Your Rights During COVID-19 Pandemic

FROM: EST, M. Todd Pancake
DATE: April 1, 2020


As there is quite a bit of uncertainty in the workplace based on current events, the IKORCC has prepared the following summary of your rights during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide some clarity.  There are a few areas that are priorities during this pandemic which have implications your health and safety. Overall, you enjoy the same, and in some instances enhanced, rights during national health emergencies such as the one we are experiencing now.   Here is a brief summary:

If You Suffer a Job Loss, You Should File for Unemploymentwhile you are in an essential infrastructure job pursuant to the various state executive orders and should continue to go to work if it is safe to do so, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) has expanded and made it easier for COVID-19 infected, and uninfected individuals to apply for unemployment benefits.  Individuals that are laid off or have a job loss for any reason related to COVID-19 will most likely qualify for benefits.

Please be advised, however, that you will not accrue eligibility credit for your union health insurance and pension benefits, etc. while receiving unemployment benefits.

You Have the Right to Refuse to Work in Dangerous Conditionsyou do not have to remain silent if you think your working conditions are unsafe.  Both the Occupational Safety Hazard Act and the National Labor Relations Act contain similar protections for employees who believe their working conditions are unsafe or unhealthy.  Under both OSHA and the NLRA, your right to refuse to do a task is protected if all of the following conditions are met:

  • Where possible, you have asked the employer to eliminate the danger, and the employer failed to do so;
  • You refused to work in “good faith.” This means that you must genuinely believe that an imminent danger exists;
  • A reasonable person would agree that there is a real danger of death or serious injury; and
  • There isn’t enough time, due to the urgency of the hazard, to get it corrected through regular enforcement channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection.

This is a measure of last resort.  In the first instance, you should request that your employer voluntarily correct any defects with the assistance of the Business Representative.

You Have the Right to Insist Upon Protective Equipmentthe Occupational Safety Health Administration states that employers are obligated to provide you with the equipment needed to keep you safe while performing your job.   You may have the right to insist upon personal protective equipment if your work presents the possibility of exposing you to the coronavirus (ex. gloves, goggles, face shields, face masks, and respiratory protection, when appropriate).   You are within your rights to insist upon the appropriate amount of PPE based on the risk of exposure.  If you believe that the measures being taken to protect your safety are not adequate, you should contact your Business Representative.  There are remedies under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), as well as the grievance procedure under the CBA.

You Should Remain Vigilant About Policing Our CBAsyou should be aware that you still have the right to insist upon your employer’s compliance with our CBAs.  You should contact your Business Representative if you feel there has been any violation of our CBAs.

You Have the Right to Stay Home if You are Sick– you should not be punished or otherwise disciplined by your employer for calling in sick during this pandemic.  By following the Federal and State government mandates of staying home when you are sick, you are engaging in activity for the safety of the entire bargaining unit.   If you are disciplined for staying home while sick, you should consult with your Business Representative about filing a grievance and/or pursuing charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

Your Rights Under the Family First Coronavirus Response Acton March 18, 2020, the President of the United States signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic. The paid and unpaid leave provisions summarized below are effective April 1, 2020, and expire on December 31, 2020.‎

  1. Extended Paid LeaveCovered Employers must provide for as many of 12 weeks of job-protected leave for employees who are unable to work (or telework) because:

They are required for a son or daughter under 18 years old if the school or place of care for the child has been closed, or the child-care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to a public health emergency.

The first 10 days of leave is unpaid, unless the employee uses paid time off.  After 10 days of leave have been taken, a covered employer must provide paid leave. Paid leave must be an amount that is not less than two-thirds of your regular rate of pay for the number of hours you would otherwise be normally scheduled to work; provided, however, that such paid leave is capped at $200/day.  Paid leave must continue until your qualifying condition no longer exists, or after twelve weeks of leave have been taken.  Finally, there is a $10,000 cap on the aggregate amount of paid leave.


  1. The Act Creates Emergency Sick LeaveComplementing the paid leave amendment, is emergency sick leave for employees who cannot work for a series of COVID-19 related issues.  Generally, if you have been diagnosed with the virus, or are seeking a diagnosis while experiencing COVID-19 consistent symptoms, or caring for someone who meets that description, the sick leave provisions apply. Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours.  For part-time employees, emergency sick leave is the number of hours an employee works, on average, over a 2-week period.  Paid sick leave must be paid at your regular rate, subject to a maximum of $511 per day and $5,110 for conditions relating to your own COVID- related illness, and at two-thirds of your regular rate, subject to a maximum of $200 per day and $2,000, for leave due to a family member’s illness.


If you have any questions about this Notice, safety concerns, or your rights as a member of the IKORCC, please contact your Business Representative.