-offers-sick-leave-and-family-leave-with-exceptions
- Cal Chamber’s take: www.hrwatchdog.calchamber.com/2020/03/families-first-coronavirus-response-act-passes
Doesn’t my employer have to provide 60 days’ notice before laying me off?
Sometimes. But, not right now. Gov. Newsom Suspended the California WARN Act. The WARN Act provides employees protection from unexpected plant / business closures / mass layoffs. On March 17, Gov. Newsom suspended the WARN Act notice provisions due to COVID-19. You can read the order here: www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/3.17.20-EO-motor.pdf
Where can I find additional resources for workers?
There are a lot of resources out there:
- The California Employment Lawyers Association provides some great resources for employees and workers: www.cela.org/index.cfm?pg=COVID-19CENTER
- Same with Legal Aid at Work: www.legalaidatwork.org/blog/coronavirus-update-legal-information-for-workers
- User’s Guide to California Unemployment Benefits for sale for $14.95 here.
- Summary of Benefits Affected by COVID-19: www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/#chart
- Laws enforced by the DLSE relating to this coronavirus: www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/2019-Novel-Coronavirus
- United Way of San Diego launched an affected workers initiative to help affected workers get money for food, rent, etc.: www.uwsd.org/covid19
- Guidance for protecting workers generally: www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/General-Industry.html
- Guidance for protecting healthcare workers: www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/Coronavirus-info.html
- Guidance for efficient use of respirator supplies: www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/Use-of-Respirator-Supplies.html
- Work Sharing Programs: www.edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/Work_Sharing_Program.htm
- Safety and Health Fact Sheet on Airborne Diseases: www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/Aerosol-Diseases-fs.pdf
- Workplace guide to airborne diseases: www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/ATD-Guide.pdf
- Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Model Exposure Control Plan: www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/ATD-Exposure-Control-Plan.docx
- Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Referring Employer Model Written Program: www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/ATD-Model-Referring.docx
- Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Model Laboratory Biosafety Plan: www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/ATD-Biosafety-Plan.docx
- Food and Beverage Guidance: www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/CDPH%20Document%20Library/COVID-19/Coronavirus%20Disease%202019%20and%20Food%20Beverage%20Other%20Services%20-%20AOL.pdf
- Pandemic Assistance (unemployment) for self-employed: www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/pandemic-unemployment-assistance.htm
- FAQs on laws enforced by the California Labor Commissioner’s Office: www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.htm
- CDPH webpage on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/nCOV2019.aspx
- CDC webpage on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
- Federal OSHA webpage on COVID-19: vwww.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19
- COVID-19 Prevention Tips Graphic: www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/PublishingImages/COVID19-Poster-Final-V3.png
- EDD Disability Leave, Paid Family Leave, Unemployment: The EDD set up a website specifically for coronavirus-2019. You can find out more on signing up for, and collecting unemployment, disability, and/or paid family leave here: www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm
What if I still have questions?
If you still have questions, please feel free to fill out our free, confidential, case evaluation form: www.californiaemploymentlawfirm.com/case-evaluation. The forms are essential to our intake process and every potential client must fill one out before talking to an attorney at McCarthy Law about their legal matter. The forms are completely free, and completely confidential. They go straight to John’s inbox. John makes it a point to review and respond to every intake within 24-48 hours, even on weekends. Even if we are not in a position to help, we want to provide you resources to help you understand your rights, find an attorney, and even help yourself.
Take care of yourselves and each other.
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