Coronavirus (Covid-19) FAQs for Employees

In these turbulent times, our lives are changing right in front of our eyes in all aspects, and the landscape of employment law is no exception. Employees across the state of California are experiencing layoffs, furloughs, and terminations from their job due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, and many employees have questions about their rights. Here are some FAQs to help:

-Q: Can my employer terminate my job due to the Coronavirus pandemic?

A: Depends on the circumstance. If the employee’s relationship is not governed by any employment contract, employers are generally allowed to terminate employees at any time for any reason, including slowed business due to Coronavirus.

-Q: If my job terminates me or others due to Coronavirus, do they have to pay all my wages at the time of termination?

A: Yes. Coronavirus is not an excuse to pay wages already earned by employees. If you or others are terminated from your employment, you must be provided a final paycheck the same day of termination. That paycheck must that pays you for all your hours worked, as well must cash out any accrued vacation time.

-Q: As part of my termination due to Coronavirus, my job is making me sign a severance agreement where I agree to release any claims I have against my job… do I have to sign this agreement?

A: No. Unfortunately, during these times, employers are finding this a good time to place pressure on employees by forcing them to sign papers that are not required by law to sign. Some of these documents state that by signing those agreements, employees release any claims they have or may have against their employer. Sometimes employers are going further and offering money to the employees as a “severance” in order to secure the employee’s signature and get the release of claims. If this happens to you, you should immediately ask the employer for more time to review the document, and you should seek the help of an attorney immediately as signing such a document significantly affects your rights.

-Q: Does my employer have to warn me ahead of time prior to a layoff or termination?

A: It depends. Years ago, California enacted what is called the WARN Act, which provided for penalties if employers did not sufficiently warn employees before mass-layoffs (layoffs of more than 75 people in one location). However, due to Coronavirus, laws are changing. Employers are still subject to penalties, but regulations are much more relaxed. If mass lay-offs are occurring at your job, it’s best to speak with an attorney to discuss your rights.

-Q: My employer has not spoke to me in days/weeks, and is not returning any of my calls/emails. Is there anything I can do?

A: If this is the case, and your employer owes you wages, they can’t just ignore you. You are entitled to collecting wages you have earned, no matter how bad things get with Coronavirus and the economy. If your employer continues to ignore you, consult with an attorney.