Working during a pandemic is a potentially scary and dangerous thing for many workers. For those in essential services, they deliver much-needed products and healthcare when much of the country is shut down. If you have refused to work during COVID-19 or any other pandemic or health crisis and were fired, what are your next steps? Do you have a case for a lawsuit against your company?
Here is what you should do if you were fired for refusing to work during COVID-19 or any other health crisis.
You Do Have Rights And Protections
Workers do have rights and protections under the Occupational Health and Safety Administration or OHSA that you should be aware of. Under the existing protections for workers, you can refuse to work under certain circumstances as long as those circumstances were present at the time you refused to attend work.
You can refuse to work if heading into work would put you into immediate danger, for example, you could be injured or even be killed due to lack of safety measures. Another way you could refuse to work without fear of being fired is if you told your employer or immediate boss of any dangers and they did nothing to correct it. You should have documentation stating you did inform your bosses or supervisor of the danger if needed for a lawsuit later. Give any documentation and notes to your lawyer to look over.
Another possible way you could refuse to work without fear of losing your job is if the danger was too great to wait for the matter to go through official OHSA channels to be resolved before refusing to go to work.
Does The Criteria Match COVID-19 Dangers?
The law doesn't currently cover a pandemic for refusal to work, but you could argue that there is a present danger to working in certain industries like food, factory or a warehouse due to the nature of having to work closely together in a kitchen or working a line in a factory.
The health officials recommend a certain spacing between workers to be safe and in some workplaces that might not be possible.
If your workplace has had exposure to the virus, and the exposed employees still continuing to work before they were diagnosed, it's possible you have a case for refusing to work without the fear of being fired until the workplace is cleaned and sanitized. If the employer did nothing after knowing about the potential danger and still fired you for refusing to work, you may have a case against them. Talk to your lawyer about what you can do in this case.
For more information, speak with an employment attorney.