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Maryland Employee Rights During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Coronavirus has forced drastic changes in every aspect of our lives. Perhaps most importantly, it has reshaped the work world – some people have been laid off temporarily, some have lost jobs, some of us are working from home, and some of us are deemed “essential” employees who are struggling to navigate the challenges the pandemic has created. 

Whichever category you may be in, the important thing to remember is that Maryland employees have rights, even during this pandemic. If you have lost income or are facing an uncertain employment situation, a Maryland employment law attorney can help you figure out your next steps. 

Am I Safe at Work?

This is a question many employees are asking, which has led to some employees demanding that their employers take steps to ensure their safety. The question then becomes what obligation your employer has to protect your health. 

Unfortunately, the answer is not simple. As the data concerning transmission and the rate of infection continues to evolve, so does the law. Many employers are doing their best to implement measures such as social distancing, but they are under no legal obligation should they fail to do so. The availability of face masks is another issue, with nationwide shortages impacting the healthcare industry in particular. Again, your employer may not be under a legal obligation to provide you with a face mask but is not relieved of any OSHA requirements specific to your industry. That said, OSHA has not issued any enforceable pandemic-specific requirements for employers since the outbreak of the virus. 

There is a great deal of uncertainty in the law right now due to the pandemic. If you’re uncertain about your situation, speaking with a Maryland employment lawyer could protect your job and your future. 

Payment of Wages and Overtime

Because of fluctuating work schedules and work-from-home arrangements, many people have questions about their compensation. First, it’s important to understand that hourly employees and salaried employees are treated differently under the law – salaried employees are entitled to their full salary for any given week that they actually perform work. On the other hand, hourly employees are entitled to be paid only for hours that they actually worked. If your hours have been cut, you are entitled to be paid only for those hours worked. Similarly, if you work from home, you should be paid for all hours worked just as if you were at your employer’s location. 

Some employees, especially those in healthcare, are working a lot of overtime due to the coronavirus. If you are an hourly employee, your employer is obligated to comply with all laws concerning the payment of overtime wages. You should contact an employment lawyer if you are worried that your Maryland employee rights during the pandemic have been violated such that you have not been fairly compensated during this time. 

Maryland Employment Law Related to the Pandemic: Reasonable Accommodations Under the ADA

Employees with disabilities are facing increased risk during the coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, if you have a disability recognized under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), your employer may be obligated to provide reasonable accommodation in the workplace. Here are some disabilities or impairments that may qualify for a reasonable accommodation: 

  • Anxiety that is being triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Respiratory and heart conditions that put you at increased risk of severe coronavirus infections
  • Cancer and other health conditions that result in a compromised immune system

If you have a physical or mental impairment that you believe could be problematic during the pandemic, you may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation. Such accommodations could include: 

  • Allowing you to work from home
  • Allowing you to wear a mask or other personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Limiting your contact with the public or other co-workers
  • Providing you with a dedicated workspace with additional air filtering or cleaning protocols

Of course, there may be some disagreement over what is deemed “reasonable.” Again, as a Maryland employee, you have rights under both state and federal law during the pandemic. We can help you determine whether you are entitled to a reasonable accommodation and help you resolve the situation with your employer. 

Workers’ Compensation Claims

Many employees are worried about the exposure they risk while at work. If you contract the coronavirus and are unable to work for an extended period of time, can you file a workers’ compensation claim?

The short answer is yes, but there are some things to keep in mind. For any workers’ compensation claim, you need to demonstrate that you suffered your injury or illness in the course of your employment. In many cases, this is fairly straight-forward, but it could be complicated in a case where you are claiming that you contracted COVID-19 at work. If you can demonstrate that your employer failed to minimize the risk of transmission and that you caught it from another co-worker, your claim will likely be successful. On the other hand, it may be much more difficult to pursue a claim if you have extensive contact with the public and your employer was making an effort to reduce the risk of transmission. 

Unemployment Claims

Across the state of Maryland, many people have lost their jobs – they’ve either been laid off temporarily or the company they worked for has gone out of business. Thankfully, unemployment insurance benefits are there to help people who find themselves without work through no fault of their own. In some cases, benefits may be available to people who have had to leave their job due to the coronavirus or for those who have had their hours cut. 

In order to receive benefits, you will have to apply online or via the phone. The Division of Unemployment Insurance will then make a determination as to whether you qualify for benefits. Once your claim has been approved, you will begin receiving payments. 

The process sounds straightforward, but can sometimes be complicated and confusing for non-lawyers. If you have questions, our employment lawyer can help. 

Speak with an Attorney Who Knows How Maryland Employment Law Applies to the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how important our workers are and reminds us of the hardships we all face when our jobs are at risk. That’s why the Maryland employment lawyers at the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford are dedicated to protecting the rights of Maryland employees.  If you have questions about Maryland employment law during the pandemic, call us for an initial consultation at (410) 514-6099 or contact us online today.