A Complete Guide to Coronavirus Unemployment and Employee Rights (COVID-19) for California Workers (UPDATED)

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, government agencies, including the DIR, EEOC, DOL, CAL/OSHA, CDC and DFEH are issuing guidance to help inform employees about their employment rights and benefits during the spread of coronavirus.

The global situation concerning the Coronavirus outbreak, or COVID-19, is changing rapidly every day.  Guidance on employee rights, unemployment, paid sick leave, layoffs and closures, furloughs, child and family caregiving, reassignments, reduced hours, terminations, and restructuring varies state by state.

Below are links to the latest information from the federal and state governmental agencies on these and other employment issues affecting California employees.  As employment lawyers licensed in California, we are actively helping current and potential clients in California navigate this difficult time.

Unemployment Insurance, Disability Insurance, Paid Family Leave – California EDD

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) is California’s state agency responsible for many different employment programs, including Unemployment Insurance (UI), Disability Insurance (DI), and Paid Family Leave (PFL).

The latest online bulletin from the EDD provides information regarding sick or quarantined workers, caregiving rights (including school closures and reduced work hours), and layoffs or reduced hours.

If you’ve been laid off or had your shifts or hours reduced, you are likely entitled to collect unemployment insurance benefits, even if you were misclassified as an independent contractor.  The EDD is currently processing an unprecedented number of unemployment insurance claims due to the Coronavirus outbreak.  You may apply online, by fax, mail or phone.

Workplace Safety Guidelines – Cal/OSHA

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA protects workers from health and safety hazards on the job, including those due to Coronavirus (COVID-19).  Workplace health and safety regulations require California employers to protect workers exposed to this airborne virus and Cal/OSHA provides interim guidelines for employees and employers.  This is a good resource to review if you are required to work despite the state’s stay at home order.

Employer Obligations to Protect Employees – CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued interim guidance for business and employers relating to Coronavirus. These guidelines tell employers how to protect their employees, reduce transmissions, keep the workplace clean and healthy, and maintain operations. This is a good resource to determine if your employer is taking all recommended safety precautions.

Wrongful Terminations During COVID-19 – DFEH

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, or simply the DFEH, is the California state agency charged with enforcing California’s civil rights laws relating to discrimination, harassment, retaliation, protected leaves and accommodations, among other things.  The DFEH issued FAQs regarding discrimination and harassment, sending employees home, how much information an employer can request from employees who feel sick at work, protected leaves, and other important employment protections for California employees during the Coronavirus outbreak.  For example, the FAQs address telework (working from home) as an accommodation for employees with disabilities.

This is an excellent resource if you have a question about paid sick leave, accommodations, a wrongful termination, or job protected leaves relating to COVID-19.

Federal Workplace Safety, Wages, Hours and Leave Guidance – U.S. Dept. of Labor

The Department of Labor (DOL) is the federal department responsible for occupational safety, federal wage and hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits, and other matters relating to labor and employment in the United States.  The DOL has published a list of resources to help workers prepare for COVID-19.  The resources include information about workplace safety, wages, hours, and leaves, unemployment insurance benefits, and support for dislocated worker.

Additionally, the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL published FAQs in response to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  The FFCRA is an emergency bill that provides paid sick leave and expands Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) for employees who work for businesses with fewer than 500 full or part-time employees.  The FFCRA goes into effect on April 1, 2020.

Your employer is required to provide you with information about the FFCRA so that you can determine if you qualify for paid sick leave of job-protected, unpaid leaves of absence.  You may review a copy of the DOL’s summary on employee rights regarding paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for more information.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Rehabilitation Act and Coronavirus – EEOC

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal anti-discrimination laws.  On March 19, 2020, the EEOC published a newsletter identifying important rights for employees during the Coronavirus outbreak.  The newsletter includes a summary of rights under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, and includes frequently asked questions about what information employers can request from employees under these laws.


At Ferraro Vega Employment Lawyers, Inc, we are working diligently to help workers who have been affected by Coronavirus.  If you have a question, you may reach out for a free case consultation to get the information you need during this difficult time.