Employers must not retaliate against employees who need to quarantine

(Salem) – The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) is reminding employers that they are not allowed to retaliate against any employees who need to quarantine or isolate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Temporary Rule Addressing COVID-19 Workplace Risks is intended to curb the spread of coronavirus in all workplaces by requiring employers to implement a comprehensive set of risk-reducing measures. The temporary rule took effect Nov. 16, with certain parts phased in, and is expected to remain in effect until May 4, 2021.

“If employees have been told or need to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19, they must be allowed,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “Also, their employer must not penalize them for doing so. If employers violate this rule, it could be costly.”

The potential penalties for a violation of this temporary rule is between $100 and $12,750 for a violation that is not willful and between $8,900 and $124,749 for a willful violation.

There are several important points in the temporary rule about employees and quarantine. Among them are:

  • Whenever the Oregon Health Authority, local public health agency, or medical provider recommends an employee be restricted from work due to quarantine or isolation for COVID-19, such as through identification during contract tracing activities, the affected employee must be directed to isolate at home and away from other nonquarantined people.
  • If an employee must quarantine or isolate for COVID-19, the employer must allow the employee to work at home if suitable work is available and the employee’s condition does not prevent it.
  • Employees who quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 – either due to the temporary rule or because their employer takes extra precautions – must be allowed to return to their previous job duties if they are still available and without any adverse action.
  • Decisions about testing and returning to work after an employee has been in quarantine or isolation must be made according to applicable public health guidance and be consistent with guidance from the employee’s medical provider.

Under ORS 654.062(5), employees are protected from discrimination or retaliation. This includes employees who follow this COVID-19 temporary rule, employees who make a complaint if their employer is not following this rule, and employees who are exercising their rights under the law.

Resources to comply with the rule are available at https://osha.oregon.gov/rules/advisory/infectiousdisease/Pages/default.aspx.

Read the full text of the rule: https://osha.oregon.gov/OSHARules/div1/437-001-0744.pdf

If your employer is requiring you to work during your quarantine or is retaliating against you because you are in quarantine, you can file a complaint with Oregon OSHA at . https://osha.oregon.gov/workers/Pages/index.aspx.