returning to work

Scared to Work Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic? Know Your Rights

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that recently passed, those returning to the workforce have some protections

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Massachusetts is beginning to reopen and with that comes some hesitation for those returning to the workforce.

"My oldest daughter was born with a congenital heart defect as well as some lung issues, so the idea of going back to work definitely weighs heavy on my heart," said restaurant worker Suzette DaRosa.

Labor and employment attorney Joyce Smithey says there's a lot of fear out there, but fear will not allow you to stay home from work. She says employees do have some protection under the law.

For example, if you’re in a high-risk group due to a disability, like diabetes or a heart condition, Smithey said you can ask for leave or for telework as an accommodation for your disability. She said workers also have some protections under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that recently passed.

"That allows for leave if you're experiencing symptoms or in quarantine," Smithey said. "If you have school-aged children or children that usually have daycare, but don't right now, you're going to have protection under the Families First Act."

If you don't fit in those categories, Smithey says you may be out of luck.

"Right now, if your employer is taking reasonable steps – they have wipes and they are telling people to wear masks, they are probably going to meet that standard under the law and there''s not much you can do," Smithey said. "You are going to have to make that hard choice between letting them terminate you or forego your unemployment and quit."

Before you make any decision, it's best to first talk to your employer about your concerns, and then weigh your options.

"You need to fast forward and see where you need to be in 6 months and decide is the termination better for me…and make a decision that is forward-thinking for you as to whether or not you are going to come in," Smithey suggested.

If your company is reopening and you feel that they're not taking the necessary steps to keep you safe, you can contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to voice your concerns.

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