What if an employee doesn’t want to return to work because they’re self-quarantining?

It’s very important that employers begin an interactive process and ask, “Why?” Perhaps the employee can’t return to work because they’ve been ordered by their county to self-quarantine due to contact with a COVID-19-positive individual; they’ve recently traveled outside the country; or the employee has an underlying medical condition that places them at higher risk to COVID-19 complications.

Employers should determine why the employee isn’t returning to work because their reasoning will determine the employer’s obligations. For example, if an employee is caring for someone who’s positive for COVID-19, they may be entitled to leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Employees may qualify for FFCRA leave under several different circumstances, but employers are limited in the types of documentation they can ask employees who want to take FFCRA leave.

Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says if an employee isn’t coming in to work because they have an underlying health condition that puts them at higher risk, then employers must engage in the interactive process and possibly provide leave as a reasonable accommodation. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) included similar guidance in a COVID-19 FAQ published on July 24, 2020.

If none of the above scenarios apply, then deciding what to do is at the employer’s discretion, but employers must gather a lot of information before reaching that step.

Read more in HRWatchdog’s Reasonable Accommodations During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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