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Guidance thin for employees who disagree with mandates to continue reporting to work

Coronavirus
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Employees in various industries tell CBS4 that they are being told to keep reporting to work, despite their concerns for safety as positive COVID-19 cases increase across Indiana.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said Tuesday that his latest executive order to close non-essential businesses should have clarified which businesses can stay open.

Some employees, however, say that they do not agree with their employers' classification as essential and do not feel safe reporting to work.

CBS4 wanted to know what employees can do in these situations. The governor offered limited guidance Tuesday.

"First go to your employer, discuss it with your employer, show them what you know (and see) if there’s some misunderstanding," Holcomb said. "If that doesn’t work, then we do need to know about it, and we’re going to help try to resolve it as well."

Holcomb elaborated on Wednesday, saying most employers should allow employees to work from home if possible and suggesting that employees can file complaints with Indiana's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA).

CBS4 also talked to employment attorneys, who said that the law is likely on the employee's side, but it may not move quickly.

Attorney Stephanie Jane Hahn said her phones have been ringing off the hook, both from employees who do not think they should be reporting to work and those who are concerned that they are being kept home.

"This is unprecedented, and I’ve been practicing law for 25 years. I’ve never seen anything like this," Hahn said.

Hahn agreed that your first line of defense is to try to take your concern as high as possible in your company.

"A lot of employers have internal complaint processes or grievance procedures," Hahn said. "You should put your complaint and concern in writing and why you’re concerned."

Hahn said since every individual case is different, there is no easy answer for how to proceed.

Starting next week, new federal laws will allow for more Americans to get paid time off and paid family leave, but if you're worried about working now, you might want to file a complaint or consult an attorney.

"You need to probably reach out to an employment attorney, someone who’s experienced in employment law, and ask these questions about your very specific situation," Hahn said.

State leaders said the new Critical Industries Hotline was flooded with calls from employees when it opened Tuesday, but that the call center is only supposed to be used by employers and business owners, not individual employees.

For a list of Indiana's essential businesses as laid out by the governor, go to the link here.

For information about emergency paid leave, go to the link here.

For more guidance about whether you qualify for unemployment benefits in Indiana, go to the link here.

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