Legal advice for companies, workers navigating stay-at-home order

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Tons of News 8 viewers have reached out with concerns about how their employer is interpreting the state’s stay-at-home order, which told nonessential businesses to shut down.

Attorney Brad Glazier of Bos & Glazier spoke with News 8 for advice. 

“The questions we’ve had so far relate to what can my employer require me to do? I feel sick. I feel like I shouldn’t be going to work, but my employer is requiring me to go to work. What should I do? Those are the sorts of calls we’re taking right now,” Glazer said Tuesday afternoon over FaceTime.

He said if employees are concerned about going to work during this time, there are three tools available for them.

“The first is the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act,” he explained. “The act provides 80 hours of sick time for full-time workers. For part-time workers, it calculates a sick time at an average number of hours being worked by the employee.”

He said some companies will require documentation from a doctor in order to provide the emergency pay.

“They’re also entitled to that if they’re taking care of someone who is sick with possible COVID-19 symptoms or a child who’s not able to go to school because schools are closed,” Glazier said. 

Another important resource is the expansion to the Family Medical Leave Act.

“It ordinarily would only apply to employees who have been working for one year, but the law has been modified so that if you’ve been working for 30 days, you’re covered,” he said. 

More information on navigating both options can be found on the U.S. Department of Labor website.

The last resource Glazier mentioned related to unemployment.

“So the third are changes that are taking place with regard to unemployment insurance,” he explained. “The biggest one is the Senate bill right now looks to add $600 per week… that employees are entitled to for unemployment. That’s slated to last through June and it looks like negotiations are progressing and that’s something that’s likely going to be signed by President (Donald) Trump in the next couple of days.”

Bottom line? Glazier said to stay home if you feel sick. The expansion to sick leave and FMLA allows a person to file a private cause of action through an employment lawyer if their employer fires them for taking time off related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

If you think your place of employment is violating the order, reach out to the governor’s office at 517.335.7858, not your local police.

ADVICE FOR COMPANIES

Luis Avila, a partner at Varnum Attorneys at Law, gave some insight to businesses navigating the order.

“The advice we’ve given left and right is right in line with the governor’s: ‘Don’t play fast and loose,'” Avila said. “If you are a critical business, absolutely stay open because we need you, but if you’re not, be safe, turn off the lights.”

>>Who is an essential worker?

Some of the confusion has surrounded companies that supply other businesses deemed “critical infrastructure.”

“It’s the supply chain, right? So you yourself might not fall under the executive order under critical infrastructure, but you might be a supplier to someone who is critical infrastructure,” Avila said. “So if you’re a food manufacturer, you might not be the one processing, perhaps the wheat going into your product, and so your supplier of wheat would then get that designation (as essential). What employers are doing is they are sending out designation notices throughout their supply chains to the extent that they are necessary.”

He also recommended bosses get familiar with the FMLA and paid sick leave changes so they can help their employees as much as possible.


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