Employee Rights FAQs

Frequently asked questions regarding employee rights under Washington State Law Against Discrimination (WLAD)

My employer has not been approved as an essential business but is continuing to operate and wants me to return to work at the office. Could I lose my job if I stay home or telework and do not return to the office as requested?

Governor Inslee has issued several orders including the Stay Home-Stay Healthy proclamation that prohibits people from leaving their home or place of residence except to conduct or participate in essential activities, and/or work at a business providing essential services. To report suspected violations of the governor’s orders regarding essential business functions, evictions, and social distancing, please fill out this form.

My employer is an essential business and wants me to return to work at the office, however I have tested positive for COVID-19. Could I lose my job if I stay home or telework and do not return to the office as requested?

The state Human Rights Commission has determined that under the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 would most likely be considered a person with a disability. In that situation, the employee would need to inform the employer of the disability and request reasonable accommodation of medical leave or telework.  Absent undue hardship (which in these circumstances would be difficult to prove) the employer would need to provide that reasonable accommodation. 

My employer is an essential business and wants me to return to work at the office, however I am over age 60, which puts me at higher risk of if exposed to COVID-19. Could I lose my job if I stay home or telework and do not return to work as requested?

A person over age 60, who is in otherwise good health, would not have reasonable accommodation protections under WLAD. Age by itself does not require reasonable accommodation by an employer. However, there are protections for workers over 60. Proclamation 20-46, regarding High-Risk Employees - Workers’ Rights, was issued by Governor Inslee on April 13, 2020.  Employers are prohibited from failing to utilize all available options for alternative work assignments to protect high-risk employees, if requested, from exposure to the COVID-19 disease, including but not limited to telework, alternative or remote work locations, reassignment, and social distancing measures. 

My employer is an essential business and wants me to return to work at the office, however I have an underlying health condition that puts me at higher risk of if exposed to COVID-19. Could I lose my job if I stay home or telework and do not return to work as requested?

The state Human Rights Commission has determined that under WLAD, anyone who has an underlying health condition would most likely be considered a person with a disability. If someone has an underlying medical condition that puts them at additional risk of contracting COVID-19, that person should inform their employer that they have a disability, and request reasonable accommodation of telecommuting, complete separation in the workplace from other workers, or a leave of absence until the risk is minimized. Again, in light of circumstances, and employer would have a difficult time proving an undue hardship, and would most likely need to grant the employee’s reasonable accommodation request. 

As an additional protection for an employee with an underlying health condition, Proclamation 20-46, regarding High-Risk Employees - Workers’ Rights, was issued by Governor Inslee on April 13, 2020.  Employers are prohibited from failing to utilize all available options for alternative work assignments to protect high-risk employees, if requested, from exposure to the COVID-19 disease, including but not limited to telework, alternative or remote work locations, reassignment, and social distancing measures.