Your Rights: Returning to Work in a Pandemic

For workers returning to offices during the pandemic, it is important to ensure the “3 D’s”: distancing, deterrence, and disinfection. It is important to ensure distancing between yourself and others. If your work area does not allow for distancing, you should request that you be relocated or that appropriate barriers are in placed around you. Make your requests to your supervisor in writing by e-mail and keep your distance. Our contract requires a safe work environment. Deterrence includes frequent hand washing, hand sanitizing, and wearing a mask. Mask wearing should be considered essential. While you can’t control others, you can control yourself.  Disinfection must occur frequently and in accordance with CDC guidelines. If you do not feel that disinfection is occurring or you don’t have supplies, you should first report this to your supervisor in writing by e-mail, and if you see no improvement, contact us here.

If you are considered at high risk because you have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or are older than age 65, etc. you have rights. You may have rights under the Amerians with Disabilities Act (ADA) to have reasonable accommodations such as a change in working environment, additional PPE or cleaning, or even working from home. If you seek accommodations under the ADA, we recommend filing out your agency’s ADA paperwork, or otherwise put your request in writing. It is helpful to put a time frame on your request such as, “until a vaccine is available” or “until community spread is below a certain threshold.” Work with your doctor to determine your specific needs.

Unfortunately, the ADA does not require accommodations to protect family members.  If you are seeking an accommodation to care for a family member, you should not fill out ADA paperwork, however, your agency may have other paperwork for you to fill out to consider your request. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may provide job protected unpaid leave if you are caring for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition. Sick/vacation leave can be used to make FMLA paid leave. Certain employees may be able to access emergency paid FMLA for childcare issues, but many state employees are exempt from accessing this benefit. (Click here for more info).
If you have questions or need advice regarding returning to work, please contact us here.