New Jersey employees face a host of new challenges due to the novel Coronavirus (“COVID-19”). New Jersey has many laws that protect employees, including the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act. Employees are also protected by federal laws, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”). OSHA may provide additional protection to employees in many situations.
I am scared of infection. Am I required to go to work?
It depends. OSHA makes it unlawful to retaliate against protected employees. An employee is protected if (1) the employee made the employer aware of a dangerous situation the situation was not resolved; (2) the employee had a good faith belief that the situation was dangerous; (3) a reasonable person would conclude that there is danger of death or serious injury under the circumstances; and (4) the situation is too urgent to resolve through normal enforcement. If you have a good faith belief that you are in danger of contracting COVID-19 in your workplace and you have made your employer aware of this, OSHA may protect you from retaliation for refusing to work.
I have tested positive for COVID-19 (or am showing symptoms but have not yet been tested). Can my employer fire me?
OSHA requires that employers keep all workplaces free of known hazards likely to cause death. Your employer is required to remove you from the workplace. However, this does not mean that your employer can fire you. Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, your employer must accommodate you by providing paid or unpaid medical leave unless they can show it would cause them an undue hardship to do so.
My employer has not taken any steps to reduce my risk of contracting COVID-19 at work. What should I do?
OSHA disseminated “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19”. This guidance included several recommendations to employers, including developing a plan in case of potential outbreak, implementing infection prevention policies, and communicating about job flexibility. If your employer has not taken any steps and you do not feel safe, you should contact your employer and make them aware that you believe they are not providing a safe workplace. If they do not respond, you may need to contact OSHA directly to file a complaint.
I am having one of these issues or another issue related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are many workplace and employee issues related to the current pandemic. If you have any questions or concerns, call Schorr & Associates at 856-874-9090 and one of our attorneys will provide a free initial consultation regarding your issue.