Coronavirus Legal FAQ
Do I need to comply with shelter-in-place orders?
How does the federal stimulus package affect me?
Can I receive paid sick leave if I get the virus?
Can my employer take my temperature and send me home if I have symptoms?
Can an employer enforce a COVID-19 liability waiver in the workplace?
What should I do if one of my employees gets sick?
Can I lay off an employee during the COVID-19 outbreak?
Can I get workers’ compensation benefits for COVID-19?
Can I get unemployment benefits if I lose my job because of COVID-19?
How should I transition my business to working remotely?
How can I stay productive while working from home?
What are my options if I lost my income due to the COVID-19 outbreak and can’t afford to pay my rent?
How can I avoid foreclosure if I am unable to pay my mortgage due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
My small business has been hit hard by the coronavirus emergency. What are my options for keeping my operations going?
How can I change a child custody arrangement during COVID-19?
Can I sue someone for exposing me to COVID-19?
What is the new deadline for filing my taxes during COVID-19?
Can I get my criminal case dismissed if the trial gets delayed because of COVID-19?
How will the COVID-19 outbreak affect my car accident case?
What do I do if I cannot afford my internet bill?
Is COVID-19 testing free?
Are COVID-19 vaccines free?
Can I ask someone whether they are vaccinated for COVID-19?
Do I need to answer someone who asks whether I am vaccinated for COVID-19?
Yes, you must comply with shelter-in-place orders in your state or county. Most states now have issued these orders, although there is no federal shelter-in-place order. Authorities are prioritizing the enforcement of shelter-in-place orders. In many cases, law enforcement is issuing warnings rather than penalties for a first violation, but repeat violations or severe violations usually will lead to penalties. You can read more here about shelter-in-place orders.
The federal government has passed three stimulus packages: one under the CARES Act in March 2020, another under the CCA in December 2020, and a third under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 in March. Qualifying taxpayers and their children may be eligible for one-time stimulus payments. The Acts also supplement state unemployment benefits to ease burdens on Americans who lose their jobs. Small business owners can receive loans and tax benefits to help them survive the deepening recession. Large corporations also may receive loans, although the terms are less favorable.
Yes, you can potentially receive paid sick leave if you get the virus. Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), employees of covered employers are entitled to up to 80 hours of paid sick leave if they contract the virus. Covered employers include government agencies, as well as private employers with fewer than 500 employees. This leave is available for other reasons as well, such as caring for a family member who is ill or a child who is staying home because their school is closed. Read more here about your right to paid sick leave.
Yes, your employer can take your temperature and send you home if you have symptoms of COVID-19. This might not be allowed under normal circumstances because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) restricts the ability of employers to conduct medical examinations of employees. However, during the COVID-19 outbreak, enhanced workplace safety concerns allow employers to check employees for symptoms and send them home if they suspect that they have contracted the virus. Read more here about what an employer can do to keep the workplace safe.
Probably not. While an employer might require an employee to sign a waiver, a court likely would find that this waiver is unenforceable. An employer has a duty to provide a safe workplace for its employees. It cannot force an employee to work in a dangerous setting or waive their workers' compensation rights. However, some states have passed laws that specifically shield employers from liability related to COVID-19, which serve the same function as a waiver.
If one of your employees gets sick, you should identify all other employees who have worked closely with that employee for any meaningful time during the last 14 days. You should send home these employees, without identifying the employee who is sick. Then, you should close off, clean, and disinfect all areas that may have been used by the infected employee, following CDC guidelines. You should make sure that the employee stays home for an appropriate time, and you can ask them to provide a doctor’s note certifying that they are ready to return to work. Read more here about the precautions that you should take if an employee gets sick.
Yes, you can lay off an employee during the COVID-19 outbreak. An employee will not have a wrongful termination claim if they are laid off because the employer is facing financial difficulties. You also likely can terminate an employee for refusing to come to work during the COVID-19 outbreak, unless your business is open in violation of a shelter-in-place order. Read more here about your options as an employer.
You may be able to get workers’ compensation benefits for COVID-19, but they will be hard to claim for people who work in fields other than the health care industry and public safety. Getting benefits based on an occupational disease requires showing that the nature of the job exposed the employee to a higher risk than the general population, and the exposure that caused their illness occurred on the job. These elements will be hard to prove for employees in most industries. However, you may be able to pursue paid sick leave and other alternatives to workers’ compensation. Read more here about workers’ compensation benefits and the alternatives.
Yes, you can get unemployment benefits through the state agency that provides them, as well as supplemental unemployment benefits from the federal government through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Unemployment benefits are available on a temporary basis to an employee who loses their job through no fault of their own. If you lost your full-time job and transitioned to a part-time job, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits. Read more here about unemployment benefits.
You should set up a remote work policy, which may apply to all employees or only to some employees. This policy may include rules for locations where employees can work, the hours that employees must maintain, and schedules for remote meetings. You should decide which types of office equipment can go home with employees, and you may want to update security measures. Your policy should set a projected end date or commit to providing employees with regular updates. Read more here about developing a remote work policy.
One possible strategy to stay productive while working from home involves setting aside part of your home as an office space. You also can develop schedules to make sure that you meet important goals. Regular communications with coworkers and supervisors will help preserve coordination and prevent a sense of isolation. You should not feel compelled to perform more work than usual to compensate for working at home. Read more here about tips for working remotely.
If your landlord’s mortgage is federally backed, they cannot evict you for a period of 120 days starting on March 27, 2020. After that time, they must still give you 30 days’ notice before requiring you to move out. On September 1, 2020, the CDC issued an order establishing a nationwide eviction moratorium for eligible renters, most recently extended through March 31, 2021. State and local governments in many areas have also enacted eviction moratorium laws, which often prohibit landlords from charging late fees for non-payment of rent as well. You may also be able to negotiate an agreement with your landlord to pay a reduced amount in the near term, and make up the outstanding balance in future months.
Borrowers with federally backed mortgages are protected from foreclosure for a period of 60 days beginning on March 18, 2020, and can also access up to 180 days of forbearance. The foreclosure moratorium and forbearance period were most recently extended through June 30, 2021. Many state and local governments have also temporarily halted foreclosures, and some major lenders have pledged to allow borrowers forbearance periods with no negative credit impacts if they have suffered losses due to the coronavirus. You may also be able to negotiate a loan modification or other alternative payment solution directly with your lender.
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides economic assistance to small businesses, including sole proprietors, independent contractors, and people who are self-employed. Under this law, you may be able to access funds to cover payroll costs, rent, mortgage interest, utilities, and/or other expenses through forgivable loans, grant funding, and tax credits.
To change a child custody arrangement during COVID-19, you should try to work out a modification with the other parent of your child. You cannot unilaterally change the agreement without going to court, which may be impossible because most family courts are closed for non-emergency matters. If you reach an agreement with your co-parent to temporarily modify the agreement, you should put the changes in writing. If you do not have a friendly relationship with your co-parent, a mediator may be able to help you work out a notarized temporary modification. Read more here about adjusting a child custody arrangement.
You may be able to sue someone for exposing you to COVID-19 in some narrow situations. You would need to show that you were infected because they failed to use reasonable care under the circumstances. For example, a resident in a nursing home might be able to sue the nursing home if it failed to take proper safety measures to protect its residents. Incompetent treatment in a hospital may support a medical malpractice claim. Cruise ship passengers may have a claim against a cruise ship company. Read more here about personal injury cases based on contracting the virus.
The 2021 deadline for filing federal taxes is May 17. Some states have changed their tax deadlines as well, although you should check your state’s website for details. This deadline does not apply to first-quarter estimated taxes, which are still due on April 15, 2021. Read more here about changes to tax deadlines and other benefits for taxpayers during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Possibly. An excessive delay in bringing a criminal case to trial may result in a violation of the right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment. Many states have set specific time limits on when the prosecution can bring a defendant to trial. The mounting backlog of cases in the criminal justice system, caused by widespread court closures, may result in violations of these deadlines. A judge can set aside a conviction or a sentence based on a Sixth Amendment violation. However, some states with specific deadlines are considering adopting emergency measures to extend them. Read more here about the impact of COVID-19 on criminal cases.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, established through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA), will assist eligible families who cannot pay their internet bills during the coronavirus pandemic. Families may be eligible for up to $50 per month toward broadband internet service (up to $75 per month for households on tribal lands). Households may also apply for a $100 discount toward a computer. The program is now accepting applications and more information and eligibility requirements can be found on the Federal Communications Commission’s website.
Yes. The FFCRA made COVID-19 testing free to anyone in the U.S., including uninsured individuals. Most health plans should provide free coverage for COVID-19 testing without charging any deductibles, copays, or coinsurance. Your test should be covered even if you are asymptomatic with no known COVID-19 exposure (but not necessarily if your employer requires testing). Uninsured individuals should not receive a balance bill for testing services that are reimbursed by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA). However, providers are not required to bill the HRSA, and you may appeal your bill if you are charged. Some states may offer additional patient protections.
Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are free of charge for any U.S. resident, regardless of immigration or health insurance status. You should not be charged for a vaccine or any administration fees, copays, or coinsurance. A provider cannot charge you for an office visit if the only service provided is a COVID-19 vaccination, and they cannot require you to accept additional services (although you are free to accept additional services at regular cost while also receiving a COVID-19 vaccine). A provider can seek reimbursement from your health insurance plan (including Medicare or Medicaid), but they cannot charge you the balance of the bill, nor may they charge you if you are uninsured.
Yes, you generally can ask someone whether they are vaccinated for COVID-19, unless state law specifically provides otherwise. (Under HIPAA, you cannot ask their health care provider whether they are vaccinated, but HIPAA does not prevent you from asking a person directly.) Employers also can ask their employees whether they are vaccinated, or require them to provide proof of vaccination. However, an employer may not be able to ask an employee why they did not get vaccinated. This might violate disability discrimination laws.
No, you do not need to answer someone who asks whether you are vaccinated for COVID-19. However, this likely will mean that you will be treated as though you are not vaccinated. This may result in reduced or denied access to certain businesses, venues, or services. Vaccination status is not a protected characteristic covered by anti-discrimination laws.
COVID-19 Legal Center Contents