Parents: Know your workplace rights amid COVID-19

Under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, employees have rights when it comes to having to miss work to take care of sick children or family members or to be at home assisting with distance learning. 

“If you’re lucky enough to have a job you have a right to keep that job and care for your child whether that child is sick with COVID or whether that child is at home doing distance learning. Don’t let your employer tell you otherwise,” Twin Cities employment attorney with Shaefer Halleen LLC, Larry Schaefer said. 

Schaefer recommends parents reach out to their human resources or employee support personnel at their workplace to ask about their options if their child gets sick or if their learning plan changes. 

“I say make the request in writing because if they deny it, deny the request, you want to have a record of having made the request and having your employer not let you do something that you have every right to do,” Schaefer said. 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act “requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or extended family medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19” according to the Department of Labor. 

The act says, for employers covered under the act, they must give up to two weeks of paid sick leave because an employee is unable to work because they are: caring for an individual who is quarantined or to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed for reasons related to COVID-19. 

The act also provides an additional 10 weeks of unpaid expanded family medical leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed because of COVID-19. 

Covered employers includes certain public and private employers. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemptions from this requirement when it comes to providing leave due to school closings or child care unavailability. 

“What I want to be crystal clear with parents about is that they have rights, that this is not a situation where you have to simply say ‘yes’ to an employer that’s being unreasonable, that isn’t letting you care for your child, or even worse care for a child who’s quarantined or has COVID,” Schaefer said. 

Schaefer said many legal firms will provide free consultation for parents who have questions about their workplace rights.