Unfortunately, the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has presented many challenges to all industries, including roofing professionals. Along with needing to comply with safety guidelines, employers will also be tested when it comes to navigating difficult employment law decisions. There’s a real potential that many workers may not return to work if they feel they are unsafe.
In this brief article, a roofing lawyer in Florida will discuss an employer’s legal rights if an employee won’t return to work. Remember, this article is for educational purposes. For accurate legal advice, pick up the phone and call a roofing attorney in Florida.
Florida is considered an at-will employment state, meaning that an employer can release an employee for any reason and without warning. There are exceptions to this rule. For example, the employment agreement could have a policy that states otherwise. Union and collective bargaining agreements are other examples of instances in which employers may not be able to suddenly release an employee without cause. Generally, if an employee refuses to report back to work, the employer has the capabilities to terminate their employment (with the above exceptions); however, there are a few federal acts employers should consider before taking action.
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
If a group of employees will not return to work because they are concerned about their safety or they feel that the precautions that the employer took to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace were not sufficient, this may be protected under the NLRA. The key for NLRA protection is that it protects group-based activity, so this protected act requires a group of employees to file the complaint in order for it to be considered a protected activity under NLRA.
Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
Employers need to keep in mind that they may have a requirement to provide a reasonable accommodation for an individual that is at high risk for COVID-19 complications. For example, if you have an employee with a heart or lung condition, they are at greater risk of serious illness or death if infected by COVID-19. For this reason, federal guidelines encourage employers to consider telework or special accommodations for employees that have pre-existing conditions. If the essential functions of the individual’s position requires them to return to work, it’s important to have these accommodations in place to protect vulnerable workers.
Tread Lightly This Summer
When making decisions about return to work programs, it’s best to have a soft approach for enforcement. Our attorneys encourage employers to tread lightly as there could be an increase in claims over the summer. It’s also important to consult an attorney with the specifics of your situation, so you can receive accurate legal advice. If an employer does terminate an employee’s employment due to their refusal to return to work, they can contact their local unemployment office and learn more about whether or not the employee has a right to unemployment benefits. This is a state-by-state issue, so consult an attorney in your area to learn more about unemployment rights.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.