During the present COVID-19 health crisis, many employees are facing a tough balancing act between keeping their jobs and staying healthy. They’re being asked to work in conditions that may expose them to the coronavirus, but they need to work in order to pay their bills and support their families.
It’s a difficult situation, but our workers’ compensation lawyers in Philadelphia are aware of two important federal laws that may protect employees who find themselves facing health concerns in the workplace.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
This law, enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees who have chronic health conditions that interfere with one or more major life activities. Once provided with those reasonable accommodations, the employee must be able to perform the essential duties of the job.
For example, if an employee suffers from chronic asthma that puts her at a higher risk for severe symptoms if she is infected by the coronavirus, then the employer should allow her the reasonable accommodation of wearing protective equipment to reduce the risk of infection — as long as she can still perform her job functions while using the equipment.
National Labor Relations Act
This law, enforced by the National Labor Relations Board, protects concerted activities by employees. That means that you have the right to team up with coworkers to address work-related issues in a number of different ways.
- Talking with one or more of your coworkers about working conditions
- Circulating a petition that asks your employer for better safety and health protections
- Participating in a concerted refusal to work in unsafe conditions
- Joining with co-workers to talk directly to your employer, to a government agency, or to the media about problems in your workplace.
If you take part in any of the aforementioned “protected concerted” activities, your employer cannot discharge, discipline, or threaten you for them, or coercively question you about them. An individual employee can also engage in protected concerted activity if he or she is:
- Acting on the authority of other employees
- Bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention
- Trying to induce group action
- Seeking to prepare for group action
However, you can lose your legal protection by saying or doing something egregiously offensive or knowingly and maliciously false, or by publicly disparaging your employer’s products or services without relating your complaints to any labor controversy.
If you believe your employer may have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation or the National Labor Relations Act by punishing concerted employee activity, please contact Silver and Silver as soon as possible. We’ve handled workers’ compensation and wrongful termination cases for clients in Delaware County and the surrounding areas for more than 40 years, and we have the knowledge and experience to protect your right as an employee!