Navigating Around Four Potholes in Job Search
Friday 7/9 10:30 AM
Businesses are Returning to On-Site Work – What Do Job Candidates and Employees Need to Know? 
Last August, I wrote about businesses reopening, and here we are again. But that article was all about quarantines, child care and paid COVID leave. Now, with much of the nation vaccinated and pandemic numbers and restrictions decreasing, the focus is on return to the office – full-time, hybrid, or not at all.

Most companies are eager for staff to be on site. Many applicants and new employees have never met their interviewers or coworkers face-to-face. Some workers are anxious to be at the office, have lunch out with colleagues, and visit clients. Others appreciate the benefits of remote work or remain concerned about health and safety at the workplace.

The reopen/return is a complicated issue. Not everyone is vaccinated or comfortable with commuting. Depending on the nature of the job responsibilities, continuing remote work is a real possibility. Many companies have hybrid telecommuters with phased or alternate schedules.

Here’s what workers need to know about your rights and restrictions:
Laws and guidance differ from one jurisdiction to another. Guidelines from the CDC (and Illinois Phase 5 Reopen) provide:

·      No Capacity Restrictions - Businesses, large-scale events, conventions, and seated-spectator venues can operate at full capacity for the first time since the pandemic began.
·      Social Distancing - Mandatory social distancing in seated venues will end. But businesses and venues should continue to allow for social distancing to the extent possible, especially indoors.
·      Masks – Per the CDC, everyone (regardless of vaccination status) must wear masks on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation; in transportation hubs, such as airports and train and bus stations; in congregate facilities such as correctional facilities, veterans’ homes, and long-term care facilities, group homes, and residential facilities; and in healthcare settings.

Unvaccinated people should continue to wear face masks in large crowds, especially when children are present. At outdoor businesses, unvaccinated people may choose not to wear a face mask if they can maintain a six-foot social distance while outdoors.

Immunocompromised people should also continue to wear face masks and practice social distancing.

Fully vaccinated people need not wear masks except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
If you’re fully vaccinated, you can also:
·      Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel
·      Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States
·      Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
·      Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic
·      Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible

Can Employers Require Vaccines and Masks?
·      An employer can ask applicants and employees if they've been vaccinated and to show proof, but they can't disclose private medical information to other employees.
·      An employer can mandate that employees get vaccinated, subject to accommodations for those unable to do so for disability or religious reasons.
·      Employers can require fully vaccinated employees who develop symptoms to use masks, get tested and follow quarantine protocols.
·      Even in venues where masks aren’t required by CDC, it is the employer's option whether to continue to require (even fully vaccinated) applicants, employees and customers to mask and social distance.
·      Employers may choose to allow fully vaccinated individuals to not wear masks, even in office common areas. But in meetings in conference rooms, private offices or cubicles, companies should be sensitive to people who request that the other participants wear masks. Policy should require everyone to respectfully comply when asked, even if fully vaccinated, and to make sure to have a mask available.
·      Businesses should be aware of and promptly resolve disability, age or other unlawful discrimination based on reality or perception of whether others are vaccinated.

Can I Refuse On-Site Work and Collect Unemployment Benefits until I Feel Safe?
Workers have benefited from extended state unemployment benefits as well as federal supplemental benefits. Many individuals who were laid off or furloughed are not eager to get back to work, and some people have continued general fear of the workplace due to the pandemic. But the federal unemployment benefits (in states like Illinois that still permit them) will expire on September 6. Plus, unless you can show that the workplace is not safe, a refusal of an “offer of suitable employment” will likely result in a denial of unemployment benefits.

Even if everyone returned to full-time on-site work, it won’t be the same. We’ve all changed, along with how we work, communicate, and think about our work/life balance. Whether currently employed or searching, think about what you have learned since March 2020. There are many opportunities to create new as we re-enter. What are you going to do differently?

- Lori A. Goldstein, Employment Attorney and CRC Board Member
Virtual Appointments with Advisors & Specialists are available for CRC Members.
To schedule an appointment or to learn about membership, contact Kelly Clark.