What Connecticut Employees Need to Know About COVID-19

Stretch Your Dollar: Knowing your rights if you’re not comfortable heading back to work amid the pandemic

May 21 2020

As it appeared on WTNH News 8

Phase one of reopening Connecticut is officially underway this week and as a percentage of Connecticut heads back to work, not everyone is feeling excited about it. We are stretching your dollar with a look at what your rights are if you’re not comfortable heading back.

Phase one of Connecticut reopening means some retailers and restaurants have started welcoming customers back once again. But while they’ve been given the green light to get back to work, not everyone may be comfortable going back to business as usual.

“No employee in Connecticut should be forced to work in unsafe conditions,” Amanda DeMatteis, Employment Attorney, Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti.

DeMatteis says all employers must follow government guidelines when it comes to facemasks, handwashing, social distancing and capacity restrictions. If you think that’s not happening, “Start with talking to your employer. You can also file a complaint with the Occupational, Safety and Health Division of the Connecticut Department of Labor without fear of retaliation.”

She says fear alone often isn’t a legal reason to refuse to work but if you have a medical condition contributing to the fear of returning to the office, you may consider asking to work from home as a reasonable accomodation.

Now how about those unemployment benefits?

“If you’re returning to work, especially on reduced hours, continue to apply for your unemployment benefits because you may be eligible for partial benefits. So long as you’re eligible for any state unemployment benefits, you will still receive a $600 federal stimulus payment through July 25.”

Bottom line, these are unprecedented times but that doesn’t mean you don’t have rights. There’s never been a more important time to speak up to protect your family and your income. Now if you go back and notice extreme changes like you’ve been demoted after speaking out about covid concerns or because you’re a part of the vulnerable population when it comes to contracting the virus, well that’s when you may want to turn to the professionals for help.

DeMatteis says her law firm has a free questionnaire you can fill out to see if they can help you. There are also covid-related resources you may find helpful up on their website now. That’s garrisonlaw.com.

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During a very difficult employment situation, I was referred to Joe Garrison. Recognizing the volatile and time sensitive nature of my employment situation, Mr. Garrison met with me immediately (on the weekend no less). He listened to the details of my case, was able to think through possible creative solutions to offer the employer, and was responsive to my myriad of questions. He understood my concerns about litigation versus settlement, and he worked to find the best resolution possible. I am grateful to have had his support at a very difficult time. —J.C., New Haven, CT

Ethan Levin-Epstein represented me during a most painful and challenging crisis in my personal and professional life. Seeing me within 24 hours of being referred, his support and advocacy, wisdom and clarity not only resulted in a favorable negotiated outcome for me and for my family, but gave me peace of mind and the courage to recover. I am very grateful to have met Ethan and his team and would refer anyone in need to this haven. — C.L., Guilford, CT

You will never meet a more knowledgeable and compassionate professional than Steve Fitzgerald. My employment situation was very complex, and Attorney Fitzgerald kept me focused while remaining extremely adept and “thinking on his feet.” Should the need present itself again, I would never seek anyone else’s counsel regarding employment issues. I cannot recommend him highly enough. — J.R., New Haven, CT

Nina Pirrotti provided outstanding legal advice and was trustworthy, dependable, and responsive. From the start, I was confident that her knowledge and experience would obtain favorable results. On a more personal note, I enjoyed working with her and her staff and felt I was included in every part of the process. The dedication, concern, and interest in me as a client was greatly appreciated, and Nina has earned my highest recommendation. — J.H., Monroe, CT

I recently found myself in need of a lawyer in handling a dispute with my former employer. I was fortunate to retain Josh Goodbaum as my legal counsel. His legal skills knowledge and professionalism shone through in every step of the process resulting in a very positive result. I highly recommend Josh if you find yourself in need of legal counsel. — S.R., Guilford, CT

When I go to a lawyer for advice, I am usually anxious, particularly the first meeting. Amanda DeMatteis was clear in describing my options and immediately set me at ease. Realistic assessment is important, and Amanda was clear as to how to set up the case and the direction she felt we should go. I had total confidence in her abilities and knew I was being well represented against a large corporation. More importantly, we were successful! —N.M., Haddam, CT

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