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New COVID-19 employment laws 'murky' in regards to forced 'self-quarantine'

The question came from a 5 On Your Side viewer. We went to the legal experts to get some answers

ST. LOUIS — A 5 On Your Side viewer emailed our Verify team about a warning she received from her employer.

The viewer would like to know if it’s true her employer can force an employee to self-quarantine for two weeks if they leave the state of Missouri.

Our Verify team sought the expertise of employee rights attorney Jeremy Hollingshead of Hollingshead and Dudley regarding new federal laws enacted to deal with the pandemic.

Hollingshead reviewed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and had this legal interpretation.

“It’s really, really unclear. Typically, employment in Missouri is at will. So, for the most part, you know, you can be terminated at any time, for any reason. You could be asked to stay home if they believe you to be sick,” Hollingshead said.

The FFCRA is a temporary set of laws that are effective from April 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

According to Hollingshead, the new law is murky when it comes to our viewer’s particular question, so we were unable to Verify if an employer can force an employee to undergo a two-week quarantine if they leave the state of Missouri.

However, in other circumstances relating to COVID-19, an employee’s rights are more clearly addressed by the FFCRA.

We used the U.S. Department of Labor’s website as our source.

For companies with fewer than 500 employees, employees are entitled to the following:

  • 2 weeks of fully paid leave if the employee is quarantined due to federal/state/local guidelines or if a doctor orders it.
  • 2 weeks of paid leave at 2/3 of your normal pay if you need to care for someone who is quarantined
  • 2 weeks of paid leave at 2/3 your normal pay if you need to take care of your child because your child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19. You can add an additional 10 weeks to this leave if you’ve been employed for at least 30 days and have a bona fide need for leave to take care of that child while the day care or school is closed.

Any business with fewer than 50 employees can be exempt from these laws.

If you have something you want us to Verify, let us know by emailing the verify@ksdk.com.

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