LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Doctors, law enforcement, delivery drivers and other essential employees are putting their lives on the line to keep the U.S. going.
But, labor attorney Benjamin Yormak said some of them may not have to.
“Senior citizens and those with significant underlying medical conditions, they ought to be staying at home. And that should apply whether or not the business is essential,” he said.
Yormak said Governor Ron DeSantis’s executive order signed Thursday allows even essential employees to take paid medical leave.
He said it’s the first time that the Family and Medical Leave Act requires paid time off. So he understands why a lot of employees are calling him.
“I can certainly envision many businesses not being real thrilled at having to pay employees to sit at home during this crisis. Particularly when their business isn’t operating, and they’re losing money,” he said.
Essential employees and non-essential employees qualify for 30 days of medical leave including two weeks of pay if:
-You’re elderly/high risk for COVID-19 and there's a federal/state quarantine
-A doctor orders you to quarantine
-You’re caring for someone who has coronavirus
-You’re exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a diagnosis
-Your child’s school or daycare has closed, and you can’t do your job from home.
Yormak said healthcare workers don’t have an easy out of their jobs right now.
“If you’re in healthcare, right now you’re the functional equivalent to a firefighter and we have a massive forest fire,” he said.
Most of his clients calling are healthcare workers and there’s not much advice he can offer them.
“To state it kind of simply, it is a little bit of what was signed up for when the job was accepted,” he said.
For those who qualify for paid leave, their employer has to let them return to work or they could face a lawsuit.
“If you’ve got five employees, three of them take the medical leave, two of them don’t. But the three that do, all get fired. That would be an example of retaliation,” said Yormak.
He added employers could be protected if the position no longer exists because of an economic downturn. He also said it’s important for employers and employees to document everything right now, just in case they end up in court later.