Local attorney discusses what can be done if you don’t feel safe going back to work

Local News

MCALLEN, Texas (KVEO) — Under the governor’s new order, businesses across the Valley will be allowed to partially open on May 1.

With restaurants and retail shops preparing to partially open, what should an employee do if they don’t feel safe going back to work?

One local attorney tells CBS 4/ Local 23 there are options for both employees and employers on what to do if they don’t feel safe to go back to work just yet.

“This is all new territory,” said Cindy Garcia who has practiced law for over 20 years and focuses on employment law in the Valley. “I’ve had calls from both the employers and the employees, not knowing what to do.”

Some residents may have to choose between getting a paycheck or risk getting the virus.

“If an employee didn’t feel comfortable going to work and the employer said you need to come to work, you can choose to stay home and not get paid, something they might offer or it’s possible the employer will have to hire someone else to take your place because they are not required to keep you,” explained Garcia.

One way an employee would be okay not to go back to work, if asked, would be if they are not allowed to by CDC guidelines.

“If someone does have underlying medical conditions or they feel they have symptoms or are over 65, the CDC says basically you should not be out and about, stay at home,” said Garcia.

Governor Abbott released a 64-page report on his plan to re-open Texas that has checklists for employers that will be opening up.

It can be found here.

The report says employers must screen all employees for symptoms before entering the workplace and if they show any COVID-19 symptoms they will not be allowed inside.

“Texas is an at-will state, which means they’re usually  pro-employer, so your employer can get rid of you for any reason, a bad reason, a good reason, but they can’t get rid of you for an illegal reason,” said Garcia, “We look into them on case by case basis and we do see if any of those laws were broken and where we can help people out.”

CBS 4/ Local 23 reached out to Texas Workforce Solutions to discuss the regulations for hiring/firing during this uncertain period.

“Texas is an at-will employment state, so if an employee chooses not to return to work once an employer reopens, the employer has the right to fire the employee unless alternate scheduling arrangements have been made,” said Mike Gonzalez, spokesman for Texas Workforce Solutions in a written statement. “With that said, the employee also retains the right to leave at their own will. Workforce Solutions encourages those interested in considering their employment options to reach out to us online.

Residents can also call (956) 687-1121, Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Governor Abbott says if there is no spike in COVID-19 over the new two weeks, then even more businesses like barbershops and gyms can open up mid-May.

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