I have been getting daily inquiries about employee rights in light of the Coronavirus and COVID-19 situation. Many employees have been fired for discussing the virus or taking time off. Today a doctor inquired about a hospital refusing to allow him to wear a mask while he makes his rounds. These are all novel issues and further complicated by emergency declarations at the local and national level.
Often during times of emergency declarations, legal rights are suspended. On the other hand, it still remains illegal to fire someone over protected legal rights, such as their disability or religion.
This Houston employment lawyer and Miami employment lawyer, deals with these issues every day. I consider federal laws under the Civil Rights Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and others. It is a matter of taking the individual facts of the person’s Coronavirus or COVID-19 situation and trying to apply those facts to existing laws.
What about lay-offs? There are hundreds of thousands , if not millions of American workers being laid off right now. If an employer has been trying to get rid of an employee for quite sometime, placing them in a group layoff is certainly one way to disguise their intent. In order for the employee to have a case in that situation, they would have to show that they were unfairly included in the layoff because of their age, race, sex or some other discriminatory reason. If the entire workforce is laid off, then, of course, the employee would most likely lose.
As these brand new employment issues arise due to Coronavirus and COVID-19, I will continue to work with clients to come up with out-of-the-box solutions to find laws that may cover their situation and may get them some justice in dealing with employers who make unfair or unscrupulous decisions.
The author: Bruce A. Coane is a Houston employment lawyer and Miami employment lawyer for over 30 years, representing both workers and employers in workplace disputes. He may be reached at [email protected], or at 713-850-0066 or 305-538-6800. The website is http://www.coane.com.