COVID-19 electron microscope

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab.

Q: Do I have the right to take sick leave without losing my job?

A: Yes. Your employer cannot legally fire, discipline or in any way reprimand you for requesting or taking emergency leave for an illness.

As recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, employers should encourage employees to stay home if they feel sick.

But if your employer is giving you a hard time or threatening to fire you, there are multiple laws that can require them to give you sick leave.

If you have a physical or mental disability and need related leave, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code can require your employer to provide you with unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation. Generally, the ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees or those who receive federal funding.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, new laws related to sick leave have been passed.

Effective until Dec. 31, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires public and private employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide workers with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption.

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, which is part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, also requires public and private employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide two weeks of paid sick leave for employees who meet specific COVID-19 criteria, excluding health care providers and emergency services.

Smaller employers with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for an exception.

If you think your employer is not following the law, you can file a complaint for unpaid sick leave, other unpaid wages or retaliation with the U.S. Department of Labor online or at 1-866-487-9243.

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