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Problem Solvers Coronavirus Hotline: Employee rights when returning to work

Posted at 5:44 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 18:44:11-04

With so many Oklahomans returning to work, many of our viewers are concerned about going back and are wondering what their rights are as an employee.

One viewer asked the problem solvers, “Can my manager fire me for not returning back to work during phase one of reopening public places amid the COVID-19 pandemic while I’m pregnant?”

Tulsa employment attorney Frank Frasier, said, “There's nothing in state law and in federal law right now that protects an employee or an employer in this situation. I've been counseling people to invoke their FMLA rights (Family Medical Leave Act), which will protect them. They may have an unpaid leave during this time, but they will at least protect their job."

Another viewer explained to the problem solvers, “My wife is a general manager at a restaurant. When she went back to work, they told her that because of COVID-19 and finance reasons they would be asking her to return with the same title, but from salary to hourly and a $4/hour pay cut. They’re also asking her to sign a contract. She has time to make a decision but we don't know if this is something they can legally do and blame COVID-19 for.”

Frasier said, “Without a contract, everybody is an at-will employee, and they serve at the employer’s will. The terms of that employment can change at any time - the number of hours or the hourly wage, not to go below the minimum wage.” He went on, “If they offer her a contract, that might offer this person some redress if an employer then seeks to change the terms of the contract after she signed it. But up until that time, she’s really an at-will employee, and there's not much she can do.”

If there is a coronavirus question you would like our problem solvers to look into, call our coronavirus hotline at 918-748-1502 and leave a message.

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