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Coronavirus concerns bring up employee rights questions

What are your rights if you have to be quarantined or contract the virus?

CLEVELAND — The government is enacting travel restrictions and quarantines, but what happens when you have to miss work during that time?

As an employee, you do have rights and when it comes to the coronavirus, that doesn’t change.

“This is all brand new to everybody,” says attorney Peter Mapley from Sobel, Wade & Mapley.

Even though we’re in the early stage of the virus, the government is trying to protect its citizens and Mapley says employers have that same responsibility.

Some companies have revised policies to say traveling to an affected country is automatic 14-day staycation on the employee’s dime, using PTO unpaid leave.

“They're probably within their rights to make you do that,” says Mapley.

There’s no case law in the book right now for this sort of potential pandemic but there are some protections that you already have, like the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

“You get job-protected leave, they don't have to pay you for that leave but you do get up to 12 weeks.”

FMLA also applies if you have to take care of a seriously ill family member.

If you contract the virus, there’s a portion of the Americans with Disabilities Act that may apply.

“Your employer cannot terminate you; they can't make a hiring decision, they can't make a promotion decision based on your disability that significantly limits your ability to perform a major life activity,” says Mapley.

Though a nonchronic illness isn’t listed as a disability under the law, an employer cannot discriminate against a perceived disability.

The questions outnumber the answers right now but as we continue to move forward, Mapley says it’s important to protect yourself and your livelihood.

“There are a lot of gaps in the statutory protections that employees are afforded, and I think that's going to demonstrate some of those gaps.”

If you have questions, it’s best to reach out to an employment attorney to find out the best options in your situation.

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