Can you be fired in Arkansas for refusing to go back to work amid the pandemic?

ARKANSAS, USA — As things begin reopening, a lot of people have expressed concern about going back to work.

So, what rights do you and your boss have when it comes to making your decision to return to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic? 

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A THV11 viewer reached out to us, saying his job was reopening and his boss told him it was time for him to report to work. The problem is… he feels it’s too early. 

He was reportedly given an ultimatum: Either come back to work or lose your job.

So, do employers have the right to fire you if you have concerns about returning to work due to COVID-19?

According to the Arkansas Department of Labor and Licensing, Arkansas recognizes the “employment at will” doctrine, which means either the employer or employee can end the work relationship at any time, for any reason. 

But in the presence of a pandemic, an employee does have rights. 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act allows certain employers to offer up to 80 emergency paid sick leave for employees in certain circumstances, including:

  • being under a quarantine order or caring for someone who is 
  • experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical attention
  • caring for your child, whose school or child care is closed due to COVID-19. 

If your concern is because your employer isn’t following public health directives, you should reach out to the Arkansas Department of Health COVID-19 Call Center at 1-800-803-7847.

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If you have an underlying health concern, you should reach out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

So we can verify — yes, you can be fired in Arkansas for refusing to go back to work, but there are certain protections in place for specific situations.

RELATED: How to answer COVID-19 screening questions for open businesses in Arkansas

If you have something you’d like verified, we want to help. Send us an email at verify@thv11.com.