Phillips & Associates

Can I Be Fired Because I Have COVID-19?

New York City Lawyers for Wrongful Termination Claims

Attorney Bryan Arce

Bryan Arce
barce@tpglaws.com
New York Office
45 Broadway #430
New York, NY 10006
Phone: (212) 248-7431
Fax: (212) 901-2107

New York business have faced substantial disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers around New York State are required to take certain safety measures and enforce them among their employees. However, existing employment laws prohibiting discrimination remain in effect through the pandemic. Whether you can be fired because you have COVID-19 depends on multiple factors. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City wrongful termination attorneys may be able to help you determine whether there are viable claims with which they can help.

Can I Be Fired Because I Have COVID-19?

Many workers are, and have been, at risk of contracting COVID-19 at some point during the pandemic. Whether you can be terminated due to getting COVID-19 depends on many case-by-case factors. But you should note that COVID-19 may be regarded as a disability, or perceived disability, under federal, state, or local laws.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has the most restrictive definition of a disability. Under the ADA, you have a disability if you have a mental or physical impairment that substantially restricts a major life activity. You are also protected if you have a history of this kind of disability, or an employer believes that you have this kind of disability, even though you do not. The impairment needs to be substantial. COVID-19 may be considered substantial, but this is not clear. To be protected from job discrimination by the ADA, you will need to satisfy the employer's requirements for the job and be able to perform essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodations.

The New York State Human Rights Law prohibits employment discrimination based on a disability. COVID-19 may be considered disabling under this definition. A disability under this law can include physiological, anatomical, neurological, or genetic conditions that stop the use of a normal bodily function or that can be demonstrated through medically accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques. People with a record of this type of impairment are also protected. People who are perceived by others as having an impairment are similarly protected. However, the definition of a disability under the state law is limited to conditions in which, if a reasonable accommodation is provided, an employee would not be stopped from performing job activities in a reasonable manner. The New York State Human Rights Law definition is broader than the definition under the ADA.

Under the New York City Human Rights Law, which is considered highly protective of workers, COVID-19 is likely to be regarded as a disability. The city law defines a disability as any medical, physical, psychological, or mental impairment or a history or record of that type of impairment. Impairments that count under the city law can include impairments of any bodily system, including those, like COVID-19, that affect respiration. 

The New York City Commission on Human Rights has issued guidance articulating that COVID-19 is a disability protected under the city law. It sets forth that employers may violate the city law if they discriminate against or harass workers based on their actual or perceived COVID-19 infection status. Employers in the city can also be held accountable if they failed to provide reasonable accommodations or failed to engagne in the cooperative dialogue about accommodations..

Your employer should not terminate you because of fears or stigma around your infection status or because of any other protected status that you may have. On the other hand, employers are supposed to take reasonable steps to protect the safety and health of the workplace and remain in line with local, state, and federal guidelines. In implementing these legal mandates in response to COVID-19, employers are supposed to take care to make sure that they are not discriminating against or harassing you because you have , or had, COVID-19.

Reasonable Accommodations

Your employer is required to provide you with reasonable accommodations for COVID-19, unless doing so would present an undue hardship for the business. The City Commission has stated that a reasonable accommodation in employment could involve allowing a worker with COVID-19 to work from home or work according to a modified shift schedule. The Commission has also stated that medical notes may be used to substantiate employees’ disability claims and requests for reasonable accommodations. However, your employer should waive requirements regarding medical notes until you can reasonably obtain documentation.

Coming Back to Work After COVID-19

The City Commission adopted the guidance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on COVID-19 testing before employees go back to work. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, your employer is allowed to use medical testing, including temperature testing, to determine whether you present a direct threat to the workplace because of a COVID-19 infection. Your employer can also mandate that you provide proof that you are able to come back to the workplace safely after recovering from COVID-19, and show that you are not contagious any longer.

Contact Our Experienced Employment Attorneys

If you believe that you were terminated because you had COVID-19, you should talk to an experienced trial attorney. Phillips & Associates may be able to 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 (212) 248-7431 or complete our online form.

PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES
45 Broadway, #430
New York, NY 10006
Tel: (212)248-7431
Fax: (212) 901-2107
Client Reviews
★★★★★
Phillips & Associates did a wonderful job. I would recommend Brittany Stevens. Angel
★★★★★
Employment dispute I had a dispute with my former employer, Jesse Weinstein was patient and thorough with my case. He covered every angle and was able to help me with my dispute. I would recommend Jesse Weinstein and Phillips and Associates in the future to anyone. Margaret
★★★★★
Hands down the best law firm for labor disputes in NYC. Being in the restaurant industry for more than 30 years I can say that this law firm is the number one choice for workers in the restaurant business that need to sue their company for wrongful termination. A special compliment to my lawyer Brittany Stevens. An amazing person and well prepared experienced lawyer. She was professional and empathetic to my case and worked in a time appropriate manner. She never miss a phone call at any hour of the day.The other associate that assisted Brittany was Yusha Hiraman. She was professional and answered any questions or concerns that I had. Brittany and her team helped me with what I needed, when I needed it. I want to thank them all (especially Brittany), for a job well done. Massimo
★★★★★
Jesse Weinstein handled my discrimination case. He was extremely patient and understanding throughout the process and remained professional and consistent even when I could not. I really felt like he had my back and I didn't have to worry. His expertise, combined with the experience of the Firm, resulted in the best possible outcome of my case. Although I wouldn't wish what I went through on anyone, things do and always will happen and I would highly recommend Jesse and this Firm to anyone facing discrimination or other workplace issues. Karen