Updated: March 16, 2020

Coronavirus and Your Employment: A pandemic is upon us and even the doubters are realizing that the Coronavirus aka COVID-19 is going to have a dramatic impact on our health, our daily lives, and our employment.  With all the drastic measures being taken by local, state, and federal government, it is important for you to know what your rights are as an employee in this unprecedented time. Because the actions of government and lawmakers is rapidly changing, we will keep this article updated as the changes go into effect.

First, let’s talk about the current laws in place that offer protection for employees:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – the ADA applies to employers of 15 or more. The ADA prevents discrimination on the basis of a disability or a perceived disability.  Whether Coronavirus would constitute a “disability” under the ADA would be an issue of first impression for the Courts. It would likely be determined on a case-by-case basis and depend on the severity and longevity of the illness for that specific individual.  The ADA also provides Reasonable Accommodations that can include working from home and medical leave. It is unlawful to discriminate against individuals that request a reasonable accommodation.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – The FMLA applies to employers with 50 employees or more within a 75 mile radius.  The FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for a serious medical condition, with job protection. The Coronavirus would likely qualify as a “serious medical condition,”  especially if you seek medical care and are prescribed medication related to the illness.  If you have questions about your FMLA eligibility or how to apply for FMLA, contact our FMLA attorneys or your Human Resource office.

New Measures to Deal with Coronavirus aka COVID-19

Now let’s talk about the new measures that have been passed or introduced (but not yet passed):

1. Federal/National Measures – The Families First Coronavirus Act (H.R. 6201)

On March 14, 2020, the House of Representatives (Federal) passed an emergency bill to help ease the financial toll of the Coronovirus on the financial industry, the economy, and – most importantly – on individuals. The bill still needs to be passed by the Senate and signed by President Trump (who said he would immediately sign the bill).  The full text of the bill can be found here: The Families First Coronavirus Act (H.R. 6201) H.R. 6201.

A.  Paid Leave

In it current form, the paid leave part of the new bill only applies to companies with 500 or less employees. It requires these employers to offer up to 14 days of paid leave. That can include infected people, caretakers, and guardians whose children’s schools have been closed. The fine print: employers with more than 500 employees are not required to provide any paid sick leave and employers with fewer than 50 employees can apply for a hardship exemption.  This part would apply in the following circumstances:

1. To self-isolate because the employee is diagnosed with Coronavirus.

2. To obtain a medical diagnosis or treatment if the employee is experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus.

3. To comply with a recommendation or order by a public official with jurisdiction or a health care professional.

4. To care for or assist an employee’s family member who: is self isolating; or, experiencing symptoms.

5. To care for the employee’s child if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such child is unavailable, due to coronavirus.

B.  Expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Also, the bill would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to provide temporary additional reasons for leave related to the Coronavirus aka COVID-19 and to provide pay for such FMLA leave beyond 2 weeks at a reduced rate. (FMLA leave is normally unpaid)  The FMLA portion will also change eligibility requirements to cover those employees that have been employed for 30 days (a reduction from 1-year).

2. Ohio/State Measures

On March 15, 2020 Governor Dewine held a press conference and made several announcements related to the measures Ohio is taking related to Coronavirus/COVID-19. He announced that all restaurants and bars will be closed immediately, except for carry-out and delivery. This is following the closure of all Ohio schools. The impact on small businesses will be devastating.  Governor DeWine also announced and Order that will change unemployment requirements which consist of:

  • Ohio’s current one-week waiting period before an individual can receive unemployment will be waived
  • Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will waive employer penalties for late reporting and payments for the next quarter to assist employers impacted by the lack of staff availability

Those that are quarantined by a doctor or by their employer will be considered unemployed and will be eligible for unemployment benefits. Those currently receiving unemployement benefits will not be asked to show they are seeking work during this period. Employees imposing self-quarantine who are not showing symptoms will not be, in most cases, eligible for unemployment benefits.

To apply for unemployment benefits in Ohio:

Online: File online at unemployment.ohio.gov 24/7

Phone: Call 1-877-644-6562 or 614-387-8408 M-F 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Ohio’s coronavirus call center is open to answer questions from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The hotline number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH or 1-833-427-5634.

If you have questions related to these laws or you feel that your employer is not complying with the laws, contact our Ohio employment attorneys.

Mansell Law is an employment law firm located in Columbus, Ohio. The employment attorneys at Mansell Law represent clients all over the state of Ohio in cases related to employment, including wrongful termination, hostile work environment, medical leave, unpaid wages and overtime, and much more. For more information on our practice areas, visit our Ohio Labor Laws page.