Your Unemployment Rights & Covid-19

Editor's Note:

On Wednesday May 20 Marla Linderman gave this short speech in the public comment section of the Grand Traverse Board of Commissioner's Meeting. We thank her for giving us permission to reprint her comments here.

Good morning, I'm Marla Linderman. I'm an attorney who has been practicing employment and business law for almost 25 years, representing employees and employers. An important conversation is going on and people need to know their rights. People want to know if their employer calls them back, do they have to go back to work and if they don't, do they lose their unemployment benefits? The answer is that it depends. E0-2020-76

If you are called back to work, but you can't go back to work for medical reasons related to COVID-19, because your immune system is compromised, you are displaying the symptoms of COVID-19, you are taking care of someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or you need to stay home with your kids because the schools are closed, you will still be entitled to unemployment. If you are only called back partially, you will still be entitled to unemployment. But, I need to tell you that you will lose your unemployment benefits if the reason you don't go back to work is just because of fear. That's a no go.

Now, if you are called back to work and they are willing to pay you your emergency family medical leave act benefits, you will have to take those. You will not be entitled to unemployment during those weeks and you will only be entitled to 2/3rds of your pay, but you will have some rights to come back to work, which most workers do not have.

In addition, you still have your every day employment rights. You have your right under the ADA to ask for accommodations if you have a disability, you can take FMLA if you qualify, and the whistle-blowers protection act still protects you from reporting violations of the law, or for refusing to violate the law or for enforcing your rights. For example, let's say you know your employer isn't following the OSHA requirements, and you report them to OSHA, you are protected. They cannot fire you for that. Someone mentioned a restaurant planning to open at 100% capacity. According to the Governor’s order that is a per se MIOSHA Violation. If you call a lawyer to ask about your rights and you tell your employer that you called an attorney, and they fire you for calling the attorney, you are protected.

You also have the right to wear a mask. Under the Executive Order, you have the same rights to wear a mask as you do to be free from sexual harassment under Michigan law and can sue under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act if your employer terminates you for wearing a mask. Let's talk about your mask rights, if you are going to have to work closer than 3 feet from someone, under OSHA and CDC guidelines your employer should be providing you not just with a mask, but with a face shield. Your employer is required to have a written Covid-19 plan, train you on the plan and follow the plan. If you lose your job or while on lay off they stop your insurance, you still have COBRA rights if your employer has more than 20 employees. Employers are forgetting about this law and it is going to come back and bite them. .

Look workers have rights and what I really want to emphasize is that workers and employers need to be in this together for this to work. They need to communicate, they need to be flexible and they need to follow the law for worker's protection and the safety of the public. I was told I only get 3 minutes to talk, so, if people have further questions they can contact me at Linderman Law 810 220 0600. Again my name is Marla Linderman. Thank you.

Editor's Note:

Marla Linderman also has the following website that is very informative:

https://employmentlaw-covid19.com

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