Can I Lose My Job if I Get the Coronavirus? Our Maryland Employment Lawyer Discusses Your Rights

January 22, 2021
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

person holding sign saying they lost their job

As Maryland continues to struggle with a surge of COVID cases, many people remain worried about their job security. This can lead people to go into work when they shouldn’t or avoid getting tested. If you’re concerned about your job security or have been terminated by your employer due to COVID, you should speak with a Maryland employment lawyer as soon as possible to understand your rights. 

Know This: Your Job Is Secure

Generally speaking, the good news is that you cannot lose your job if you are sick due to the coronavirus. If your employer has terminated you due to testing positive, you should immediately contact a Maryland employment lawyer. That said, there are many other complex issues that are important for employees to understand. 

Am I Entitled to Paid Leave? Speak to a Maryland Employment Lawyer to Find Out

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was adopted by Congress last year and went into effect on April 2, 2020. The FFCRA requires employers with under 500 employees to provide at least two weeks of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay in the following situations: 

  • A doctor has recommended that they self-quarantine
  • You have any COVID-19 symptoms
  • You are subject to a government-ordered quarantine

If you are caring for a child or other family member who has tested positive for COVID-19, you are entitled to two weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of your regular rate of pay under the Emergency Paid Leave Act. This also includes situations where you have to stay home to take care of your child who cannot go to school or attend daycare due to a government-ordered shutdown. A Maryland employment lawyer can help you understand whether you are eligible for paid sick leave if you cannot work due to the pandemic. 

What Happens if I’m Unable to Return to Work After My Leave Runs Out?

Many COVID patients may require much longer than two weeks to recover. If you are still in recovery once your paid leave runs out, you may qualify for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If you are eligible, you may be entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in the following situations: 

  • You have contracted COVID, are in recovery, and are unable to return to work;
  • Your parents, spouse, or child are recovering from COVID, and you need to take care of them. 

Although FMLA provides for unpaid leave, it does secure your job for up to three months. Unfortunately, your employer may terminate your employment after that time. However, it is important to note that the 12 weeks starts only once you have exhausted any other sick leave to which you may be entitled. 

To qualify for leave under the FMLA, you must meet the following criteria: 

  • You have worked for your employer for at least one year; and
  • You have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months (approximately 25 hours per week)

All of that said, the FFCRA did expand some of the protections to those affected by the pandemic: 

  • You may be entitled to up to 10 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of your regular rate of pay if your child’s school or daycare is closed due to the pandemic. 
  • You need to have been employed for only 30 days to qualify for protection. 

In other words, you are not entitled to paid leave beyond two weeks if you are sick, but you may qualify for additional paid leave if you have to stay home with your child. 

These are complicated situations. If you have tested positive for COVID and your employer appears to be taking steps to terminate you, a Maryland employment lawyer can help you understand your rights. 

Can My Employer Force Me to Use My Vacation or Other Leave Before Using Sick Leave? Our Maryland Employment Lawyer Can Advise You

Your employer cannot force you to use other leave you have accrued before using your sick leave. Any paid leave you are entitled to under federal law related to the coronavirus is in addition to any leave to which you are otherwise entitled. 

Contact a Maryland Employment Lawyer Today

Unfortunately, the pandemic doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon. If you’re worried about what it could mean for your job security, Maryland employment lawyer J. W. Stafford can explain the protection you are entitled to and help you keep your job. To schedule a consultation to discuss your case, call us today at 410-514-6099 or complete our online contact form to learn more about how we can help you.