Can an Employee Quit His/Her Job if The Corona Virus Spreads to Their Workplace?
May 22, 2020
If a partially disabled worker quits work stating that the workplace is not safe due to Corona 19 virus outbreaks at the workplace, should the worker be entitled to an automatic resumption of full workers' compensation benefits…and for how long?
Georgia has a long legal tradition through legislation and court decisions that if the partially disabled worker is provided alternative work within their physical limitations, and then terminates the offered job, there is a steep burden of proof for the worker to show the termination was due to the injury and that a diligent job search is needed to justify a resumption of full benefits.
How many fellow workers need to contract the Wuhan virus at my workplace before I say “that is enough…I quit.” I suspect it would not take many people coming down with the virus before there is a stampede to leave work.
The partially disabled worker, due to a job injury, will find it particularly difficult to find alternative work. But to leave work due to the speculation, however real it may be, that the work place environment is unsafe, presents a whole new set of arguments and burdens of proof that may be genuine barriers to a resumption of full benefits. If the employer and insurer want to play “hard ball”, and argue that their workplace is safe, who decides this question? Is there going to be a ratio of 2 workers contracting the virus out of a workplace consisting of 100 employees (1 of 50 or 50%). What if that percentage is reduced to 1 out of 15 employees? Where is the line drawn?
The employer clearly holds the cards here. The worker needs a good lawyer, a sympathetic judge and a boatload of facts that fall clearly on the workers' side to obtain disability benefits due to the spread of the Wuhan virus to the workplace.