Navigating your rights during a public health emergency or pandemic can be difficult. However, many states provide protection for workers that prevent employers from terminating employees or other adverse actions. Read below to find information about protections that your state provides.
HELP rules only provide emergency paid leave to cover the period required for testing. The rules do not require wage employers to provide wage replacement should an employee test positive and require quarantine resulting in lost work time.
Employees must give notice of the need for leave under the HELP rules as soon as practicable, and preferably, within 24 hours of being prescribed the test. Employers may request documentation from a health care provider showing the prescription of a COVID-19 test and date thereof, or from provider of the test showing that the test was performed and the date thereof; provided, however, that an employer may not terminate an employee for inability to provide documentation during an illness covered by the HELP rules.
[Ed. Note: On March 26, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment modified the Emergency Rule Requiring Paid Sick Leave to add coverage for not just those “being tested” for COVID-19, but also those “under instructions from a health care provider to quarantine or isolate due to a risk of having COVID-19.”]
[Ed. Note: On April 27, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment expanded the amount of sick leave required to be provided by Colorado employers from four days’ full pay to two weeks (up to 80 hours) at 2/3 pay for employees with either flu-like or other respiratory illness symptoms and who is being tested for COVID-19, or those under instructions to quarantine or isolate from either a health care provider or an authorized government official.]
[Ed. Note: On July 14, Colorado’s Health Emergency Leave with Pay (HELP) rules were replaced by the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA). HFWA requires most Colorado employers to provide up to 2 weeks (up to 80 hours) of COVID-19-related paid leave through December 31, 2020. The HFWA requires that paid sick leave be paid in the amounts and for the purposes specified in the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The HFWA applies to: (1) employees who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis, (2) employees who were advised by a health provider or government agent to self-quarantine, and (3) employees who are taking care of someone else due to COVID-19-related reasons. For employees in the third category, employers may pay employees 2/3 of their regular pay rate. Under the HFWA, employers may require employees to provide documentation that the leave is for a HFWA purpose.]
The District of Colombia enacted the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, which provides a number of workforce protection. In the employment context, the Act amends the District of Columbia’s FMLA statute to waive the one-year employment and 1,000 hour work requirements for eligibility during periods when the Mayor of D.C. has declared a public health emergency. These relaxed eligibility requirements only apply to employees who have been ordered or recommended to quarantine or isolate by the Department of Health, any other agency, or a medical professional.
The Act also provides that any employee who is unable to work as a result of circumstances giving rise to a public health emergency during a period for which the Mayor has declared a public health emergency is entitled to “declaration-of-emergency” leave during such period. At this point, however, the Act is light on additional details regarding declaration-of-emergency leave.
[Ed. Note: On May 27, the District of Columbia’s COVID-19 Response Emergency Act of 2020 was replaced with the Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020. This act amends the D.C. Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act (ASSLA) to require employers with between 50 and 499 employees (other than “health care providers”) to provide eligible employees with up to 2 weeks of paid “public health emergency leave” at full pay for any reason for which paid leave is available under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The act also expands the D.C. Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA) to require all employers with one or more employees in D.C. to provide 16 weeks of unpaid, “COVID-19” leave to employees who are unable to work due to COVID-19, or must take care of a family member.]
The New York State Legislature passed an emergency bill requiring employers to provide differing amounts of sick leave to employees affected by COVID-19, based on employer size. Leave under the law is limited to any employee subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19, except when an otherwise eligible employee is asymptomatic or not yet diagnosed and is physically able to work while under quarantine or isolation (including remote work). A mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 is sufficient to trigger the leave if issued by the State, the Department of Health, or any governmental entity.
Leave under this law is to be provided without loss to an employee’s existing accrued sick leave. However, the law provides that if the federal government provides for sick leave benefits related to COVID-19, the provisions of the NY law are only available to the extent they exceed the benefits under the federal law.
- receives a certificate of completion of isolation or quarantine issued by the department or the authorized local health department;
- is still qualified to perform the duties of such position; and
- makes application for reemployment within 90 days after being released from isolation or quarantine.
[Ed. Note: On April 14, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Senate Bill 2374 (S2374), which amends the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) and the New Jersey Family Leave Insurance law (NJFLI) to provide job-protected, paid leave to care for family members quarantined due to COVID-19. The bill also amends the NJFLA to provide for job-protected unpaid leave to care for children due to COVID-19 school closures. The legislation also allows employers to seek certification relating to these expanded categories of leave, allows highly paid employees to take leave if the leave is COVID-19-related, and provides that COVID-19-related leave may be taken on an intermittent basis. These new provisions are retroactively effective as of March 25, 2020.]
Employers do not need to provide any payment for unused sick leave upon the termination of employment. However, if an employee is rehired within six months, all previously accrued but unused sick time must be reinstated.
Virginia’s Public Health Emergency Leave Policy permits or requires eligible employees to attend to the medical needs of self and immediate family members by providing up to 80 hours of paid leave per leave year when Communicable Disease of Public Health Threat conditions as defined in Section 32.1-48.06, et. seq Code of Virginia, have been declared by the State Health Commissioner and Governor.