What happens when an employer requires everyone to come to work, but the COVID-19 continues to spread? After the initial shut-down, Valero Energy Corp. required all of its 1800 office workers to report to work by June 1, 2020. In the past month, 32 of those employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Several workers have asked why they cannot work from home, but the company has not provided an answer. Many employees said they were able to work effectively from home during the shut-down. One employee was quoted as saying some jobs cannot be performed from home, but the majority of the positions can work just as well from home.
Initially in June, the company made wearing a mask optional. But, at the end of June, the employer required employees to wear a mask if they could not maintain social distances. But, said one employee, at that point, no one was wearing a mask at work. And, there was no social distancing, as you walk through the halls or visit the restroom. The company has posted hand-sanitizer stations throughout the complex. Each employee was issued hand-sanitizer, wipes and masks upon their return to work. But, that alone has not been enough. See San Antonio Express News report here.
Working From Home
As I have mentioned in other posts, employers are generally opposed to folks working from home, even though in the pre-pandemic days, working from home is done on occasion and it generally work well. See my prior posts here and here. Deep down, I think most employers just do not trust their employees. Unfortunately, that inability to find a trust level may imperil lives. People in San Antonio area very concerned about bringing the virus home. My firm has received many phone calls from folks concerned about an unsafe working environment.
As I have mentioned before, if working from home is a necessary accommodation, then a worker is likely entitled to work from home if s/he can still perform the functions of the position.