Posted July 2, 2021
Despite the release of the COVID-19 restrictions and mask mandates, many Americans are still weary about returning to work amid the pandemic. With the vaccine not guaranteeing 100% immunity from the virus and many people refusing or being unable to get the vaccine, workers and employees are uncertain about their return as it could put their health at risk. Due to this, many people are wondering if one could potentially be fired because of their refusal to return to work; however, there is no set answer. The situation really depends on the state you live in as each state has different rules and laws that regulate what happens to the employee. Though technically an employer is allowed to fire their employee if they refuse to come back as they were hired at their own will, there are ways to get out of this situation if you have legal justification.
Employee Rights & The COVID-19 Vaccine
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) can be used to file a complaint against a company as it grants workers the right to refuse to work if they believe their workplace conditions could cause them serious, imminent harm. Though this law was enacted to ensure safe working conditions, using this law to make a claim against a company can be very difficult especially if they are practicing social distancing and following the COVID-19 guidelines. Also by filing a complaint under OSHA, you can’t be fired or demoted for asserting your right to a safe workplace by reason of the anti-retaliatory clause that’s a part of OSHAt.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is also another act that can be used to protect you as it guarantees the right of private sector employees to go on strike for any reason such as for health and safety. Just like the OSHA, you would need concrete evidence for your reason of leaving and would have to be specific. Although this act will protect you from being fired, the employer can also exercise their right in hiring someone to permanently replace you.
You can also be protected under the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) if your workplace is abnormally dangerous. Though the conditions of the workplace must be severe in order for this Act to work, it will protect you from being fired if you do walk off.
Lasty, in special circumstances in which an employee has a physical or mental impairment that limits them from coming in, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can be enacted. Though the ADA doesn’t specifically cater to COVID-19, the conditions and side effects that are as a result of or heightened due to the virus can be used to qualify as a disability in accordance with the Act. To claim protection under the ADA, a medical professional would need to sign off and provide documentation of the condition you have. Though the ADA can only provide temporary leave, it has an anti-retaliation provision which prevents your employer from taking action against you if you are medically required to take a leave of absence.
Ultimately, while there are acts and laws that are placed to help prevent you from getting fired due to your refusal to return post COVID-19 restrictions, there is a chance in which you can be. If you feel you are at risk of losing your job and want to know your rights to file a complaint, contact the COVID-19 Injury Lawyers today!