Covid-19 Resources for non-profits and small employers available

Communities Rise provides Free legal resources for non-profit organizations and small businesses with fewer than 50 employers and 2-million in yearly revenue. To find out more go here.

As Washington State employers start to re-open and talks of re-opening schools take center stage many employees have questions.

As schools plan to open and teachers and other workers wonder what their rights are to Not return to work answers are not as clear as we would like. However, do not make any rash decisions. A lot can change in a few short weeks (isn't that the lesson of 2020?).
The non-profit legal aid Unemployment Law Project has been recording weekly FAQs. You can watch them all here: QUESTIONS? to find out about your rights as an employer or employee with regards to unemployment benefits. 

Anti-Racism Resources

Sometimes I meditate. It helps decrease stress and it helps me focus on the tedious task of applying facts to law - the basic work of lawyers. I usually do it alone using the Headspace app. Sometimes I use the Calm App. Sometimes I join group meditations.  Top attorney and psychologist Lisa Blue  was holding Monday morning sessions for awhile which was great. And locally I have attended in person and (more recently) remote Zoom sessions through SIMS. Tuere Sala is my favorite teacher. She is a former prosecutor - meditation helped her deal with the stressors of law school and litigation. She also teaches Qi Gong, and I was lucky enough to score an instruction and practice DVD from her before the pandemic hit. It has been one of the tools I use to stay sane during this time.     Recently, as a member of  WSAJ's diversity committee, I was searching out anti-racism resources and discovered that  SIMS has a wonderful list of resources. I share them below for your convenience. This is …

Going back to work?

An excellent article on the issues faced by Washington workers and employers as we seek to re-open businesses during this on-going pandemic can be found here:
June 4, 2020 Update from ESD. Employers and employees are facing some tension about going back to work. For employers it may not be reasonable to bring employees back full-time or at full-pay. For employees who may be making more on unemployment then you will make if you return to work. Especially if your employer wants to bring you back at part-time or at a lower rate of pay then you were making before.
Actually, Scott Micheal from Washington's unemployment department points out that if an employee is brought back under reduced hours from their normal work hours everyone will get the best of both worlds. It is a win for the employer who can more slowly ramp up and safe money on payroll while doing so. It is a win to the employee who will receive the optimal amount of income while securing their job.
For example, a worker who n…

My Workplace is unsafe. Can I refuse to go to work?

Whether your safety concerns arise out of the Coronavirus / Covid-19 pandemic or other safety violations at work, you need to proceed with caution both to protect your health and safety but also your continued employment.

FEDERAL WORKERS: The Department of Occupational Safety and Health advice:
If my workplace is unsafe, what can I do? If you believe working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, we recommend that you bring the conditions to your employer's attention. At any time, a worker may file a complaint with OSHA to report a hazardous working condition and request an inspection. If the condition clearly presents a risk of death or serious physical harm and there is not enough time for OSHA to inspect, the worker may have a legal right to refuse to work. File a complaint here. More Information OSHA File a Complaint. OSHA COVID-19 Guidelines
Washington Workers:

Contact the Department of Labor and Industry for information about Washington State Worker's rights or to file a compl…

What does it mean to be an At-Will employee in Washington State?

It seems, that as a society we have a lot of notions about work and what an employer can and can not do under the law. Very few of these commonly held beliefs are true. In my day to day life as an attorney who focuses her work on employment law, I spend quite a bit of time discussing potential legal claims with people who have been mistreated at work. Very rare is the call where a person calling was, in my opinion, not mistreated by the employer. In one such rare case, the gentlemen calling had terrorized a female coworker and was genuinely confused about why he was terminated. Not quite as rare, is the caller who has been mistreated and has a remedy under the law. The most common caller has in their, and my, opinion been mistreated but has no legal remedy under the current law. Most callers are victims to an employment system that has become increasingly callous and indifferent to the plight of the worker.
The system I am describing is called At-Will employment. Washington State is …

I'm afraid to go back to work because I fear exposure to Covid-19? Can I lose my job if I refuse?

As the State of Washington considers opening businesses in a phased opening, many employees are concerned about their safety. Some will undoubtedly refuse to go back in asking for accommodation - greater safety measures or requesting to continue to work from home. What are an employee's rights? What can a employer demand? Well it depends.

Employees should understand that if they have a disability they should ask for accomadation, however the legal  ADA PRECEDENT states that an EMPLOYEE IS NOT ENTITLED TO THE ACCOMMODATION OF HIS/HER CHOICE; ONLY TO A REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION

Examples of reasonable accommodations may look like:

Additional or enhanced protective gowns, masks, gloves, or other gear beyond what the employer may generally provide to employees returning to its workplace.
Additional or enhanced protective measures, for example, erecting a barrier that provides separation between an employee with a disability and coworkers/the public or increasing the space between an e…