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Heading back to work? Here’s what you need to know about your rights during a pandemic

Workers’ compensation attorney offers recommendations for employees heading back to work during pandemic

As Florida begins it’s reopening with phase one next week, many people have reached out to voice their concerns about safety in the workplace.

News 6 took their concerns to a local attorney to see what their rights were.

Glen Wieland has been an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation for more than 35 years. He said Florida is a right-to-work state, meaning you can quit your job for any reason. And employers can terminate you for just about any reason, as long as it’s not discriminatory.

"I have not seen any requirements from the government that say employers are required to do anything with regard to providing safety equipment for people. I think employers should. I think if an employer wants to protect itself from civil litigation, they need to provide the safety precautions for the employees they're putting at risk," said Wieland.

What if your workplace reopens, but you don’t feel comfortable working right now? Do you still qualify for unemployment? Wieland said no.

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"If you are refusing to go to work and you don't have a justifiable reason, you're not going to qualify for unemployment. The employer can fight the worker's unemployment claim by saying 'we had work available and they just didn't want to come in'," said Wieland.

In some cases, he said, you can take Family Medical Leave for up to 12 weeks. If you qualify for this, your employer can't terminate your position while you're out.

If you are heading back to work next week, Wieland offered some recommendations:

Talk to your employer. Have them lay out all of the safety guidelines that will be followed and any changes to your job. Try to get it in writing.

Ask if they will provide any safety equipment like masks or gloves. If they won’t, bring your own.

Ask if they will provide any safety equipment - like masks or gloves. If they won’t - bring your own!

"If an employer sends you home for wearing a mask, then I think you would be entitled to unemployment. The government is saying wear a mask and be safe, the employer didn't have a good reason for them not wearing a mask," said Wieland. "Our life is more important than our job. Our family is more important than our job, so we need to take responsibility for ourselves and our family first."

News 6 reached out to OSHA to find out how they will enforce health and safety regulations in the workplace, but did not get an immediate response.


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