It is important to know your rights as an employee during this pandemic. You have several protections under federal and state laws.

Sick Leave
If you are allowed to take time off due to illness, you may also take time off to care for an ill child (minor or adult), spouse, sibling, parent, step-parent, in-laws, grandchild, or grandparent. However, this may not apply to all employees or employers. Some cities require paid time off when employees are ill (see Minneapolis; see St. Paul; see Duluth).

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
You may be eligible for job-protected, unpaid leave under the FMLA.

Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
The FFCRA requires certain public and private employers (with fewer than 500 employees) to provide employees with additional family and medical leave for COVID-19 related reasons. Employees may be eligible for two to 10 weeks of paid leave. However, businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from providing leave, due to school closings or unavailable child care, if the leave jeopardizes the business’ viability. Additionally, frontline workers (emergency responders and health care) may be excluded.

Reasonable Accommodations
Those with disabilities have the right to request “reasonable accommodations” from employers who are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act and/or the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Examples include: teleworking; paid, sick, unpaid leave; staggered work schedules; and changing workstations to practice social distancing.

Exposed to COVID-19
If you have been exposed to COVID-19 and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommends isolation or quarantine, your employer may not discharge, discipline or penalize you for staying home. This also applies if MDH recommends isolation or quarantine for your family member who you are caring for. However, the adult family member must have a disability or be a vulnerable adult. This protection is available for 21 workdays.

Worker’s Compensation
You are entitled to worker’s compensation if you contracted COVID-19 and it was due to your employment.

Unemployment Benefits
You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you meet all eligibility requirements and: you experienced loss of employment or reduced hours due to COVID-19; MDH or a health care professional recommended that you self-isolate or quarantine; your employer ordered you to not come into work due to COVID-19 outbreak; your child’s school closed; your daycare closed and you do not have available daycare (you must have made a reasonable effort to find childcare and requested time off or accommodation from your employer and no reasonable accommodation was available).

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress, provides additional benefits to eligible workers: (1) Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – $600/week additional payments for people receiving regular or extended unemployment benefits; (2) Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – A 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for workers who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits; (3) Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program – provides weekly benefit payments for those who are not eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits in Minnesota or any other state.

If you are self-employed or an independent contractor you may be eligible for unemployment benefits if: you own a business that is registered with Minnesota Unemployment Insurance; you elected coverage for yourself; and you paid unemployment taxes on yourself. If you have a business, but were not required to register with Minnesota Unemployment Insurance, you may be eligible for PUA benefits. 

If you want to know more or have questions regarding your rights, please contact us.