We are receiving a lot of questions about how COVID-19 impacts workers in Alabama. So we put together answers to the most common ones.
6 Ways COVID-19 is impacting the Alabama Employee
Can I be fired for not going to work due to concerns about the Coronavirus?
Unfortunately, your employer may require employees to report to work even if you have legitimate concerns about contracting the virus. On March 27, 2020, the Alabama State Health Officer issued an Order closing all “non-essential” businesses to non-employees. This Order does not prohibit employees from reporting to work.
Alabama is a “termination at will” state. That means employers may legally fire employees for any reason – or no reason at all. Employers may not legally fire employees for a discriminatory reason such as age, race, sex, or national origin.
Can my Alabama employer require medical testing for the COVID-19 virus?
Because we are experiencing a pandemic, employers may ask such employees if they are experiencing symptoms of the pandemic virus. For COVID-19, these include symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. Employers may also monitor employees’ body temperature.
Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record.
Is my employer required to tell me if a coworker has COVID-19 virus or has been exposed to the virus?
Employers should advise employees about all health risks at work. At this time, there is not any law that specifically addresses this issue. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) does require that certain workplace illnesses are reported.
This law may be extended to COVID-19, but there is nothing formal at this time. Employers should contact the county or state health department if any employee becomes sick.
Will I receive workers’ compensation benefits if I contract the COVID-19 virus?
To recover worker’s compensation benefits, an employee must prove that his or her injury arose at work. This will likely be hard to determine since there is no way to prove when your COVID-19 exposure occurred.
Can I be fired if I get sick from Coronavirus?
The new Family First Act requires all employers to provide two weeks of paid sick leave at full pay for employees that get sick or need time to attend to a sick relative.
After the two weeks, an employee can use sick leave or paid time off if it is available. If a business has over 50 employees then they are subject to the Family Medical Leave Act. This allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
Will I receive unemployment benefits if I am fired because I am sick?
New laws have extended unemployment benefits to all persons who:
- contract the virus
- have been exposed to the virus
- have been laid off because of the virus.
These employees will be eligible to state unemployment benefits plus $600 per week from the federal government. Alabama provides 14-20 weeks of unemployment benefits, but federal law may extend the benefit period.