Voice of Reason

COVID has unleashed a rash of fuzzy questions—know the legal perimeters.

Face in profile with yellow equalizer sound wave coming out of mouth.
Don't listen to just anyone when it comes to sticky legal questions. / Copyright: Sergey Nivens

The Worker’s Comp/Personal Injury Attorney:

“With COVID, no one can say, ‘Tom sneezed and I got it.’ But they can say, ‘I went to a job location and I was exposed on a regular basis,” says Mack Babcock of Babcock Law Firm, LLC. That said, there are strict proof requirements for a case to take shape: that exposure was closely related to job functions and that the virus was present during working hours. The employee would also have to show how he/she was more exposed at work than outside of work. “If you’re following the safety protocols with documentation and not deviating, that is going to limit the ability for anyone to come back and say, ‘I got COVID while working,’” says Babcock.

Tip: Regularly double (and triple) check the “What You Should Know” section on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) website: eeoc.gov.

The Employment Attorney:

“Restaurants need to be aware of the new laws in Colorado, including the Public Health Emergency Whistle Blower Act (PHEW),” says Clayton Wire of Ogborn Mihm, LLP. You cannot take action against an employee for raising concerns over what they reasonably perceive as a violation of guidelines (example: the state requires masks and you’re not requiring them) or for choosing to wear additional PPE, so long as the protective limit is equal to or higher than what’s required and doesn’t hinder job performance. You can, however, discipline or terminate an employee for not following the state mask mandate—but not without first exploring if there’s a legitimate religious reason or disability issue at play.

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