Workers' Compensation & Coronavirus
Alabama, like the other states across the US, has been in the grasp of Covid-19 and this pandemic situation has raised several concerns in the minds of the employees’ sector across Birmingham. On one hand, the employers are fighting hard to figure out that how would their business survive in case of termination of employees, and on the other hand, the employees are striving hard to have their jobs secured and to protect themselves from contracting Covid at their work place and hence, are concerned to have an understanding of their rights when it comes to Covid at their work place.
EMPLOYEE’S DUTY TO ATTEND WORK PLACE DURING COVID
Since Alabama is a state which is known for its “termination at will” concept, which means that an Employer can fire an Employee for any reason or for no reason other than discrimination which is considered as an only unlawful and wrongful termination in Alabama. The Alabama State Health Officer issued an order on March 27, 2020 requiring all the non-essential businesses to shut down to non-employees. For example, Restaurants, their employees can prepare food and deliver, but the dine in was closed by virtue of the above order, thereby restricting the work place to be opened only for the employees. The order does not prohibit employees from attending office.
RIGHTS AND BENEFITS OF EMPLOYEES AT WORK PLACE DURING COVID
On one end where Alabama is a state of termination at will and the employer has the right to terminate an employee without any reason and also, the employees are not prohibited from attending their offices, there are a few rights of employees which give this class a ray of hope during this pandemic situation.
1. Right to Claim Workers’ Compensation Benefits:
Birmingham Employees can claim to receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits if they Contract Covid at their work place. Unfortunately, there is no specific law pertaining to such compensation during Covid and therefore, it would not be out of question to say that chances of such claims to be successful are minimal. However, in order to make a case it is imperative for the Employee to establish that he contracted the virus from the workplace for any reason.
2. Awareness in case of any victim at the workplace:
Employees at an organization do have an advantage as the Employers at Alabama are advised to inform their Employees if any of their employee has contracted Covid or even sensing symptoms of the disease. The unfortunate part is that there is no law that addresses this issue in totality, however, as per the guidelines issued by the Alabama Health Care Department, the Employers are obligated to inform other employees regarding the sickness of any employee who has been diagnosed with the virus at the work place and also inform the state health department of such issue.
3. Steps by Employer to avoid spread of the virus at premises:
Another safeguard for the employees who are afraid of attending the work place due to the fear of contracting Covid-19 is that the employers are bestowed with the responsibility of asking their employees whether or not they are sensing any symptoms of Covid-19. For example, the employers are required to adopt a procedure of having every employee’s temperature checked before entering into the premises of the work place, they can send employees to their homes who seem to experience any kind of symptoms of covid, etc. This way, the employees do get comfort that appropriate measures are being taken at their office in order to curb the spread of the virus.
4. Entitlement to sick leaves:
In case any employee has been diagnosed with the virus from the workplace or from outside, such an employee by virtue of the newly promulgated Family First Act, does have a right to receive two weeks of paid sick leaves in addition to his other leaves pending. Also, if the organization comprises of more than fifty employees, the qualifying employees can take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leaves. The mentioned newly enacted law provides the employees with the time frame of leaves which, in most cases, is a sufficient time for them to recover from virus and to re-join their office again.
5. Entitlement of Unemployment Benefits: the State of Alabama has enacted new laws for the employees who have either (i) contracted the virus, (ii) have been exposed to the virus and (iii) have been terminated by their employers due to the virus. Such laws gives the right to the above mentioned employees to receive unemployment benefits from the Alabama state and in addition to that, they are also entitled to $600 per week from the Federal Government. The state of Alabama allows for such unemployment benefits for the period of 14-20 weeks, whereas, there is no time frame provided by the Federal Government for which it would be supporting the unemployed people, however they it is likely that the Federal Government may extend the period of such support.
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At Spellen Law, we do understand the current situation we all are in and since every person’s case is different from that of the other. Therefore, if you are facing any such issue, it is advisable that a meeting should be arranged where you can clarify your exact position and our team of legal professionals would then be able to apprise you of all the available remedies you have and take further steps accordingly.