Pandemic Worker Protections Available in 2022

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many workers in the U.S. are missing work or not getting paid, while following CDC quarantine guidelines and keeping themselves and their loved ones safe. Federal employee protections for COVID-19 have diminished since 2020. Here’s what you need to know: 

What rights do workers have during the pandemic?

Currently, there are no federal mandates requiring employers to provide paid sick leave for COVID-19. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which provided employees with guaranteed paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19 expired in December 2020. 

Are all workers entitled to sick time? 

In the U.S., there are no federal legal requirements for paid sick leave (COVID-19 related or other). Your company may provide you with paid or unpaid sick leave, but this will vary across organizations. 

In some cases, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may be applied. While usually covering situations like the birth or adoption of a child or a serious medical condition, these protections could cover illness from COVID-19. However, employees cannot use these protections to stay home to avoid COVID-19 infection. 

The fate of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan is still uncertain, but this is one way the government could offer paid leave protections in the future. 

Is there any help available if workers get sick from Covid-19?

Anyone in the U.S. can receive 4 free rapid antigen COVID-19 tests (per residential address) delivered to their home via USPS. Click HERE to receive yours. Only contact information and shipping information is required. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a few resources for COVID-19 treatment and prevention:

For vaccines:

  • Text your zip code to 438829 
  • Call 1-800-232-0233
  • Click HERE to find vaccines near you

For treatment information and guidelines, click HERE

For more testing information and locations click HERE

If you are in need of treatment for COVID-19 and do not have insurance, some healthcare providers may agree to bill the federal government for your care. Click HERE for more information. 

Other resources such as telehealth and mental health care are available as well. 

How do I find worker’s rights information for my state? 

Although there are no federal mandates in place, there are some protections at the state and local levels. 

For example: 

New York: 5-14 days paid sick leave plus the ability to use paid family leave or disability benefits and 4 paid hours per vaccination (8 total) for yourself and 4 hours per vaccine, per child. 

A Better Balance, a non-profit advocacy organization, provides an Emergency Paid Sick Leave Tracker. Click the link to see what protections are available in your state.

Thalia Carrillo is a writer based in Austin, TX. She moved from her hometown of El Paso, TX to pursue a journalism degree at The University of Texas at Austin. She enjoys covering politics and pop culture and has a passion for social justice, digital storytelling, plants, and specialty coffee!