Yes, the employer can require employees to sign a COVID-19 Waiver. Whether liability waivers can be signed depends on circumstances and industry in which an individual works. Essential industries such as food and beverages, health care and real estate require employees to be present at work and can be required to sign liability waivers for the same. Although there are no official laws enforceable in the court related to COVID 19, there are some rules and regulations which have been laid down by the federal and the state governments. A stay at home order has been issued by the federal as well as state governments except essential businesses and services. Real estate has also been established as an essential industry. On March 28th 2020, California Association for Realtors announced that real estate continues to be an extremely essential industry in the state and must continue to function even during COVID19. I believe when it comes to the real estate industry, an employer can require an employee to sign a COVID 19 liability waiver since it has been listed as an essential service.
During these exceptional times, people continue to fear job loss. However, businesses continue to operate and provide essential services to consumers and salaries are being paid to the employees on a timely basis. By signing the COVID 19 liability waiver from the employees, it is the responsibility of the employer to implement health and safety protocols which has been suggested by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. These include- Encouraging sick employees to stay at home, sending employees with acute respiratory illness symptoms home immediately, Providing information and training to employees on cough and sneeze etiquette and hand hygiene. Businesses must also educate employees regarding social distancing. Employees are also eligible for various company and state benefits which include paid time off, vacation time, family leave and other leaves and absences. The state of California offers various benefits to the employees such as California’s insurance programs, state disability insurance, paid family leave and unemployment insurance. Under the current circumstances, employers cannot fire employees from their job for poor performance unless the situation is extenuating. Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) companies with fewer than 500 employees are required to provide their employees with paid sick or family leave for reasons related to COVID 19. Employees in California are also protected under The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which requires an employee to pay full salary to an exempt employee performing any work during a given workweek. Federal regulations laid by the government require partial day deductions from an employee’s sick leave so that the employee is paid for their accrued sick leave. California Labor Code Section 2802 also states that employers are responsible to pay for business expenses such as cell phones and internet usage. Employees will also be provided with unemployment compensation insurance benefits.
Hence, in accordance with federal rules and regulations, employees in California are also entitled to protections under California Laws. These include California Unemployment benefits, California Disability Insurance, California Paid Family Leave, California Paid Sick Leave, California Family Rights Act, California Fair Employment and Housing Acts which prohibits from discriminatory business practices based on race, color, ancestry, national origin, age and sexual orientation, California Wage and Hour Protections and California Rights related to School/Daycare closures.