Q: I currently work from home as per employer instruction. Can they force me to return to work during the epidemic?
I'm 61 yrs old and I'm at contagion risk due to medical history (overweight, type 2 diabetic) if I have to commute since I would need to take a bus & subway to my job.
A: Maybe. Wear a mask and make sure to maintain social distancing. Stay far away from anyone without face coverings.. If you arrive at the business and observe that either customers or coworkers are coming closer than 6 feet within each other or mandatory face covering is not being enforced for everyone take some pictures of the dangerous employees or customers if not against company policies, tell the employer of your safety concerns and maybe file an OSHA workplace safety and EEOC charge of disability or perceived disability discrimination and apply for unemployment benefits if your employer stops paying you. You would ask your employer for an ADAAA accommodation to keep working from home because of your health issues and what sound like reasonable concerns. There are no guarantees that you will qualify for benefits but you will have done just about everything you can to document a safety concern. Maybe get a doctor's note also although in New York a governmental agency would have to quarantine you as someone who has the disease or symptoms or came into contact with someone who did. Good luck!
If you can effectively work from home and your employer instructs you to return to work and you reasonably believe that this places your health in jeopardy, I would recommend that you request the reasonable accommodation of continued work at home or telecommunting.
Whether your employer has to grant your reasonable accommodation or can terminate your employment for failure to return will depend on a number of factors such timing, size of employer, functions that you perform, and other facts not clear from your question.
I would recommend that you contact a qualified attorney in employment law, many will provide a free initial consultation.
Good luck and stay safe.
Tim Akpinar agrees with this answer
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