2. Can my employer fire me if I do not show up to work because I tested positive for COVID-19 or a local or state authority ordered me to isolate?
Under CalOSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards, employers are required to continue and maintain your earnings, seniority, and all other rights and benefits, including the right to your job status, when the employer prevents you from entering the workplace because of a positive COVID-19 test or a COVID-19-related order to isolate issued by a local or state.
This requirement does not apply to any period of time during which you are unable to work for reasons other than protecting people at the workplace from possible COVID-19 transmission or where an employer demonstrates that your exposure to COVID-19 was not work-related. These standards are currently set to expire on May 29, 2021, with potential extensions of up to 90-days if reapproved.
If you believe your employer has violated this standard, please contact CalOSHA via 800-963-9424 or file a workplace safety complaint online here. If you feel as though your employer retaliated against you for exercising your rights under these emergency standards, please contact the California Labor Commissioner via 844-522-6734.
If your employer fires you for not coming to work in compliance with a government directive (government mandated isolation), you may have a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. You can find more information about wrongful termination here.
You may be entitled to job-protected, unpaid time off from work for up to 12 weeks under the California Family Rights Act. You likely qualify for this leave if all of the following statements apply to you:
- You work for an employer with at least 5 employees,
- You have worked there for at least a year, and
- You worked at least 1250 hours in the year before you take time off.
If you do not meet the eligibility requirements above, but work for an employer with at least 5 employees, your employer may be required to grant you a leave of absence as a reasonable accommodation for a disability. For more information about job-protected leave, see our factsheet Disability + My Job found here.
If you believe your employer retaliated against you for using job-protected leave, denied you leave, or refused to let you return to work after your leave, you may file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). You can find for more information about the DFEH complaint process here.
If you are terminated, you can apply for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits with the EDD. Even if you quit, you may still be eligible to receive UI if you can establish both (1) that you had “good cause” to leave your work, which can include a reasonable, good faith fear for your safety, and (2) that you took reasonable steps to resolve the problem before leaving your work, like requesting leave or paid sick days. See Question 8 for more information about unemployment benefits.
See Question 4 for more information on how to get paid while you cannot work due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure.