Q&A With Jane: I’m putting longer hours at work remotely

COVID-19 spread is challenging day-to-day life in unprecedented ways. All sections of society – including employees and employers – should play a vital role to protect themselves and each other and help prevent further spread of the virus. After The HR Digest’s COVID-19 Employers’ Guide, more questions poured in from readers trying to navigate the most pressing issues. To get clarity, we took readers’ queries and concerns to Jane Harper, our resident human resources experts. Here are answers to some of the most pressing questions:

COVID-19 protection gear at work disability discrimination working longer hours

To get clarity, we took readers’ queries and concerns to Jane Harper, our resident human resources experts. Here are answers to some of the most pressing questions.


Dear Jane,

Can my company fire me if I turn down tasks I fear put me at the risk of coronavirus?

It is probably illegal to ask an employee to put themselves at a risk of getting the coronavirus.  Although, there are ways to do the work without the risk of exposure. This doesn’t mean the employer cannot fire you to refusing a task.

The best approach to minimize exposure is without interacting with people. If you believe you have been exposed to the virus or feel sick, you may stay at home or refuse to work, even under the threat of being terminated. Employers who know a worker has been exposed to the coronavirus or is sick and require that employee to work and risk exposing others could face civil and criminal liability.


Hi Jane,

I got offered to return to work but on a completely different shift. I have children at home – one with a debilitating condition – and the new hours would make it difficult to manage work and home. Will I be denied unemployment if I refuse to return under the new offered hours? (I’m from California.)

No. On April 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issues a temporary rule regarding the implementation of the emergency paid leave for U.S. employees. Under the temporary rule, employees with fewer than 500 employees are required until the end of the year to provide up to two weeks of paid leave and 10 weeks at two-thirds of pay for workers.

Employees in quarantine, caring for a child or ill family members are eligible for the initial two weeks of paid leave. Businesses that fall under the mandate (fewer than 500 employees), would also have to provide the additional 10 weeks off at partial pay for people who have lost their child care due to school and day-care closures. This law, however, allows the secretary of labor to exempt small businesses with less than 500 employees from the new provisions.

Make sure you appeal to the company for the old shift. Don’t lose hope if your employer takes too long to respond. California is an extremely employee-friendly state with its Employment Development Department (EDD). Lastly, document your conversations and show that it’s legitimately impossible for you to cover the new shift.

The brutal and straightforward answers to HR-related queries and concerns. Send in your queries with the subject line ‘Ask JANE HARPER’ at

Subscribe to the leading Human Resources Magazine to receive exclusive news and insights directly to your inbox.


Jane Harper
Writer. Human resources expert and consultant. Follow @thehrdigest on Twitter

Similar Articles

  1. Stephanie Edmonds says:

    Great post! I totally agree a work bestfriend can make a huge difference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.