07/29/2021

Returning To The Workplace Safely After COVID

by Shulman & Hill

Workplace safety is even more important as employees return to in-person work after the worst of the COVID pandemic. But with conflicting guidance and new variants, many workers are confused and uneasy about staying healthy and safe in the workplace. We have broken down what we know so far about how New Yorkers can keep […]

Workplace safety is even more important as employees return to in-person work after the worst of the COVID pandemic. But with conflicting guidance and new variants, many workers are confused and uneasy about staying healthy and safe in the workplace.

We have broken down what we know so far about how New Yorkers can keep themselves and others healthy at work, and what responsibility employers and other parties have to maintain a safe workplace in 2021.

What Efforts Has New York Made To Combat COVID?

On March 7, 2020, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued Executive Order 202, which declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Since May 15, 2020, the state of New York has worked to develop and implement a phased economic reopening strategy based on science and data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This guidance has allowed employers to safely resume or increase employment and regular operations while protecting the health of all New Yorkers during the global pandemic.

However, inconsistencies between state law and federal law have left citizens confused about what safety measures they are required to observe. Workers have also been left with conflicting guidance on which safety precautions employers have to take in order to ensure that employees are able to work in the safest environment.

Many Vaccinated Workers Are Still Uneasy About Returning to In-Person Work

If you still have concerns about returning to work after COVID, you are not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, 48 percent of vaccinated people are uneasy about returning to in-person interactions.

There has been some confusion about whether masks are still warranted in the workplace. In May, the CDC announced that individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear masks.

However, recent guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that fully vaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks in light of the new Delta variant.

Not everyone is comfortable with ditching masks even if they are vaccinated, and that is okay. Employers are required to maintain a safe workplace, and you have options to ensure that you are comfortable returning to work in the post-COVID world.

With New Variants On the Rise, How Should Employers Keep Employees Safe?

The state of New York has provided guidance on the best practices to implement in order to keep workers safe when working in groups. This is particularly important for occupations like construction that require workers to be in close proximity with others for long periods of time.

Some of the efforts employers can take to keep employees safe on the job include:

  • Placing signs that recommend wearing masks in areas win where social distancing is not possible, like elevators and bathrooms
  • Limiting the use of shared workspaces or “hot desking” in favor of socially distanced work environments
  • Increasing ventilation and filtration in closed spaces
  • Providing masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) on the job
  • Regularly sanitizing shared equipment, tools, bathrooms, and high-touch surfaces
  • Providing paid time off to get vaccinated

Employees should make the extra effort as well. Since vaccines are not 100 percent effective, you may want to continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Some additional precautions employees can take to limit the spread of COVID include:

  • Washing your hands often
  • Sanitizing your work area with alcohol wipes or other disinfectants to kill bacteria
  • Avoiding crowds when possible
  • Getting fresh air often

Every employee has their own preferences when it comes to protecting against COVID after the vaccine. It is important that you set personal boundaries that make you comfortable.

If you see that your employer is not implementing safety procedures, speak up. You are entitled to protection on the job. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who voice concerns about workplace safety conditions or health concerns.

Can Employers Mandate Vaccinations?

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission says that employers can mandate that employees get the vaccination before returning to work. Antidiscrimination laws do not prevent employers from requiring the vaccination, although they must provide exceptions for religious or medical reasons, including pregnancy.

The Biden administration is pushing more Americans to get vaccinated quickly, although it has stopped short of recommending that employers mandate the vaccination as a prerequisite of returning to work. Instead, the administration has encouraged employers to provide employees with paid time off to get the vaccine.

Vaccination mandates have caused controversy throughout the nation after the pandemic. Research suggests that although most employees are comfortable with vaccination mandates, some employers are reluctant to impose them.

In New York, the push to get vaccinated is still strong. The New York COVID vaccine tracker shows that nearly 62 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Nearly 56 percent of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID and in total. Federal, state, and local governments are continuing to push young people to get the vaccine.

Although six states have banned vaccination mandates, New York is not one of them, and your employer can make the vaccination mandatory as a condition of your employment.

What Are My Rights If I Get COVID At Work?

In response to COVID, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo guaranteed job protection and sick leave for employees. In the event that you are subjected to a mandatory or precautionary quarantine issued by a government entity, you are entitled to job protection and financial compensation. It is important that you become familiar with your place of employment’s protocols regarding COVID.

Some employers in New York are required to provide at least five days of paid sick leave to employees who need to take leave because they are under a quarantine order. The amount of paid sick leave the employer is required to provide depends on the number of employees the company has as well as its net annual income.

Quarantine leave is retroactive, and your employer cannot make you use existing sick leave or other leave accruals. If your employer fails to provide the paid sick leave required by New York law, you should file a complaint with the New York State Department of Labor.

You may file a COVID-related complaint against your employer for any of the following reasons:

  • The employer is not taking proper safety and health precautions to protect the health of employees
  • You have particular concerns about COVID because you or a family member are part of a vulnerable population, including having underlying health conditions or being over the age of 70
  • The employer is refusing to pay you wages owed for hours you worked, earned sick pay or paid time off, or time you took off to get vaccinated
  • The employer is harassing, threatening, or has fired you for reasons related to COVID-19
  • You qualify for COVID-19 paid sick leave and your employer is refusing to pay it or is forcing you to use your own personal time off
  • Your employer is forcing you to work when you are sick

Are You Injured or Sick Due to Your Working Conditions? Shulman & Hill Can Fight For You

If you have become injured or sick due to your working conditions, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Some potential benefits include compensation for medical bills and lost wages. Although workers cannot sue their employers, most are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance in the event that one of their employees is injured.

Shulman & Hill will fight for you. We pride ourselves in being one of the top workers’ compensation and personal injury firms in New York City. Our expert attorneys have years of experience fighting for workers’ rights.

A skilled attorney is essential to making the workers’ compensation claim process as quick and efficient as possible. The legal system is complex, and we understand that an attorney may be the last thing on your mind after an injury. However, protecting your rights as soon as possible is important. At Shulman & Hill, we have helped thousands of New Yorkers get millions of dollars in compensation. Our track record of success speaks to our uncompromising advocacy for the rights of our clients and their families.

Contact us for a free legal consultation today.

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"The treatment received by Shulman & Hill was extremely excellent. They treated me like I was part of their family and that gave me a lot of confidence in them. I would recommend them one hundred percent because they are very trained in your area. I congratulate you and ask God to fill you with blessings. Gracias for your support."

Ramon E.

"I would like to thank The Shulman & Hill Law Firm in Brooklyn for their outstanding representation on my worker’s compensation case. The monetary reward exceeded our expectations and Alex worked closely with me to meet and exceed my goals."

John S.

"To anyone in need of a worker’s compensation lawyer, I highly recommend Alex Shulman and his team. They went above and beyond to best accommodate me during my time of injury. All my questions and concerns were answered in a timely manner and with the utmost professionalism. In addition and most importantly they fought to make sure I was correctly compensated for my injuries at time of settlement and didn’t rush to get paid. I will be recommending their firm to anyone and everyone in need of their services."

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"I am both satisfied and relieved with the results this extremely professional and reliable firm did. They lead me through the entire process, they never gave me any issues. They handled everything on their own, and always put a great deal of effort to ensure my comfort and best interest. They were always reachable and answered all my questions, and gave me information even when I didn’t know what the right question to ask was.  They turned a grave dilemma into something very manageable and repairable. They are efficient and do not linger with any paperwork, I was truly amazed at the results and the short time it took. I highly recommend them to anyone, and will seek their counsel in the future."

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"I really appreciate the service I received with Shulman & Hill.  They walked me through the process and kept me informed every step of the way.  They would call and leave a message and when I called back, I was connected with a person who knew exactly what my call was about.  I was very satisfied with my settlements. Thank You!"

Aaron R.

"Alex Shulman did a wonderful job walking me through all the process of my case…making sure I understood all the legality and severity of all my hearing. I highly recommend their firm to handle any and all worker’s compensation cases. They strive for your wellbeing health-wise as well as aiming for the financial max."

Altagrace G.

"Schulman & Hill was my very first choice I chose for my WC case . I am very pleased with the outcome of my case. I would highly recommend them to friends. They are very professional and kept me informed during every step of this process. Should I ever need a WC attorney again, God forbid, Shulman & Hill it is, hands down . Thank you ."

Cheryl M.

"I had a great experience with Shulman & Hill. They have a great team and were very understanding and helpful from day one. I felt like I was in good hands and the outcome on my case overreached my expectations! I highly recommend this firm. You can be rest assured that they will fight for you rights."

Anna G.

"My experience with the Shulman & Hill lawyers during this process time was excellent, they are competent and very professional lawyers, they worked quickly with my case and they kept me informed of the whole process all the time. Shulman & Hill’s fans recommend them with closed eyes, thank you very much Shulman & Hill."

Carolyn G.

"Shulman & Hill is the best firm out there. They help you understand....since walking into Shulman & Hill, they have guided me...to get a win. I am completely happy with my compensation. What brought me to Shulman & Hill was their expertise in workers compensation and personal injury cases. What I found value in was in their mission to provide compassionate service..."

Jason S.

"I went to the Internet to find a lawyer to assist me to navigate worker’s compensation process. Shulman & Hill was my first choice  and I have no regrets. I was impressed with the prompt response to my case. I must comment on the office environment and office staff being  friendly, professional and prompt. A big thanks to the lawyers that represented me at the hearings and Valeria who helped to lessen my anxiety are dealing with legal issues. I have no hesitation in recommending this law firm to anyone that requires legal services."

Ita L.

"The best law firm in NYC! They explain everything to you and they are very generous and helpful. The lawyers are excellent and very respectful as also is the receptionist. I highly recommend the Shulman & Hill law firm."

Davis C.

"Excellent lawyers. Excellent service. I will recommend them as my first choice. They helped me with my case since day one. They know exactly how to work on a case and win it. They worked fast and were always in communication with me.  I won my case with a very high amount. Thanks to all the staff, I wish them my best. They will always be in my heart."

Grace B.

"Had a very positive experience working with Shulman & Hill in the worker’s compensation case. Everyone is very professional and competent. Received the maximum possible settlement in court. I am sincerely grateful to my lawyers and personally Alex Shulman for the work done. I wish you further success and prosperity."

Dmitry M.

"I am so glad that I chose Alex Shulman to represent me in my worker’s compensation case. I have definitely recommended him to some of my coworkers and friends who needed an Attorney. I am so happy with the service I got from him and his paralegals. Thank you very much to the entire staff at Shulman & Hill for everything!"

Ilya K.

"Shulman & Hill have been tremendously helpful in resolving my case. They are extremely professional and thorough. I would recommend them to anyone working to resolve a difficult case."

James M.

"I was very pleased with the work of this firm. They made sure I understood my case and I was never left out of the loop. They were professional and very friendly. I would recommend them to anyone looking for someone who is going to fight for you to the very end."

Jennifer D.

"Do not waste time looking for better. There is no better than Shulman & Hill. I am very happy I got introduced to them by my good friends. Definitely THE BEST there is."

Arian K.

"Shulman and Hill are the absolute best: JJ, Alex and Christine are powerhouse attorneys who get the best results for their clients. I feel like these guys took care of me like family. When you’re dealing with a worker’s compensation case, you’ll want a pit bull to represent you: Shulman & Hill is the firm you need."

Chelsea W.

"Wonderful service quality by the group of professional advocates in the law firm of Shulman & Hill! I did not expect that I will find a proper solution regarding my worker’s compensation. However, it has been possible by the experts and they have made the task easier over the period. Thanks to them for their help."

Corey A.

"I would definitely like to thank Mr. Alex Shulman and his entire staff at Shulman and Hill for their exceptional work in helping me with my Worker’s Compensation case. Their entire staff was courteous and professional from start to finish and all work was done in a timely fashion. I was previously with a different law firm who were not as informative, and they made me feel like I was a mere money to them. I personally recommend the law offices of Shulman & Hill for any injury/ worker’s compensation case you may have. They strive to get you a maximum reward for your injury, while maintaining the utmost courtesy and professionalism."

Dain J.

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