Can an employee be fired for missing work during quarantine period required by company?

The Workplace Asked by Rekamanon on December 14, 2021

Since the pandemic has started, my friend has missed work more than usual which has led to tension between them and their employer. For context, the business was recently acquired by a national corporation and is located in North Carolina.

The company has threatened to reduce the position to part time (with no benefits) or to outright fire my friend. Ordinarily this might be justified, but the kicker is that they required my friend to stay home and quarantine for 7 days, which added significantly to the total number of days missed recently. My friend also mentioned that not everyone in the workplace is being held to the same safety/quarantining standards. The manager (corporate hired) recently returned from a trip to Myrtle Beach and did not quarantine at all before returning to work. As North Carolina has no required quarantine period, there’s no issue with the manager immediately returning, but requiring other employees to do so and then punishing them for it seems inappropriate.

Besides looking for a new job (which is difficult considering the current job climate), how should my friend handle this situation, and is termination on the grounds of missing too much time due to a quarantine even legal?

One Answer

North Carolina is an at-will state, which means they can fire you for any (legal) reason or no reason at all.

There are states where what you do besides work is protected as long as it does not impact work, but since in your case it does impact work, I'm not going to look up if North Carolina has such rules.

The only leg to stand on legally speaking is if you could prove that you had to quarantine unfairly compared to your boss because you were discriminated against for being a protected class. Being the underling compared to the boss sadly is not a protected class. The company does not have to allow you the same benefits it allows your boss.

So is it fair? Probably not. Is your company legally required to be fair? No. They can just fire you. For no reason. Or for any other reason. Having had voluntary contact with someone in your spare time so you have to quarantine by their rules is not a protected class as far as I know. You could have chosen to not meet with that person and come to work instead. You did not.

Answered by nvoigt on December 14, 2021

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