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Your Rights
Employee Protections During Natural Disasters and Epidemics

Navigtaing your rights during a public health emergency or pandemic can be difficult. Many states provide protection for workers that prevent employers from terminating employees or other adverse actions. Read below to find informaiton about protections that your state provides.

Arizona Colorado
Delaware District of Columbia
Florida Maryland
New York New Jersey
New Mexico Pennsylvania
Pittsburg Oregon
Rhode Island Texas

Arizona’s Earned Paid Sick Time law, applies when an employer closes a facility because it is ordered to do so by a public health official due to a public health emergency. All affected employees are entitled to use their earned paid sick time while they are not working because of the closure. “Public health emergency” is defined to include closure of the employee’s place of business or the school/place of care of the employee’s child.

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Colorado Department of Labor and Employment published emergency rules, the Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay (“HELP”) Rules, temporarily requiring employers in certain industries to provide paid sick leave to employees awaiting COVID-19 testing and results. 

HELP rules only provide emergency paid leave to cover the period required for testing.  The rules do not require wage employers to provide wage replacement should an employee test positive and require quarantine resulting in lost work time.

Employees must give notice of the need for leave under the HELP rules as soon as practicable, and preferably, within 24 hours of being prescribed the test.  Employers may request documentation from a health care provider showing the prescription of a COVID-19 test and date thereof, or from provider of the test showing that the test was performed and the date thereof; provided, however, that an employer may not terminate an employee for inability to provide documentation during an illness covered by the HELP rules.

[Ed. Note: On March 26, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment modified the Emergency Rule Requiring Paid Sick Leave to add coverage for not just those “being tested” for COVID-19, but also those “under instructions from a health care provider to quarantine or isolate due to a risk of having COVID-19.”]

[Ed. Note: On April 27, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment expanded the amount of sick leave required to be provided by Colorado employers from four days’ full pay to two weeks (up to 80 hours) at 2/3 pay for employees with either flu-like or other respiratory illness symptoms and who is being tested for COVID-19, or those under instructions to quarantine or isolate from either a health care provider or an authorized government official.]

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Delaware Department of Human Resources issued guidance to state employees about coronavirus and potential impacts on the state workforce. Full-time and casual/seasonal state employees may be eligible for 14 or 30 days of Paid Emergency Leave if they are forced to miss work due to a coronavirus impact, or to care for a family member.

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The District of Colombia enacted the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, which provides a number of workforce protection.  In the employment context, the Act amends the District of Columbia’s FMLA statute to waive the one-year employment and 1,000 hour work requirements for eligibility during periods when the Mayor of D.C. has declared a public health emergency.  These relaxed eligibility requirements only apply to employees who have been ordered or recommended to quarantine or isolate by the Department of Health, any other agency, or a medical professional.

The Act also provides that any employee who is unable to work as a result of circumstances giving rise to a public health emergency during a period for which the Mayor has declared a public health emergency is entitled to “declaration-of-emergency” leave during such period.  At this point, however, the Act is light on additional details regarding declaration-of-emergency leave.

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In FloridaSection 8B-11.1 of the Code of Miami-Dade County, Unlawful Retaliation Against Employees During Emergencies or Disasters states that upon a declaration of a state of emergency applicable to any portion of Miami-Dade County, it shall be unlawful for any employer to retaliate or threaten to retaliate against a non-essential employee who complies with County evacuation orders or other County Executive Orders issued during a declared state of local emergency.

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Maryland passed an emergency act that gives the governor certain emergency powers for the duration of the state of emergency that was declared on March 5, 2020.  These emergency powers include, among other things, the authority to prohibit employers from terminating employees solely on the basis that the employee has been required to be isolated or quarantined.  The Act also authorizes the Secretary of Labor to determine that an individual is eligible for unemployment benefits, even if they have not separated from their employer, if: (i) the individual’s employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, presenting the employee from coming to work; (ii) the individual is quarantined due to COVID-19 with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; or (iii) the individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection of COVID-19 or to care for a family member due to COID-19.

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The New York State Legislature passed an emergency bill requiring employers to provide differing amounts of sick leave to employees affected by COVID-19, based on employer size.  Leave under the law is limited to any employee subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19, except when an otherwise eligible employee is asymptomatic or not yet diagnosed and is physically able to work while under quarantine or isolation (including remote work).  An mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 is sufficient to trigger the leave if issued by the State, the Department of Health, or any governmental entity.

Leave under this law is to be provided without loss to an employee’s existing accrued sick leave.  However, the law provides that if the federal government provides for sick leave benefits related to COVID-19, the provisions of the NY law are only available to the extent they exceed the benefits under the federal law.

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New Jersey statute Title 22 26:13-16 concerning emergency health powers allows for reinstatement of employment after isolation, quarantine for any person who has been placed in isolation or quarantine pursuant to an order of the commissioner and who at the time of quarantine or isolation was in the employ of any public or private employer, other than a temporary position, shall be reinstated to such employment or to a position of like seniority, status and pay, unless the employer's circumstances have so changed as to make it impossible or unreasonable to do so, if the person:
  • receives a certificate of completion of isolation or quarantine issued by the department or the authorized local health department;
  • is still qualified to perform the duties of such position; and
  • makes application for reemployment within 90 days after being released from isolation or quarantine.
In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, on April 14, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Senate Bill 2374 (S2374), which amends the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) and the New Jersey Family Leave Insurance law (NJFLI) to provide job-protected,  paid leave to care for family members quarantined due to COVID-19, and amends the NJFLA to provide for  job-protected  unpaid leave to care for children due to COVID-19 school closures.  The legislation also allows employers to seek certification relating to these expanded categories of leave, allows highly paid employees to take leave if the leave is COVID-19 related, and provides that COVID-19-related leave may be taken on an intermittent basis. These new provisions are retroactively effective as of March 25, 2020.

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New Mexcio statute NMSA 12-10A-16 prohibits termination in a declared public health emergency: “An employer or an agent of an employer shall not discharge from employment a person who is placed in isolation or quarantine pursuant to the provisions of the Public Health Emergency Response Act."

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Pennsylvania Statute Title 43 P.S. Labor § 1482 prohibits an employer from terminating or disciplining an employee for failing to report to work due to a closure of the roads in the county of the employer's place of business or the county of the employee's residence resulting from a state of emergency declared by the Governor under 35 Pa.C.S. § 7301 (relating to general authority of Governor) or 75 Pa.C.S. § 6108 (relating to power of Governor during emergency).

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In Pittsburgh employees may begin using accrued sick time on the 90th calendar day after the commencement of employment.  Sick time may be used for closure of the employee’s place of business by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or an employee’s need to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency, or care for a family member when it has been determined by the health authorities or by a health care provider that the family member’s presence in the community would jeopardize the health of others.

Employers need not provide any payment for unused sick leave upon the termination of employment.  However, if an employee is rehired within six months, all previously accrued but unused sick time must be reinstated.  

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Oregon’s sick leave law specifies that staying home during a public health emergency is an allowable use of sick time: ORS 653.616(6). “Public health emergency” is defined to include closure of the employee’s place of business or the school/place of care of the employee’s child.The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) has developed guidance specific to CV19 and sick time here. BOLI interprets the sick time law to provide an employee with a right to use sick time for closure of a child's school or place of care by order of a public official for a public health emergency, among other reasons similar to the Oregon Family Leave Act protected leaves. BOLI's guidance beyond CV19 concerning sick time is here.

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Rhode Island’s Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act allows employees to use earned sick time for closure of worker's place of business by order of a public official due to public health emergency. “Public health emergency” is defined to include closure of the employee’s place of business or the school/place of care of the employee’s child.

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Under Texas Labor Code 22:001 an employer may not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against an employee who leaves the employee's place of employment to participate in a general public evacuation ordered under an emergency evacuation order.

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Virginia’s Public Health Emergency Leave Policy permits or requires eligible employees to attend to the medical needs of self and immediate family members by providing up to 80 hours of paid leave per leave year when Communicable Disease of Public Health Threat conditions as defined in Section 32.1-48.06, et. seq Code of Virginia, have been declared by the State Health Commissioner and Governor.


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