Solve It 7: Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

Next week, some non-essential businesses will be allowed to re-open, including offices, hair salons and stores with curbside pickup as Massachusetts slowly re-opens as the battle against COVID-19 continues. With employees set to return to work, there are plenty of questions and concerns.

Many are wondering if their businesses is re-opening on Monday and they don’t feel completely safe going in, do they still have to return to work.

“Yes, you would,” says 7News legal expert Bob Hanais. “You’d have to go. An employer has the right to ask an employee to come to work as long as it’s safe to do so.”

Harnais says some employees could be let go by their company if they refuse to return.

“You actually could get fired,” he says. “It would be up to the business itself to decide that.”

Many people going back to work are parents, but schools and daycares are still closed. Emergency daycare centers are open for essential phase one workers, but if they reach capacity, parents wonder what they can do.

“First, you try and get an alternative daycare center,” says Harnais. “I would emphasize you try and do that…You would have to go in [to work]. There’d be some exceptions maybe on the Family Medical Leave Act, but you’d have to go report to work.”

Tens of thousands of people in Massachusetts are collecting unemployment and with the extra $600 per week coming in from the federal government, some are making more money while unemployed. So if an employer calls you back to work, can you say no and still continue collecting?

“No you couldn’t,” says Bob. “At that point, you quit your job. So at that point you’re not eligible for unemployment.”

Restaurant owners in the North End rallied for the right to re-open earlier this week. They say if they aren’t allowed to open now, then they may have to close for good. They’re looking into their legal options. So how much leverage to restaurant owners have to re-open and defy the governor’s orders?

“They can try,” says Bob. “The problem they’re going to face is they get permitted. They’re jeopardizing that. The state and the cities and towns have a right under their police powers to control how a business is run.”

Same thing in Oxford, where a gym owner opened his doors early and says he plans to stay open even if the town tries to force him to close.

“I believe the town could physically force him to close,” says Bob. “They could also fine him [which town officials began doing earlier this week]. They could go up as far as criminal charges at a certain point.”

We know you have questions related to the coronavirus and we’d like to try and get you some answers. If you have a COVID-19 related question, give us a call at 617-367-7777 or send us an email to SolveIt7@WHDH.com.

 

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