Stretch Your Dollar: Knowing your rights if you’re not comfortable heading back to work amid the pandemic

Stretch Your Dollar

Phase one of reopening Connecticut is officially underway this week and as a percentage of Connecticut heads back to work, not everyone is feeling excited about it. We are stretching your dollar with a look at what your rights are if you’re not comfortable heading back.

Phase one of Connecticut reopening means some retailers and restaurants have started welcoming customers back once again. But while they’ve been given the green light to get back to work, not everyone may be comfortable going back to business as usual.

“No employee in Connecticut should be forced to work in unsafe conditions,” Amanda DeMatteis, Employment Attorney, Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti.

DeMatteis says all employers must follow government guidelines when it comes to facemasks, handwashing, social distancing and capacity restrictions. If you think that’s not happening, “Start with talking to your employer. You can also file a complaint with the Occupational, Safety and Health Division of the Connecticut Department of Labor without fear of retaliation.”

She says fear alone often isn’t a legal reason to refuse to work but if you have a medical condition contributing to the fear of returning to the office, you may consider asking to work from home as a reasonable accomodation.

Now how about those unemployment benefits?

“If you’re returning to work, especially on reduced hours, continue to apply for your unemployment benefits because you may be eligible for partial benefits. So long as you’re eligible for any state unemployment benefits, you will still receive a $600 federal stimulus payment through July 25.”

Bottom line, these are unprecedented times but that doesn’t mean you don’t have rights. There’s never been a more important time to speak up to protect your family and your income. Now if you go back and notice extreme changes like you’ve been demoted after speaking out about covid concerns or because you’re a part of the vulnerable population when it comes to contracting the virus, well that’s when you may want to turn to the professionals for help.

DeMatteis says her law firm has a free questionnaire you can fill out to see if they can help you. There are also covid-related resources you may find helpful up on their website now. That’s garrisonlaw.com.

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