This week, we at the Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond are returning to our downtown office after ten weeks of working from home. We aren’t the only ones – as Illinois and the city of Chicago each move into the next phase of their respective reopening plans, many of us are returning to work and routine. While it is refreshing to clear the layer of dust off our office desks and regain a sense of normalcy, it can also be unnerving to venture out of our homes with an end to the global pandemic not yet in sight.
Here is our best advice for those of us returning to work in the coming weeks:
Continue to Maintain Social Distancing Guidelines
We still have an obligation to keep ourselves and each other healthy, and this is especially critical as many businesses reopen. To that end, continue washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth and nose and maintaining a six-foot distance from others while outside, and coughing and sneezing into your elbow rather than your hands. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers some helpful guidelines for reducing your chances of catching and spreading COVID-19, which we encourage you to read here.
Perhaps most importantly, now that many of us are returning to our jobs, don’t come in to work if you are sick.
Check Your Employers/Profession’s Specific Guidelines
In addition to guidelines provided by the CDC and other government/medical organizations, many professional fields have their own specific rules and procedures for reducing the spread of the virus. Healthcare workers, for instance, have received their own list of guidelines from the CDC. The Food and Drug Administration also provides a list of best practices for those who work in retail and food service. Here in Chicago, third-party food delivery services were recently made subject to some new rules as well.
Your employer may have new rules/regulations of their own, in addition to those laid out by the federal and local governments. Make sure to know what workplace practices will be different now that you are back.
Maintain Clear and Honest Communication with your Employer
If you’ve come in contact with someone who has COVID-19 or think you may have it, tell your employer as promptly as possible, so they can take the necessary actions to keep their other employees safe. If you haven’t tested positive but have symptoms, let your employer know, so they can make the appropriate call. If at all possible, do this via email or phone call, so as not to put you colleagues at risk.
Know Your (Workers’) Rights
Most workers are employed “at will”, so the possibility of termination for refusing to show up for work (after the stay-at-home order) does very much exist. However, you have a right to your health and safety.
An article from Time explains that “Many states and cities have also expanded their usual worker protection laws during the pandemic.” Research what worker protections are in place in your specific city/state, as well as protections provided by the federal government. Make sure your employer knows them too. Fellow Chicagoans can find useful information here and here.
Additionally, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the terms of OSHA, NLRA, and Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Union members should research their rights to sick pay under collective bargaining agreements.
If you are returning to work this week, we congratulate you on advancing in your area’s pandemic-recovery plan. Let’s all continue doing our part to keep ourselves and each other safe and healthy. If you have any questions, about your legal rights during this time, please reach out to us via our website or by calling (312) 258-8188.