The coronavirus pandemic has already had a massive impact on businesses. Many companies have announced layoffs, furloughs, or unpaid leaves of absence.
Employers aren’t prohibited from firing employees. Employment relationships are usually at-will, meaning that employees can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. Of course, there are still boundaries that apply, such as laws prohibiting discrimination and retaliation.
The recent coronavirus outbreak raises a host of employment-law issues. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to take measures to eliminate or reduce dangerous hazards to their employees. The Family and Medical Leave Act mandates leave for “serious health conditions,” raising questions as to whether an infected employee is legally entitled to leave. And Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on national origin, so an employer can’t tell someone not to come to work just because he or she is from China or Italy.