I Had COVID-19 and Still Feel Sick. Can My Employer Fire Me?

Employment Litigators Based in New York City

Attorney Brittany A. Stevens

Employers have had to make broad adjustments to their workplaces during the pandemic. COVID-19 may be considered a disability under local, state, or federal laws. After acquiring COVID-19, you may still feel sick. Symptoms can include fever, cough, or cold symptoms. They usually appear within two to 14 days of exposure. Most people recover from COVID-19 in two weeks. However, symptoms can have a long tail. If you had COVID-19 and still feel sick, and you are concerned about whether your employer can fire you, you should discuss your situation with the New York City wrongful termination attorneys at Phillips & Associates.

I Had COVID-19 and Still Feel Sick. Can My Employer Fire Me?

Disability discrimination is prohibited under the New York City Human Rights Law, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The New York City Human Rights Commission has provided guidance that COVID-19 is a disability protected under the city law. Employers can run afoul of the city law if they discriminate against or harass workers based on their COVID-19 actual or perceived infection statuses. An employer should not discriminate against or harass workers based on stigma related to COVID-19 infection. However, employers need to take reasonable steps to protect the safety and health of the workforce and customers. In staying in line with public health orders, they need to make sure that their implementation of these policies does not result in harassing or discriminatory effects.

Your employer cannot fire you because you are feeling the effects of COVID-19. In fact, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to those infected with COVID-19, or still experiencing COVID-19-related disabilities, unless providing an accommodation would present an undue hardship for the business. The New York City Human Rights Commission has adopted the pandemic preparedness guidance created by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). When an employer complies with the EEOC guidance, it satisfies its obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to those with COVID-19 disabilities under the city law.

A reasonable accommodation for a worker with COVID-19 could include a modified work schedule, wearing of special personal protective equipment, or working from home. Employers are supposed to waive medical note requirements until you can reasonably obtain documentation about your COVID-19 infection status.

Returning to the Workplace

Under the city law, your employer can institute medical testing to determine whether you present a direct threat to the workplace. The employer’s decision to test you must be non-discriminatory. In other words, your employer cannot choose to test certain employees for COVID-19 only because they belong to a certain group. Your employer might require you to supply evidence that you are able to safely go back to the workplace after recovering from the COVID-19 infection and demonstrate that you are no longer contagious.

Your employer has an obligation to you under the law; it also has an obligation to other employees to keep the workplace safe and healthy. In the course of maintaining workplace safety, workplace policies and procedures must not be discriminatory. In other words, an employer should not take adverse employment actions based on protected characteristics. If they do, you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer for damages. Additionally, you are protected under New York Labor Law Section 740. This whistleblower law prohibits retaliation against an employee who discloses or threatens to disclose to a public body or supervisor a policy or practice of the workplace that is in violation of a regulation, rule, or law, and that presents a particular, substantial danger to public safety or health.

Consult an Experienced New York City Litigator

It is not uncommon for symptoms of COVID-19 to persist beyond two weeks. If you had COVID-19 and still feel sick, and you are concerned about your job, one of our experienced trial attorneys at Phillips & Associates may be able to counsel and represent you. We assist workers in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, as well as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Call us at (866) 229-9441 or complete our online form.

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