EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – What will the workplace of a post-pandemic future look like? Safety is on everyone's mind right now as the country looks at slowly, and safely, re-opening businesses. But, with so much uncertainty about on-the-job protocol, the legal profession is expecting a spike in workplace cases.
Employee rights legal expert Dominic Messiha, co-founder of Empower Law PC, wants to remind workers of their rights, and that all employees have a right to make requests and inquiries at work without fear.
“The employer cannot punish the employee for making the request,” said Messiha. “They can’t discipline them, they can't reduce hours, they certainly can't fire them.”
Like many, Messiha anticipates that shared workspaces, like offices and retail businesses, will undergo significant changes. While not all of them will necessarily be bad, they do raise legal questions for both employees and employers.
“I think we're going to see a very big increase in telecommuting,” said Messiha. “I think we're going to see a decrease in business travel. I think we're going to see a decrease in face-to-face and in-person meetings.”
Messiha also anticipates a rise in leave requests as employees continue to struggle with the pandemic personally.
“If there are other medical needs that are an issue, or if the employee needs to care for family members who've been impacted by the virus, the employee has rights there in terms of accommodations from the employer,” said Messiha.
The challenge in rebuilding a safe and productive workplace is that every business is different and will require different legal considerations.
“A law office is going to look different from a doctor's office, is going to look different from an auto assembly plant,” explained Messiha. “And it's very difficult to construct one set of rules and guidelines [for all businesses]."
“The CDC guidelines, they're just that…guidelines. The CDC has said employers should look at and decide which one of the guidelines apply to their particular workplace and work from there. Lots of folks are working really hard on the legislative side in the governmental side and in the courts to try and hash out what this future is going to look like for all of us.”
Messiha recommends employees take advantage of the many legal resources that are available online, and when in doubt, consult a legal expert.