Covid-19 Frequently Asked Questions

What are your employment rights during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Click on any question below for the associated answer.

Quick links to FAQ sections:

Your Rights as An Employee
Direct Payment and Diagnostic Testing
Unemployment Benefits
Taking Leave

FAQ’s About Your Rights as An Employee

Can my employer tell me to stay home if I have symptoms of COVID-19?
  • An employer can likely send an employee home who is exhibiting symptoms.
Can employers require employees who are “high-risk” to stay home?
  • Generally no, this is not permissible under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) absent a directive from CDC authorities that employers should take such measures
Can my employer take my temperature to determine if I have a fever?
  • Yes, recent EEOC guidance states that employers may measure an employee’s body temperature at this time. Wage and hour laws may also require employers to pay employees for “waiting time” spent to be tested, even if the employee is sent home due to fever.
Can my employer require me to self-report if I have COVID-19?
  • While the answer to this question clearly would have been “no” a few weeks ago, the answer to this question now varies with state and local laws and the continuing guidance of the CDC. It is likely that your employer can require you to self-report but cannot share your protected health information with your co-workers.
Does my employer have to tell me if I have been exposed to co-workers who have COVID 19 or have been exposed to others who tested positive for the virus?
  • Your employer cannot tell you which of your co-workers have contracted the virus. They can and should, however, advise you that you have likely been exposed to the virus.
Can my employer require me to report contact with an infected person?
  • Generally, employers can ask employees if they believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 as exposure is not a medical condition.
Can my employer fire me if I refuse to come to work even though I do not have COVID-19 and have not been exposed?
  • Because employees generally do not have the right to refuse to come to work unless they believe they are in imminent danger, it is advisable to discuss with your employer the use of sick leave and other paid time off as well as the possibility of remote work. Employers may not terminate employees for taking job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or Emergency FMLA from the newly-passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act. If you cannot make one of these options work, you may well be fired if you refuse to work on location for an essential business.
What do I do if I believe my working conditions are unsafe or my boss directs me to do something that I believe is unsafe?
  • If you believe working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, OSHA recommends that you bring the conditions to your employer’s attention and that you try to find a solution to the unsafe or unhealthful working conditions. It is a good idea to talk to someone in management other than the person you believe is forcing you to work in unsafe or unhealthful conditions. Unless you believe you are at imminent risk of serious harm, do not just walk off the job or refuse to perform a work assignment that you believe is unsafe or exposes you to the virus.  You may file a complaint with OSHA concerning a hazardous working condition at any time. For information on occupational safety and health laws, standards, and regulations, visit OSHA’s website: www.osha.gov.
Do I have any legal recourse if my employer cuts my hours or terminates me after I speak out about what I believe is a dangerous COVID-19-related working condition?
  • You may have protection against retaliation under OSHA, the National Labor Relations Act, or the whistleblower protection laws in Illinois and Missouri. Be sure to tell your employer that you believe your right to protection under OSHA has been violated to assure that you are protected from retaliation under OSHA.  If you are the spokesperson for a group that is talking about unsafe working conditions, you may want to put your concerns in writing so that there is no doubt that you are engaging in what is called “concerted activity” under the National Labor Relations Act.  If you are retaliated against you should file complaints with either OSHA or the NLRB or both.  If you are actually terminated, you may also have a whistleblower claim that a lawyer can help you prosecute.
Can my employer temporarily or permanently lay me off in response to an order to close a business? How about because of a business slow-down in my company?
  • The short answer is yes. But see the information that follows about the improved unemployment benefits you may be entitled to if that happens.
Can my employer reduce my wages?
  • Missouri law requires employers to give their employees written notice of a reduction of wages at least 30 days before the reduction is to take effect.
  • Illinois law requires employers to give their employees written notice of the change before employees perform the work.
  • An employer in any state may not reduce an employee′s wages below the federal minimum or state minimum wage (whichever is higher).
How long does my employer have to pay me after I am terminated or laid off?
  • In Missouri, your employer is required to pay a discharged employee all wages due at the time of dismissal.
  • In Illinois, your employer should pay to a discharged employee all wages due at the time of dismissal but in any event no later than the next regularly scheduled pay cycle.

FAQ’s About Direct Payment & Diagnostic Testing

What is the CARES Act?
  • The Corona Virus Relief and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Act became law on March 27, 2020. It is a large economic stimulus bill that covers lots of ground.  For the individual employee, CARES provides direct payments to qualifying individuals, provides COVID-19 testing at no cost, expands unemployment compensation, and relaxes some of the tax penalties associated with early withdraws from certain retirement savings accounts.
Am I eligible for a direct payment under the CARES Act and how much will it be?
  • CARES provides for direct payments or recovery rebates of up to $1,200 for individuals and up to $2,400 for joint tax filers plus an additional $500 per qualifying child under the age of 17.
  • An individual’s adjusted gross income must be less than $75,000 and for joint filers less than $150,000. There is then a phase out period for the rebate–$50 for every additional $1,000 in adjusted gross income.
  • You must be a US tax payer to qualify.
Can I be charged for COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing that I receive from a health care provider?
  • No, the diagnostic testing should be provided to you free of charge. A health care provider or health insurance company should not charge you a deductible, co-payment, or coinsurance for the COVID-19 diagnostic testing.  Your health insurance company should also not require prior authorization for the diagnostic testing.

FAQ’s About Unemployment Benefits

How does the CARES Act increase my Unemployment Benefits?
  • The CARES Act provides for additional unemployment benefits. As of April 2, 2020, Missouri’s Division of Employment Security was waiting for more guidance from the federal government before implementing many of the CARES Act’s provisions.  As of April 2, 2020, Illinois’ Division of Employment Security is working on implementing the new CARES Act’s provisions.
Will I be eligible for Unemployment Benefits? What if I am self-employed, an independent contractor, or work for a religious entity?
  • Traditionally only employees who work for employers that pay into the unemployment system are potentially eligible to receive benefits.
  • Under the CARES Act, independent contractors, individuals with a limited work history, those who work for religious entities, and self-employed workers may receive unemployment benefits.
  • If your employer offers a telework option, you are likely not eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • Similarly, if you are receiving paid sick leave or other type of paid leave benefits, you are likely not eligible for unemployment benefits.
How many weeks of Unemployment Benefits am I eligible for?
  • In Missouri, employees are eligible for up to 33 weeks of benefits. Independent contractors, individuals with a limited work history, those who work for religious entities, and self-employed workers are eligible for up to 33 weeks of benefits, provided that they are unemployed for a COVID-19 related situation.
  • In Illinois, employees are eligible for up to 39 weeks of benefits. Independent contractors, individuals with a limited work history, those who work for religious entities, and self-employed workers are also eligible for up to 39 weeks of benefits, provided that they are unemployed for a COVID-19 related situation.
What will my Unemployment Benefit amount be?
  • Your benefit amount varies by state by state.
  • In Missouri, your weekly benefit amount can be up to $320 per week.
  • In Illinois, your weekly benefit amount can be up to $484.
  • In addition, you are likely to receive an additional $600 per week for up to four months.  In Missouri, this program ends the week of July 25, 2020.  In Illinois, this program ends the week of July 26, 2020. 

FAQ’s About Taking Leave

What is the Family First Corona Virus Relief Act (FFCRA)?
  • The Family First Corona Virus Relief Act or FFCRA provides leave under the FMLA for employees who must care for children at home due to school closures or unavailability of childcare due to COVID-19. It also provides limited sick pay for some employees who work for businesses with less than 500 employees.
How much leave am I entitled to when I stay home to care for my children due to school closures or unavailability of childcare due to COVID-19?
  • You are entitled to 12 weeks of Emergency FMLA leave for this reason, as you would be for any other FMLA-qualified leave, so long as you work for a business with less than 500 employees. Please keep in mind that this is not a new type of leave, so if you have already exhausted your FMLA entitlement for the current 12-month period, you are not entitled to additional leave.
How quickly do I become eligible for emergency FMLA after starting a new job?
  • You become eligible within 30 days of starting a job.
Am I eligible for sick pay if I take leave due to COVID-19?
  • You may be eligible for sick pay under emergency FMLA if you work for an employer that has less than 500 employees and you are unable to work in person or by telework because:
    • You are quarantined because you have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it
    • You are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis or treatment
    • You are caring for an individual who has been quarantined or told to stay home due to COVID-19
    • You are caring for children at home due to school closures or unavailability of childcare due to COVID-19
How much sick pay am I eligible for if I qualify for Emergency FMLA?
  • You are entitled to your regular pay for up to two weeks if you are quarantined because you have COVID-19 or you are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • You are entitled to two-thirds of your regular pay for up to 12 weeks if you are caring for an individual who has been quarantined or told to stay home or if you are caring for your children due to school or childcare closure due to COVID-19.
When I return to work after emergency FMLA, do I have the right to return to my old job?
  • You have the right to return to an equivalent position for up to a year.
If my employer closed my worksite before April 1, 2020 (the effective date of FFCRA), can I still get paid sick leave or emergency family and medical leave?
  • If, prior to the FFCRA’s effective date, your employer sent you home and stopped paying you because it does not have work for you to do, you will not get paid sick leave or emergency family and medical leave but you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your worksite for lack of business or because it is required to close pursuant to a Federal, State, or local directive.
I’ve been laid off or furloughed. How will this affect my Emergency FMLA eligibility once I go back to work?
  • An employee who was laid off on March 1, 2020 or later, and subsequently rehired by the same employer, is eligible for paid leave under the emergency FMLA, so long as the employee was employed for at least 30 of the last 60 calendar days prior to layoff.
Is all leave under the FMLA now paid leave?
  • The only type of family and medical leave that is paid leave is leave taken because the employee must care for a child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due a COVID-19 related situation.
I work in Illinois. Do I have any special rights when I need to be home to care for my child or other relative who is ill?
  • The Illinois Sick Leave Act permits employees to use “personal sick leave benefits” to care for relatives who are ill. It likely provides you additional paid sick leave that can be used to care for a loved one who has contracted COVID-19.

If you still have more questions or simply want to talk to an attorney about your rights during this pandemic, please contact our administrative assistant Becca Kern at contact@sedeyharper.com or at 314-773-3566 to get in touch with one of our attorneys.

Remember the information provided on this page does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.