At Heninger Garrison Davis, we have received questions and calls from Alabama employees and employers about the coronavirus pandemic. Many Alabama employers are fighting hard to figure out how they can survive without having to lay off employees. Employees are concerned about their job security and health. At Heninger Garrison Davis, our law firm is here to answer your questions and offer experienced legal advice as we all go through these uncertain times.
Can an Employer Fire an Employee Who Does Not Go to Work Due to COVID-19?
Even if an employee is worried about contracting coronavirus (COVID-19), they must still report to work. The Alabama State Health Officer issued an Order on March 27, 2020. This order required all “non-essential” businesses to close down to non-employees. The order does not prohibit employees from needing to report to work, however.
Alabama is a state that recognizes “termination at will.” This means that Alabama employers can fire employees for any reason, or no reason. Employers cannot fire an employee for an unlawful reason, such as discrimination based on age, race, national origin, or sex.
Can Employers Require COVID-19 Testing of Employees?
Alabama employers do have a right to ask employees whether or not they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. Employers also have a right to monitor the body temperature before they come into the building. Employers can send their employees home if their employees experience any of the Coronavirus symptoms, such as chills, fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. Employers do have a legal duty to keep their employee’s medical information and medical records confidential.
Must an Employer Tell Employees About Another Co-Worker’s Diagnosis?
Employees and employers alike are worried about a potential outbreak of COVID-19 at their workplace. Employees are concerned that their employers will not tell them if one of their co-workers has been diagnosed with the virus.
As of now, there is no federal or state law that specifically addresses this issue. For example, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does require employers to report certain workplace illnesses. OSHA could extend this regulation to apply to cases of COVID-19, but there is no formal application of this law at this time. Employers should notify Alabama’s State Health Office as soon as possible.
Receiving Workers’ Compensation Benefits After Contracting the COVID-19 Virus
Can employees receive workers’ compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19? As of right now, there are no unique laws related to workers’ compensation benefits and COVID-19. An employee must still prove that he or she received an injury at work to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Proving that you received COVID-19 at work can be difficult because the virus spreads so easily between people and has an incubation period.
Can Alabama Employers Fire Employees Who Get the Coronavirus?
When an employee gets sick with the coronavirus, the employer must provide two weeks of paid sick leave. The newly enacted Family First Act requires employers to provide the two weeks of paid sick leave at the employee’s full payment amount. Under the Family Medical Leave Act, qualifying employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Alabama is a termination at-will state, meaning employers can fire an employee for any reason at all.
Do Employees Qualify for Unemployment Benefits if They Contract Coronavirus?
What happens if an employer terminates an employment relationship when an employee contracts coronavirus? Alabama has extended unemployment benefits to all employees who:
- Contract the coronavirus,
- Have been exposed to the coronavirus, or
- Have been laid off by their employer because of the coronavirus
Employees will be able to receive unemployment benefits from Alabama plus $600 per week from the federal government. The state of Alabama provides between 14-20 weeks of unemployment benefits. However, federal law might extend the period of benefits for unemployment.
Contact Our Experienced Law Firm as Soon as Possible
At Heninger Garrison Davis, our legal team understands that we are going through an unprecedented time. If you have more questions about how COVID-19 will affect employment policies, we can help. After reviewing your unique situation, we can help walk you through your legal options. Contact our Atlanta law firm today to schedule your initial consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.