THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON EMPLOYMENT

Things are rapidly changing with the emergence of COVID-19, including in the workplace, raising questions for employees who continue to work and employees who are out of work as a result of steps to contain the virus. Here are a few frequently asked questions.

What if I am off work because of COVID-19?

Employers are significantly changing their business model or temporarily closing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including a number of industries closed by government order.  As a result, many employees are facing reduced paychecks, whether it is a reduction in hours or time off work. Unemployment benefits may be available to cover some of your reduced income.

If your employer closed or reduced your hours because of COVID-19, you are eligible to file a claim for unemployment benefits. You can apply for unemployment benefits even if you continue to work, but your hours or pay has been reduced. You can also apply if your employer reduced your hours to zero without terminating your employment.

The best way to file a claim is online, by clicking here. It is important you file as soon as possible. You are only eligible to receive benefits after your application. They are not available retroactively.

More information is available on the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s website regarding applying for unemployment as a result of COVID-19 and applying for unemployment in general.

What if I am having trouble submitting my claim online?

Currently, the online filing system is overwhelmed. As the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is working to expand its capacity, it is asking people to follow a filing schedule:

  • If you need to file an unemployment claim and your last name begins with the letter A – M, file a claim on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, or after 12 noon on Saturday.
  • If you need to file an unemployment claim and your last name begins with the letter N – Z, file a claim on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or before 12 noon on Saturday.

You might also have more success trying to file your claim online late at night or very early in the morning.

You should use the “Save & Finish Later” button to make sure you do not lose your progress when applying.

You can also call 303-318-9000 or 1-800-388-5515, but be prepared to hold for a long time.

What if I believe I was wrongfully terminated?

The coronavirus does not give employers license to use it as an excuse to violate laws prohibiting discrimination or retaliation, discussed elsewhere on our website. If you believe your employer has used the pandemic as an excuse to cover up for unlawful discrimination, retaliation or harassment, please contact us or call us at (303) 831-4750.

What if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

Employees in certain industries are eligible for up to four days of paid sick leave when experiencing symptoms and are being tested for COVID-19. This program is known as “Colorado HELP.” Colorado HELP requires the employer to provide four days of paid leave.

Colorado HELP covers these industries: leisure and hospitality; food services; child care; education, including transportation, food service, and related work at educational establishments; home health, if working with elderly, disabled, ill, or otherwise high-risk individuals and; nursing homes and community living facilities.

You are eligible if you work in one of the specified industries, even if your employer’s business is not in the specified industry. For example, if an employer provides on-site daycare, those daycare workers are eligible for up to four days of leave.

Colorado HELP provides limited assistance because it is the only action that the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment was able to take without further government action. Governor Polis has now ordered the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to identify other possibilities to expand the benefits available to workers in industries particularly impacted by coronavirus.

More information is available from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment on the Colorado HELP program.

My employer wants to take my temperature before letting me work. Can they do that?

Yes, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Because COVID-19 is a pandemic, employers are permitted to ask employees if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, including taking an employees’ temperature.

Can my employer send me home if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

Yes.

What if my family member has symptoms? Can I take leave to care for them?
It is important to remember that Colorado and federal employment laws remain in full effect. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives certain employees the right to 12 weeks of leave for their own serious health condition or to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Individuals who need to care for family members with COVID-19 may qualify for protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  If you believe you have been denied your rights under the FMLA, please contact us or call us at (303) 831-4750.
I heard Congress passed a bill to help with medical leave. What’s that about?

Congress passed the the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, HR 6201. The United States Department of Labor is still working on the details of how the bill will be implemented. Generally speaking, the bill will provide some paid leave to individuals who are missing work because of a quarantine order, their own diagnosis of COVID-19, caring for an individual subject to a quarantine order, or caring for a child whose school is daycare is closed as a result of a quarantine order. More preliminary information is available here.

 

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