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Return to work dates: Can your employer require you to come back to the office?

It seems like many of us got used to working at home during the pandemic. Now, as restrictions ease, the question workers face: is it time to go back to the office?

People have so many questions about returning to the office.

On Thursday morning, Newswatch 16’s Ryan lackey spoke with Leslie Wireback, a human resources professional. 

She runs a consulting firm called Wireback Consulting LLC and has been a resource for many across Pennsylvania.

Two of the biggest questions on many minds include: "can employers force employees to come back into the office if they have a return to the workday. And two, if you want to stay home, how do you best approach that with your company?"

Leslie said, “So, for the first one, yes, the employer can mandate that employees come back to the workplace as a condition of their work. If you as an employee, have anxiety about that or have been successfully working at home and don't understand why you need to come back to the office. My recommendation is to have a conversation with the employer, either talking with the human resources department or your manager or if it's a small business, the owner. Have that conversation and have a dialog about why you need to return to the office and what you can do about it. It is possible under the Americans with Disabilities Act that you could be accommodated with remote work, but that needs to be a conversation between the employee and the employer.”

Ryan asked her, “Another big question a lot of folks had, can employees be forced to provide proof that they had a vaccine, and can companies require that before allowing them back into the workplace?”

“Yes, employers can require lawfully that the employee show proof of the COVID vaccination. It is not considered a medical examination, so it's not protected in that same sense. But the Occupational Safety and Health Act passed guidance to ensure health and safety of the work environment that allows employers to ask for proof of the covid-19 vaccination,” explained Wireback. “So, that is something that they can do. Some employers are not requiring it because the vaccination was approved under emergency use, but they are encouraging it. So, employers are working through that with the employees.”