Even though there is much uncertainty during these unprecedented times, your employment rights should not be one of them. Whether your employer has put you on furlough, laid you off, terminated you or you fear you may soon lose your job, you do have rights during this time. Longstanding regulations as well as new legislation prompted by the economic shutdown are currently in full swing.
Federal and state laws that have been in effect for decades such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) cover several wage violations that may be occurring. If you had been working long hours up until your termination, your employer should have been paying you for all of your hours worked and if you worked over 40 hours per week you should have also been paid overtime at 1.5 times your regular rate for every hour over 40. Additionally, discrimination laws continue to protect you if you feel you have been targeted by your employer during this time.
Newer legislation has also been helpful in providing protection and some relief during the coronavirus pandemic. Read on below to learn about some of your potential options:
Filing for Unemployment
Those receiving stimulus checks will still be able to collect unemployment. As part of the new Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation under this legislation, which is available until the end of July 2020, additional payments of up to $600 per week are available. If you were previously earning approximately $300 of weekly payments on unemployment, you would now be able to collect about $900 per week on unemployment alone. Employees are now also able to extend their unemployment benefits from the standard 26 weeks to 39 weeks if their place of employment has been closed due to coronavirus related reasons. If an employee is already collecting unemployment, no additional steps need to be completed to start receiving the supplemental $600 in unemployment payments.
Self-employed workers should be eligible to receive a stimulus check granted they meet the income requirements. They will also be able to collect their additional $600 in unemployment and extend their unemployment benefits to 39 weeks as well.
COVID-19 Paid Leaves
As part of the coronavirus emergency relief package, The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, has been essential in providing American workers with a paid leave if it becomes necessary for them to take time off due to COVID-19. Eligible employees can earn their full rate of pay while out sick or in quarantine for up to two weeks. Access to this paid leave is set to expire on December 31, 2020.
If you are employed by a company with fewer than 500 employees you will be covered by federal law, and if you're working in New York for a company with 100 employees or more you will have additional coverage under New York if you are subject to “mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation.” Additionally, part-time, 1099 or self-employed workers are also eligible for coverage under federal law. However, if an employer with fewer than 50 employees can prove that providing paid leave could risk the sustainability of their small business, they can be exempt from providing coverage.
Any worker nationwide who must stay home to care for a child whose school or care provider has closed due to reasons related to COVID-19 can receive up to $200 daily for up to 12 weeks, which could total up to $10,000.
These paid sick leaves are available for immediate use for eligible employees and there are no restrictions on how long you need to be an employee for before applying under the federal law. Companies that are required to pay this sick leave will be able to recover 100 percent of the cost associated with coverage through payroll tax credits.
If you have exhausted all options for paid leaves and other benefits you may also consider unpaid leave. For example, those employed at larger companies exempt from this paid leave act, may be entitled to a 12 week unpaid family and medical leave. Though not ideal, this unpaid leave may help secure your job during this time if you meet certain qualifications, such as having worked for a company with at least 50 employees for a minimum of a year. Communicating with human resources regarding leave is essential, since some large more established companies, such as Target and Walmart, have voluntarily added paid sick leave due to coronavirus.
Depending on your situation, there are several different actions you may be able to take to invoke your rights during this time. As the situation continues to evolve weekly and even daily, it is important to stay on top of how your employment rights are affected. Speaking to an employment attorney could be very beneficial to learning more about your potential claims. Fitapelli & Schaffer offers a free and confidential phone consultation with one of their available representatives, so feel free to give us a call or reach us here to learn more about your rights now.
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