Can My Employer Make Me Sign a COVID-19 Waiver?
Your employer cannot make you waive the rights granted to you under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act or accept negligence on the part of your employer.
More than a year into the pandemic, workers in many sectors are eager to get back to the in-person workplace. Employees are understandably apprehensive about the risk of contracting COVID-19 at work, which would mean potentially exposing their children, who are too young to get vaccinated, to the virus. Likewise, employers must decide between increasing productivity by having workers work onsite and exposing themselves to the risk of lawsuits and expensive workers’ compensation claims from employees exposed to COVID-19 on the job. The solution, if one can call it that, that some employers have adopted, is to ask workers to sign waivers limiting the employer’s liability if the employee gets infected at work. If your employer asks you to sign a COVID-19 waiver before returning to work, contact an Omahaworkers’ compensation lawyer.
Are COVID-19 Waivers Even Legal?
If your employer tells you that you mustsign a COVID-19 waiver before you return to working onsite, you should ask a lawyer to review the waiver before you sign. The waiver might not even be enforceable. There is some ambiguity about whether COVID-19 is an occupational disease (a disease caused by exposure at work), which would mean that it is covered by workers’ compensation benefits, or an ordinary disease of life (like colds and stomach viruses), which are so common and contagious that workers’ compensation does not cover them. If COVID-19 is an occupational disease, then your employer cannot make you sign away your right to claim workers’ compensation for it; your employer might, however, try to deny your claim by arguing that you were exposed to COVID-19 somewhere else besides work.
Another thing to consider is that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets out detailed guidelines about workplace safety. Your employer cannot get out of its obligation to adhere to federally mandated safety standards just by making employees sign waivers. Even if you sign the waiver, your employer could still be liable for OSHA violations if they knowingly expose employees to COVID-19.
Protecting Yourself From COVID-19 at Work?
These legal gray areas could take years to resolve, but where does that leave you, as a worker? You need your income from work, and you need your health and that of your family. If your employer requires you to work onsite, do everything possible to avoid COVID-19 exposure. Wear a mask, and if your job requires you to be in close contact with people known to be infected (such as if you work in healthcare), wear personal protective equipment. Get vaccinated, and encourage your adult family members to do so, as well.
Contact Andres Law Offices, PC LLO About Workers’ Compensation Disputes
A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you deal with questionable guidance from your employer about COVID-19 exposure at work. Contact Andres Law Offices, PC LLO in Omaha, Nebraska about your workers’ compensation case.