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Not all essential workers must go to work and here’s why

HOUSTON – Going to work amid the coronavirus outbreak isn’t the norm. For you to be required to travel to work, your job is considered essential.

Various counties in the Houston area issued “stay at home orders,” allowing only essential businesses to remain open. The unprecedented order left many essential employees in a bind.

Harris County Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Francisco Sanchez said they have been inundated with questions from essential workers. Sanchez said they’re telling people to work safely while at work and to voice their concerns with their bosses.

“We’ve got some calls from people expressing their concerns, but haven’t brought it up to their employer yet,” Sanchez said.

But a viewer who reached out to KPRC 2 said his family expressed their concerns over their safety, but were still told they had no options.

"They say (employer) you can stay home and use your paid time off or you will be reprimanded for not coming in,” said one concerned viewer.

Employment litigation lawyer Rogge Dunn said unless you’re sick, have a family emergency, or an underlying health condition, you must go to work.

“If the employer says, "Well, I appreciate your concerns but we are an essential business, but we need to stay open and I’m demanding you come to work.' Unless you have a legal basis that allows you not to come to work, then you could be fired for insubordination and you probably wouldn’t get an unemployment insurance because they would argue its misconduct,” Dunn said.

But CEO of Whisky Cake Kitchen and Bar, Steve Shlemon, whose business falls under essential, said he isn’t ordering any of his employees to come to work.

“The last thing we do is hold their jobs over their heads If they are not feeling right. We want everyone to come back to work, when this passes,” Shlemon said.

For more information, visit ReadyHarris.org