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5 Things your Employer CAN and CANNOT Make you DO working in the office during COVID-19

Updated: May 22, 2021

A little over a year ago non-essential workers were forced to work remotely. While some took a while to adapt, all workers adjusted to what seem to be the new normal. Employees invested in at home office spaces and even adjusted to working while joggling home schooling and in some cases even tolerating loud family members and significant others. As more and more people get vaccinated and we get learn how to control the spread of COVID, employers have starting thinking of office reopening strategies.

If your employer is asking you to return to the office, here are 5 things they can and cannot make you do!

Go back to the office with your safety in mind! COVID-19 is very much STILL an ongoing pandemic

1. Your employer CAN make you break social distancing recommendation set by CDC

You read right, your employer can make you have meeting with stakeholders, partners and clients who are mask less and probably not vaccinated or does not know their covid-19 status.

2. Your employer CAN make you come into work in most cases, even if you're afraid.

Sadly, being nervous or burn out isn't a legally protected reason to refuse to come into work, according to an attorney in the Wall Street Journal. If you don't show up, you can be considered insubordinate or terminated. You can use a sick or vacation day to call out.

3. Your employer CAN take your temperature at work.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2020, taking an employee's temperature is generally considered a medical examination, making them prohibited under ADA "unless they are job-related and consistent with business necessity." employers should however, be aware that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever, the EEOC stated. If you have a fever, your employer can ask you to go home.

4. Your employer CAN require you to get the COVID vaccine.

Employers can require you to show proof of the COVID vaccine, as asking for vaccine history is not considered a medical examination. As an employee you may be entitled to exemptions from a vaccine requirement based on their ADA-protected disability or religious beliefs. If there is a case for exemption employers might require a “reasonable alternative" to being vaccinated. For example, they might require employees who have not been vaccinated to wear a mask or work from home.

Here is an excellent article around HIPAA and how it relates to the COVID vaccine.

Key takeaway: HIPAA does NOT give someone personal protection against ever having to disclose their health information, but they can decline to do so.

5. Your employer CAN'T fire you for reporting them.

Retaliation against whistleblowers is illegal! If you are fired after filing a ADA complaint or health and safety report to a government agency — or after raising concerns about your workplace safety to your superiors — you may want to consider finding legal representation.

2 reasons you May be allowed to continue to work from home WHEN restrictions are lifted.

1. If you have an underlying health condition that makes you vulnerable to COVID-19 and is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you may be able to ask to continue to work from home as a reasonable accommodation. This is especially true if you are not able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

2. if you have a mental health disability that's protected by the ADA, such as anxiety, and you feel returning to work will cause you to panic, you may be able to ask to continue to work from home as a reasonable accommodation.

Ultimately, these accommodations are made on a per-case basis between employee and employer.

Know that if your employer is not willing to flexible with you and puts your safety and that of your love ones at risk, you can always submit a resignation letter.

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