If you own a business and you are preparing to bring employees back to work in-person in the Dallas area, or if you already have employees working in-person at your business, you may have questions about your rights as an employer based on COVID-19 exposure and risks. In other words, you might be wondering whether you can take certain actions in order to prevent employees from spreading COVID-19 in the workplace or putting other employees at risk. So, can employers require employees to self-quarantine? In short, the answer is likely “yes,” in terms of requiring the employee to stay away from the workplace for the self-quarantine period of 14 days for COVID-19. However, it is critical for employers in Texas to understand their rights when it comes to preventing COVID-19 exposure and risks at work, as well as their obligations to employees.
Employers can Require Employees to Self-Quarantine Away from the Workplace
In terms of requiring employees to self-quarantine, employers in Texas generally can require an employee to work from home and to remain outside the workplace for the 14-day self-quarantine period for COVID-19. However, it is important for employers to understand what they can and cannot require an employee to do during self-quarantine, and what they must do for the employee during the self-quarantine period.
If an employee has recently been exposed to someone with COVID-19, has been in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19, or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread, an employer can require that employee to self-quarantine, which in effect means staying away from the workplace and working from home. Even if the person does not have symptoms, the employer can require that employee to work from home for a 14-day period. During that time, if the employee is working remotely, then the employer must pay the employee his or her regular pay rate as normal. If the employee is unable to work remotely and is not eligible for paid leave under the FFCRA (see below), then the employer is not required to compensate the employee (other than following the employer’s normal PTO policies as applicable).
If the employee is sick with COVID-19 during the self-quarantine period and cannot perform job duties, that employee may still be entitled to paid sick leave due to COVID-19 under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Any employer who employs fewer than 500 employees typically must provide paid sick leave to employees with COVID-19 according to the FFCRA, although there are some exceptions.
Employers Can Enforce Self-Quarantine at Home
While employers can require employees to stay away from the workplace and work from home and can issue a directive to the employee to remain at home during that 14-day period, monitoring such a practice would prove difficult in practice.
Contact a Dallas Employment Law Attorney