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What Rights Do Workers Have If They Don't Feel Safe Returning To Office After Working From Home?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- While many wait to get unemployment, there are still people collecting paychecks while working safely from home – and they want to make sure they are just as safe when it's time to return.

CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported Monday night on what employees can expect.

The high-rises downtown are largely a ghost town lately. But at some point, people will return to work in them – and what they walk into post-COVID-19 is not clear.

But on Monday night, we were asking what rights employees have if they don't feel safe health-wise.

There is a good chance companies will gradually reopen if Gov. JB Pritzker does not extend the stay-at-home order past May 30. When the people return, some will notice change while others may not.

"I think that'll be a typical problem you're going to walk into your employment and nothing changed," said CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller. "People are still next to one another. They may have a mask covering mouth and not nose, or maybe no social distancing rules."

So what rights do you as the worker have about not returning when your manager says to come back?

"It's a tough call for people," Miller said.

Miller said a vast majority of employees do not have work contracts. Therefore, if you feel your company is not doing its fair share to protect your health, your desire not to return immediately won't secure your position.

"You're there at the will of the employer," Miller said. "Either take what the employer is offering, or better start looking for another job."

Currently, Illinois and the nation have seen record unemployment. Others are not sure how long they will keep their current positions.

Thus, Miller said a legal fight is the last thing you want to start.

"I hate to say it. I'm a lawyer and I don't want to put lawyers out of business," he said. "But this is not a time and place to talk about lawyers and judges and court. There is no court. They're closed, unless it's a super-emergency. So get on the phone. Come to an agreement."

Miller said anyone working from home should be in constant communication with their manager. They should know what new measures are in place well before walking back into the office.


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