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Going Back to Work: Tips on What Your Boss Can—and Can’t—Make You Do

May 11, 2020, The Wall Street Journal

Lindsay Burke is quoted in The Wall Street Journal regarding the actions employers can take when asking employees to return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. When addressing the concerns of an employee who is nervous to commute to work, Ms. Burke says, “If you are able to work from home, ask to do so. If you are considered a vulnerable individual or have an ADA-qualifying disability, you have a better chance of getting permission. Otherwise, you could be required to come to work. If working from home isn’t an option, you may be able to take unpaid leave, but there is no guarantee your job will be available when you feel it is safe to commute. Meanwhile, some employers are considering enhancing transportation benefits for employees, like reimbursing for car services, or offering parking benefits.”

She addressed the notion that an employer can make you waive your right to workers’ compensation. Ms. Burke states, “ The law recognizes that workers and employers have unequal bargaining power, so workers can’t be required to sign away this right.”

If an employee gets sick at work and wants to sue their employer, she says, “The workers’ compensation system protects employers from other legal claims pertaining to a work-related injury or illness. However, if employees believe their company was negligent—for example, by not providing personal protective equipment even if workers were regularly exposed to confirmed COVID-19 cases—there are situations and states where courts might be open to such claims.”

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