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Can your employer restrict what you do during the holidays?

Some businesses canceling all paid time off
Posted at 11:03 AM, Dec 14, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Can your employer tell you what you can and cannot do over the holidays? It is tricky territory and new terrain in the time of COVID-19.

"We are seeing a trend of trying to get ahead of [a COVID-19 outbreak] before it comes," said Nicole Anderson, the CEO of MEND, a human resources solution firm.

She said she is seeing a trend of employers imposing stricter coronavirus guidelines ahead of the holidays.


"I actually had some clients who have wanted to do policies around travel policy, infectious disease policy, and what that means if you are traveling to another state that has a high COVID count," she said.

Anderson said employers can't restrict what you do on your personal time but can have rules upon return that may mean you find yourself at home.

Nicole Anderson, the CEO of MEND, a human resources solution firm
Nicole Anderson says employers can't restrict what employees do on their personal time.

"They can't say, 'I'm sorry, Tory, but you can't travel. If we approve this PTO, you can't go out of state,' but the restrictions are when you come home you need to quarantine for 10 days or quarantine for five to seven days and then get tested," Anderson said as an example.

It's a topic that definitely has people talking.

"As much as I would like to think people would not travel, I don't think employers should do that to their employees," said Monica Anders.

"I do understand if someone comes in after traveling, and they do have the virus, it could certainly devastate their company, their business, their livelihood. But that comes into play, maybe putting some restrictions on employees if they do choose to travel," said David Boshko, a business owner.

David Boshko
Business owner David Boshko said he understands putting some restrictions on employees if they do choose to travel.

One extreme police that Anderson said she is seeing is canceling all paid time off.

"They are just doing it consistently across the board of their organization," she explained. "Saying you know, 'we have made the decision to change PTO for the end of the year, and you won't be able to use any PTO over the holidays.' There have been some employers who have taken extreme measures of canceling all PTO until the vaccine is widely released or there is a slowing in spread over the holiday season."

While it may sound extreme, Anderson said employers are trying to mitigate cases and spread.

"They have an obligation to keep the workplace safe," she said. "There are more rules and regulations coming down about outbreaks at work and whether an employer can be held accountable if there is an outbreak at work from OSCA, from CDC, the Department of Health."

Some are sticking with messages about personal responsibility and accountability to your co-workers.

"They are just telling employers, 'please be responsible, because if we have an outbreak, we are closing for everyone. We have to close down the entire facility, which means we are not bringing in money, and it is possible nobody gets paid,'" she said.