Know Your Rights
Employees have protections and opportunities under the federal law responding to COVID-19, the American Rescue Plan, passed in April 2021. This law has many complex provisions and qualifiers, which can be daunting to understand. That’s why we’re here.
At Gardner Employment Law we know the critical details within the Rescue Plan that can help you right now. For example, if you’ve been laid off and given a severance agreement, we can counsel you on what your employer can and can’t do in situations related to the coronavirus.
Regardless of your employment status, this statute may affect you. If you think you might have a legal issue, we can help. Contact us for guidance.
Understand the Laws, Then Benefit from Them
Employers who choose tax credits are obligated to provide paid sick leave if needed due to the coronavirus. This is explained in our blog What’s Inside the New American Rescue Plan.
The Rescue Plan provides for COBRA subsidies for employees in certain situations to avoid losing health insurance. As of August 2022, Congress is moving forward to help Americans with premiums if they have healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Employment Rights, Vaccinations, and Mask Mandates
According to the EEOC (“Equal Employment Opportunity Commission”), employers can lawfully ask for an employee’s COVID-19 vaccination status. Employers also have the right to tailor their testing and vaccination policies to meet the demands and needs of their unique workplace environment.
An employee may legally object to an employer’s vaccination requirement based on (1) disability reasons or (2) a sincerely held religious belief. Disability and religion are two protected classes under the Texas and Federal anti-discrimination laws.
In July 2022, the EEOC updated its guidance with regard to mandatory testing requirements. According to the update, if an employer implements screening protocols that include COVID-19 viral testing, any mandatory medical test of employees be “job-related and consistent with business necessity. Possible considerations in making the “business necessity” assessment may include
- the level of community transmission,
- the vaccination status of employees,
- the accuracy and speed of processing for different types of COVID-19 viral tests,
- the degree to which breakthrough infections are possible for employees who are “up to date” on vaccinations,
- the ease of transmissibility of the current variant(s),
- the possible severity of illness from the current variant,
- what types of contacts employees may have with others in the workplace or elsewhere that they are required to work (e.g., working with medically vulnerable individuals), and
- the potential impact on operations if an employee enters the workplace with COVID-19.
In making these assessments, employers should check the latest CDC guidance (and any other relevant sources) to determine whether screening testing is appropriate for employees.
Texas Rules for Vaccinations
Under Governor Greg Abbott’s most recent Executive Order GA-40, Texas employers are prohibited from compelling a COVID vaccination of an employee or a consumer “who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.”
No one can be forced to work in an unsafe working environment, however. OSHA laws prohibit reprisal or discrimination against an employee for speaking out about unsafe working conditions or reporting an infection or exposure to COVID-19 to an employer.
More Resources regarding Coronavirus Laws
Gardner Employment Law can help you understand and take action on all aspects of the COVID laws as they relate to employee rights and protections.
Here are further resources if you are seeking extensive detailed information.
- Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace, OSHA Website
- COVID-19, CDC website
- What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws, EEOC website
- Coronavirus and COVID-19, EEOC website
- COVID-19 Vaccines and Employment, Disability Rights of Texas website