Consider the following hypothetical situation. An employer hears an employee coughing and looking a little run down. Fearing the employee will infect the entire work force with Covid-19, the employer terminates the employee. Does the employee have a case against the employer? How are employee rights defined in this situation?
American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and How it Applies
We must start this inquiry by mentioning the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). This is a Civil Rights law passed in 1990, and prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in every area of public life, including schools, jobs, transportation and any public or private place open to the public. For employers, the Act only applies if they have 15 or more employees.
Employee Rights Regarding Wrongful Termination During The Coronavirus Pandemic
If an employee sustains an illness or an injury, the employer must make “reasonable accommodation” to the employee’s job, if that is at all possible. For example, if an employee doing heavy manual labor injures his back, but there is a desk job opening he can do, the employer must offer him that job.
The situation with Covid-19 poses a unique problem for the simple reason that we aren’t just dealing with the welfare of one employee, but the welfare of the other employees too.
When Termination Is Considered Permissable in Spokane
The ADA does permit employers to make decisions based on safety concerns, but this has to be done carefully. To terminate an employee, the employer has to have a very reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that the employee is infected with the Covid-19 virus.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has established guidelines for employers wrestling with the problem of a potentially Covid-19 infected employee. These guidelines are quite detailed, and can be found at the following website:
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