JUSTLAW

Attention Small Business Owners: Is it Time for your Business to Get Back in the Office?

If your business is still working remotely, it could potentially be time to get back to the office. In order to do so, small businesses must put together a robust reopening plan to properly address any and all concerns you or your employees may have. 

 

Employers who have returned their companies to the office have done so in a variety of ways. Some businesses have mandated their entire workforce to return. Others have asked employees to return, but have not mandated it. Another group of businesses have created flexible schedules where employees rotate on when they come to the office. Choosing which path to take, if any, is unique for each business. Therefore, keep reading to receive more insight on what your company should do. 

employee legal rights
Returning to the office

 

JUSTLAW has recently surpassed 1,000 small businesses enrolled in their small business legal protection plan. Thus, our small business members have asked two questions that I am sure all other small businesses are wondering as well: (1) Am I able to require all of my employees to return to the office? (2) Can I get in trouble for any employees who are infected with COVID-19 while at the office?

 

(1) Am I able to require all of my employees to return to the office?

 

The short and long answer is yes, but it may be dependent on your state’s laws. Generally, it is acceptable for employers to condition employment on a return to the office. Exceptions do apply to employees who have a specific reason as to why they cannot return. Those employees cannot be compelled to return to the office as a condition of employment. 

 

While it is true that employers generally are permitted to mandate a return to the office, subject to state laws, that does not mean all small businesses should. There are potential issues with returning: 

 

  1. Will you mandate that everyone has to get the vaccine?
  2. Is the office large enough to follow CDC guidelines and precautions? 
  3. Will your workforce feel safe returning? 
  4. Will your workforce productivity increase or decrease as a result of returning? 

 

These are all questions worth asking yourself before you mandate a return to the office. 

 

(2) Can I get in trouble for any employees who are infected with COVID-19 while at the office?

 

If an employee contracts COVID-19 in the office or an outbreak of COVID-19 occurs in the office, small businesses can be liable for workplace safety laws such as OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970

 

Are you providing your employees a safe working environment?

 

In order to protect against your business from liability of such occurrences, employers should have employees sign waivers. The waiver would state that the employee agrees to return to the office, provided that the employer provides employees with a safe work environment. 

 

* * * * * *

 

Clearly, the status of returning to the office for all businesses is still a question mark in the minds of most employers. JUSTLAW hopes this article has provided employers with some insight on whether or not your business can open up. 

 

JUSTLAW also urges small businesses to sign up for its small business legal protection plan. Continue your business with the legal security and comfort you need to be as productive as possible. 

 

Speak to a JUSTLAW attorney today to initiate your first consultation. 

 

This post is not legal advice. It is for general informational purposes only. No reader should rely on this information in any way whatsoever without first seeking legal advice. 

 

Can you be fired for using of Social Media?

The new age of modernization arising over recent years has created an emergence of social media usage. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or a variety of other forms of social media, people constantly document their lives and thoughts on the Internet. Therefore, the risk of termination of employment has increased, due to social media usage. In fact, in most recent months, terminations for social media posts have risen over content relating to COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. Thus, people should be aware of their rights, while employed, on social media platforms.

First and foremost as a general rule, employers have the right to terminate employees for any lawful reasons. Terminating an employee for their use of social media could be construed as a lawful reason. However, there are some protections afforded to employees who are facing possible termination for their social media postings.

Before we introduce you to these protections, please be aware that the law on social media usage relating to employment is changing every day. Therefore, it is crucial to hire an attorney if you plan on suing your employer for a potential wrongful termination claim.

 

Protections

 

Posts outside of working hours:

Unsurprisingly, social media posts during working hours are discouraged by employers. If you post something on social media during working hours–of which your employer is not happy with–it will most likely be grounds for termination. Employers have a reasonable expectation that you will put forth all of your attention to work and not social media, thus they generally will not have trouble in moving forward with a valid termination of your employment.

In contrast, if you post something on social media outside of working hours, you generally have more freedom from retaliation by your employer.

Thus, ask yourself: was this post you made during working hours? Was it on the weekend? Was it during a break? Was it after work? Be ready to answer these questions before you move forward with an attorney consultation on this matter.

Posts concerning the working conditions of your employment:

Employees have strong legal protection when they are discussing matters of workplace conditions. Such workplace conditions include, but are not limited to:

      1. Harassment
      2. Vacation time; sick days
      3. Union discouragement
      4. Pay rate
      5. Unsafe working conditions

However, there is not a generally established blanket rule for these types of posts. Instead, posts relating to any of the working conditions made above that are false or misleading are not afforded any protection. 

Therefore, if you claim on social media that your employer is stripping your vacation time, yet there is no such indication of that, you could be fired for a false claim relating to workplace conditions.

Final Thoughts:

First Amendment:
Some of you may be wondering, why doesn’t the First Amendment protect my posts on social media? Doesn’t the First Amendment afford everyone the general right of Freedom of Speech?

Unfortunately, the First Amendment only applies to the government. Private employers do not have to abide by the First Amendment. This is doctrine under the law of government/state action.

Privacy setting on social media:

Sadly, just because your social media account is set to private, does not mean an employer cannot fire you for what you post on your private account. Because of the public nature of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, courts have held there is not a general expectation of privacy when you post on social media. Therefore, be aware of this if you believe setting your posts and account to private will save your job.

Employment agreement/Handbook:

Employers are restrictive as to what you can and cannot post on social media. They will explicitly state those restrictions either in your agreement for employment or any employee handbook. Take a look at them to see where your employer stands on an employee’s use of social media.

* * * * * *

Remember, you should always consult an attorney. There’s no need to take these matters into your own hands when high quality legal advice has gotten so affordable. JUSTLAW is here to help. Feel free to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys if you’d like to learn more.