What To Do If Your Employer Forces You To Work Despite COVID-19 Stay Home Order

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What To Do If Your Employer Forces You To Work Despite The COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Order

What To Do If Your Employer Forces You To Work Despite The COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Order

Apr 9, 2020

Last week Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti, announced the city’s “business ambassadors program,” an initiative meant to force nonessential businesses to close in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The initiative is a response to the daily reports received by the mayor’s office of nonessential businesses continuing to operate despite the statewide stay-at-home order. Mayor Garcetti called such behavior on the part of Los Angeles businesses “irresponsible and selfish.”

Garcetti also announced that businesses choosing to defy the stay-at-home orders should expect to receive a warning call from prosecutors, and that any businesses which continue to operate as usual will face more aggressive action including shutting off their water and power. 

Though the exact number of nonessential businesses continuing to operate is unclear, the very fact that the mayor had to take the step to create a business ambassadors program is evidence that said number is indeed significant. And as businesses continue to defy the stay-at-home order, workers are undoubtedly finding themselves in the precarious position of either risking their health for a paycheck or facing the possibility of termination. If businesses refuse to comply with statewide orders meant to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it seems unlikely that they are complying with California’s labor laws as well. 

So, what should you do if your employer essentially proposes an ultimatum of either showing up for work in defiance of the stay-at-home order or losing your job? Let’s take a look at three common scenarios that are likely impacting many California workers at this time.

1. Coronavirus contracted on the job resulting in extended health effects or even death:

Presently, California has not implemented workers’ compensation coverage for all employees who contract coronavirus on the job while working at businesses that are deemed essential. However, working at a nonessential business that is willfully defying the statewide stay-at-home order and contracting coronavirus in the process constitutes a unique case, and you may have options for a civil lawsuit. In this specific scenario it is prudent that you contact a workers’ compensation lawyer immediately.  

Additionally, workers at both essential and nonessential businesses who contract coronavirus and experience severe medical complications that could affect their quality of life going forward (e.g. severe and lifelong lung damage) should also contact a workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss their situation and determine whether or not they may have cause for filing a lawsuit for damages related to the injury. 

In the tragic instance of a coronavirus diagnosis leading to death, there may be cause for the decedent’s next of kin to file a wrongful death lawsuit, particularly if the virus was likely contracted while working at either an essential or nonessential business. 

2. Nonessential businesses requiring their employees to continue working:

If you are employed at a nonessential business and your employer mandates that you come to work in spite of the stay-at-home order, that business is in effect breaking the law (not to mention putting the health and safety of many Californians at risk).

If you refuse to come to work and are then fired as a result of your decision, that constitutes wrongful termination, and you have the right to file a civil suit under California law. Additionally, forcing an employee to continue working at a nonessential business constitutes two labor law violations: 

  1. The business is operating in defiance of the statewide order
  2. The business is placing employees at risk for potentially contracting coronavirus on the job

3. An employee is unable to come to work while under quarantine:

Sadly, many workers are unaware of their rights according to California labor laws, and may be under the misunderstanding that their only option is to continue showing up for work, even if their employer is deemed a nonessential business. That is simply false, and if your employer is operating unlawfully you should contact an experienced employment lawyer immediately. 

The third common scenario that is likely impacting many California workers relates to limitations for working while under quarantine orders. If you were potentially exposed to coronavirus (someone you know and have recently interacted with has tested positive, or perhaps your roommate of co-worker has tested positive) you should self-quarantine for a minimum of 14 days according to state and federal guidelines. 

However, if your employer refuses to allow you to work from home during the quarantine period, or proceeds to terminate you, that is another example of wrongful termination and your rights under the law allow you to file a lawsuit accordingly. 

Moreover, if you have tested positive for coronavirus — regardless of where or how you contracted the illness — your employer can’t legally require you to come to work. Whether you are experiencing mild symptoms and self-quarantining at home, or experiencing severe symptoms and hospitalized under medical supervision, you still have rights under California’s labor laws. If you find yourself terminated after testing positive for coronavirus, you should contact an employment lawyer immediately. 

Furthermore, if you were forced to continue working at a nonessential business in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and believe you contracted the illness while at work, you may also have cause for filing a civil lawsuit. 

In many ways, this is uncharted territory within the employment and workers’ compensation law arenas, but it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced attorney to immediately discuss your specific situation and possible options going forward. 

Due to the coronavirus situation and likelihood that a surge of clients will come forward with related claims, Dordulian Law Group has hired attorney Charles Rondeau, a certified workers’ compensation specialist with over 25 years of experience litigating cases on behalf of workers and defending their rights against nefarious employers who fail to comply with labor laws. 

Mr. Rondeau, along with the entire Dordulian Law Group team, is here to answer any questions you may have regarding your specific employment situation. We offer free consultations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

The current situation with coronavirus is causing many workers to choose whether to go to work and risk their health (and potentially their life), or face the potential of being terminated and left without any form of income. That is a decision that you shouldn’t have to make given the current climate throughout California, and we at Dordulian Law Group are here to help defend your rights and ensure that employers do not take advantage of you, put you at risk, or cause you unnecessary stress and anxiety with regards to your job.

If you are facing any of the scenarios listed above, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at your very first convenience. We are available online or by phone at 800-880-7777. 

Go See Sam