HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- ABC13 spoke with employment attorney Michelle Bohreer, whose phone is ringing off the hook from employers and workers.
Here are some of the most important questions from workers and employers:
What do employers need to do to open safely?
One of the main things employers needs to do now is make sure employees understand sanitation. Train them on how to wash their hands, how to maintain a sanitized workspace and social distancing. Employers should allow employees to wear masks, and we're encouraging employers to provide masks to employees, if possible, to keep them safe.
What if I don't feel safe returning to work?
If you are a high-risk employee, meaning you have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or your age is 65 or over, you need to communicate that to your employer.
What if I'm not considered high-risk, but I still have concerns?
Talk to your employer about your risk, and perhaps, you don't go into your first wave of reopening, but you delay your returning and employment when things have stabilized more. Otherwise, if you're offered return to employment and you say no, those unemployment benefits, in all likelihood, could go away.
What are some other strategies in talking to my employer?
One thing you can say is "I am happy to not return first if there are other employees that could be returned now," because we are only returning back in percentages. One option, communicate your anxiety and your concern and ask if you can be brought back in the second wave.
Can you explain how Texas law applies to employees?
Texas is an "at will" state. You can be fired anytime, you can quit anytime, as long as it's not for an illegal reason such as discrimination, violation of federal family leave, American with disabilities and other similar issues.
What are employers obligated to provide?
The employer has the obligation to provide a safe place to work. The employer has an obligation to follow all federal standards, including OSHA standards, and reasonable safety standards for their industry.
What should employers do if employees are still working from home?
Employers need to set work from home parameters and hours. If you don't set specific hours, as an employer, you may be liable for overtime. Without specific work-from-home parameters, an employee could file for unemployment if he gets injured inside the home at any time during the day. Employers need to let their insurance carriers know their employees are working from home.
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