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Known your rights in the workplace: attorney answers questions regarding employee rights amid coronavirus concerns

Coronavirus

(WTNH) — Certainly much is still unknown about the coronavirus, especially when it comes to the workplace. What rights do you have as an employee with respect to things like travel or the ability to work from home? A disability attorney answers these questions.

Tuesday, News 8’s Rich Coppola sat down with Attorney Gary Phelan from Mitchell and Shehan. Phelan is also a disability law professor at Quinnipiac University.

Right now, in relation to coronavirus concerns, he suggests employers be flexible, saying, “We’re in unchartered waters. We have to see what transpires.”

Phelan warns it is better to err on the side of caution when dealing with the coronavirus, for both employers and employees.

WHAT IF YOUR EMPLOYER WANTS YOU TO GO ON A BUSINESS TRIP TO SOMEWHERE WITH CORONAVIRUS CASES — CAN YOU REFUSE?

Phelan: “If you were flying to the state of Washington right now to do the work, that…might be something you can justifiably, say ‘I’m not going.’ But you can’t necessarily say ‘I don’t feel comfortable flying right now so I’m not going to do it.'”

HOW DO EMPLOYERS WEIGH THE DECISION OF LETTING PEOPLE WORK FROM HOME?

Phelan: “It’s more on an as-needed basis. Do we really need to be flying right now? Because there are other ways. There’s Skype, you know. There are other technological ways to communicate other than physical presence.”

WHAT IF YOU HAVE A JOB WHERE YOU CAN’T WORK REMOTELY?

Phelan: “If you’re sick, you shouldn’t go to work.”

WHAT HAPPENS IF AN EMPLOYEE COMES FORWARD AND SAYS HE OR SHE HAS THE CORONAVIRUS, BUT HAS BEEN IN CONTACT WITH OTHER EMPLOYEES?

Phelan: “Ideally HIPAA – American with Disability Act – you want to keep it confidential. But, on the other hand, keeping it confidential in this situation may likely endanger other employees and you’re likely going to know who they came in contact with, so that may be where you’re put in a position of arguably violating the right under HIPAA and ADA.”

To navigate that, Phelan suggests you talk to the employee and ask him or her with whom they came in contact.

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