COVID-19: I Have A Medical Condition And Can’t Wear A Mask At Work

(Previously published in the Nine to Five Column of The Globe & Mail on June 1, 2020: CLICK HERE)

Question

My employer has asked me to go back to work. I will be required to wear a mask but I have a medical condition that makes it very difficult to breathe through a mask for long periods of time. I have documentation from my doctor about my condition. If I choose not to go back to work, will I be fired? Will I then become ineligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit?

Answer

Under occupational health and safety laws, your employer has a duty to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for worker health and safety. It may require employees to wear personal protective equipment if other risk mitigation measures are inadequate for the protection of workers or customers. That said, your employer also has a duty to reasonably accommodate your medical restrictions to the point of undue hardship.

Before you refuse to go back to work, inform your employer about your situation and request an accommodation. Depending on the nature of the work, there may be a variety of accommodations that can be implemented to allow you to continue working without the need to wear a mask for prolonged periods of time. This may include physical distancing, implementing break periods, reassigning certain work duties and work-from-home arrangements where possible, among other measures.

If the nature of the work is such that wearing a mask for long periods is necessary for health and safety reasons, then you should consider asking for a leave of absence because of your health restrictions. Be prepared to provide medical documentation from your doctor outlining your health restrictions. A leave of absence should be granted and it is against the law for an employer to fire an employee because she or he is unable to work for health reasons.

Based on current qualification criteria, if you stopped working because of COVID-19, you are eligible for the CERB and possibly employment insurance benefits if you have accrued enough insurable hours. Do note that you cannot receive the CERB and EI at the same time.

If your employment is terminated, you are eligible for a severance package and most likely other monetary remedies from your employer.​

By |2020-09-04T14:04:35-04:00June 2nd, 2020|Article, Article-All, Covid-19|0 Comments

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