The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has substantially affected American livelihoods because of mandatory stay-at-home orders. Unless your job was considered essential, you probably were unable to go to work.

Lowered Hours and Lost Shifts

California has implemented procedures to help alleviate some of the COVID-19-related financial burdens. Through the Employment Development Department (EED), employees who’ve experienced reduced hours or whose place of employment has temporarily shut down are eligible to file an Unemployment Insurance claim.

Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims protect employees by providing partial wage compensation to a worker that was (1) offered reduced hours or (2) loses their job for reasons other than their own choice or misconduct. Under normal circumstances, UI benefits begin after a one-week, unpaid waiting period. However, on March 12, 2020, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, an Executive Order was issued to waive the unpaid week, enabling employees that qualified to collect benefits immediately. Payment benefits range from $40.00 – $450.00 per week. Although the one-week unpaid period is now waived, it could still take a couple of weeks for the EDD to issue payments after approving a UI claim.

Sick and/or Quarantined

In California, an employee who has been medically evaluated and is unable to work due to Coronavirus may be eligible for Disability Insurance (DI). Whether an employee was sick or was exposed to and/or contracted COVID-19, they can file a Disability Insurance claim to help partially compensate for lost wages from being unable to work. The amount calculated for eligible employees typically makes up around 60% of lost wages, with the maximum weekly benefit of $1,300.00. Previously, approved DI claim payments in California were also subject to the one-week unpaid waiting period. However, Governor Newsom’s Executive Order waived the waiting period for DI benefits as well. The EDD issues payments for approved claims as quickly as possible, and according to the EDD website, payment disbursement generally occurs within a few weeks of receiving a claim.

Laid Off

There are a number of reasons an employer may lay off employees, especially during these unprecedented times. Because California is largely an at-will worker state (meaning an employer is generally free to fire an employee at any point), the choice to lay off workers remains in the hands of each employer. If an employee exceeds their allotted sick leave time, depending on one’s industry as well as place of employment, an employer may terminate an employee that is unable to fulfill their work duties. However, the employee may still have other job protections, such as rights under anti-disability discrimination statutes. Issues associated with the Coronavirus pandemic are evolving quickly, as are the directives provided by federal and California state legislatures.

Bottom-line: it’s important to stay tuned here as Lawyers for Employee and Consumer Rights continue to study and report on this changing landscape.


Because California is an “at-will” employment state (employers are free to terminate employees at any time) employees think that they have no rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Learn more about your employee rights. Contact us today.

Lawyers for Employee and Consumer Rights (LFECR) is a leading California employment law firm. With more than forty remote attorneys, LFECR is prepared to work on behalf of their clients anywhere in California.

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