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COVID-19 Virus – Information for Employers

California employers are facing unprecedented challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. An employment law attorney at Spencer Young Law in Oakland, California can guide you through the tough decisions you may be facing.

Am I Liable If My Employees Are Exposed to COVID-19 at My Workplace?

Generally, the standards you must follow for maintaining a safe workplace are regulated by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA. Cal/OSHA currently offers guidance to employers in all industries on mitigating the risks of COVID-19 in their workplaces. You should familiarize yourself with this guidance, which can be found here. It is extremely important to implement these best practices, regardless of whether or not you could face a penalty.

Cal/OSHA establishes more specific standards for certain industries, such as health care and childcare. If you have questions about your obligations in specific industries, contact Cal/OSHA. If Cal/OSHA determines that you have violated any of its standards, you could be subject to civil penalties ranging from $7,000 to over $100,000.

If your employees become ill or injured while working at your worksite, they can file a Worker’s Compensation claim. This may prevent a more traditional personal injury lawsuit against you or your business. However, every situation is fact specific. Call a personal injury and employment law attorney at Spencer Young Law for a more individualized assessment. We are not Worker’s Compensation attorneys but, if appropriate, we can refer you to our trusted Worker’s Compensation partners.

My Business Has Been Ordered to Shut Down – What Are My Obligations to My Employees?

The sweeping “shelter in place” orders made by city, county, and state governments have brought many industries to a halt. In an understandable effort to preserve their assets and keep income and benefits flowing to their employees, some employers are reluctant to follow these orders. If you do not operate an essential business, you must follow these orders to protect the safety of your employees, the health of the public, and yourself from serious penalties.

Your employees can file Unemployment Insurance claims for partial income replacement. You should focus on providing clear, accessible, and accurate information to your employees about how to file an Unemployment claim with the Employment Development Department, or EDD. Call an employment attorney at Spencer Young Law for guidance on your options for replacing your income.

If you lay off your employees, you must immediately pay them for any wages they have earned, including any unused paid vacation time they have accrued. You do not have to pay them for unused sick leave. If you were providing employees health benefits, you are required to inform them of their rights to continue their coverage under COBRA. An experienced employment and business lawyer at Spencer Young Law can consult with you on complying with the relevant employment laws. Call today for your free consultation.

I Operate An Essential Business, but my Healthy Employees Refuse to Come to Work – Can I Make Them?

Generally, employment is “at-will,” and employees can be terminated for refusing to work. However, there may be better solutions than taking a hard line on employees who are understandably fearful about leaving their homes. Moreover, an employee’s refusal may be justified – and legally protected – in some cases.

For example, if an employee believes that your worksite is not compliant with a Cal/OSHA standard and, therefore, they face a real and apparent risk of harm, then you are prohibited from discharging them for refusing to come to work. However, you can require them to work to the extent that you address and correct their concerns, such as by allowing them to telecommute.

If an employee’s concerns are not clear to you, or if you disagree that a Cal/OSHA standard has been violated, you should consult with an employment attorney before disciplining the employee. An experienced employment law attorney at Spencer Young Law in Oakland can help you stay compliant and stay in business. Call today for a free consultation.

My Employees are Working from Home. Are There Special Laws I Need to Be Aware Of?

The Wage and Hour laws in California remain the same whether your employees work on site or at home. However, applying these laws can be more confusing when everyone is in a different location. What expenses are reimbursable? How do you keep track of your employees’ time? How do you ensure employees take meal and rest breaks? When does the workday start and end? When does weekly overtime kick in? A lawyer at Spencer Young Law can answer all of these questions, and more. Call today for your free consultation about how COVID-19 affects you and your workforce.

Client Reviews
Great response time! Very thorough! Knows his stuff! My experience was first rate and would recommend Mr. Young because he took the time to address my concerns, provide clear examples, and most importantly, he listened. Ben A.
Mr Young is a brilliant young man with an astounding ability to sort through the dross of a situation, and get a handle on the true issues. And with all that having been said, he communicates with compassion, making sure you understand your options. I recommend him unreservedly. Robert W.
Super responsive and knowledgeable - Spencer not only responded to my inquiry over the weekend but called me immediately on Monday and took time to explain my legal options even though the case wasn't a good fit for his firm. Quincy S.